Welcome to THE BALANCE PROJECT: a series of relevant and refreshingly candid interviews featuring inspiring and accomplished women talking about balance. I’ve always been curious—and maybe a little obsessed—about how women I admire manage the tragically glorified “doing it all” craze. So I asked them. As I suspected, no one really does “it all.” Everyone’s making sacrifices somewhere. And that should make us feel a little better. Every Friday I’ll feature a new interview. Here’s what Allison Winn Scotch had to say…
No. 33: Allison Winn Scotch, Author
Where I live: Los Angeles
Ages/genders of kids: Boy, 10, and girl, almost 8
Is the job you have now the same one you had before kids? If not, how and why did you change directions?
Yes and no. Pre-kids, I was writing but it was entirely magazine-focused. Which was wonderful and hectic at the same time. I was really fortunate to build a successful freelance career—I was working from home in my sweats (not much different than today, actually!), juggling deadlines and researching really interesting topics. But this often meant racing to finish, say, 3-5 pieces a week, and when my son was born, I kept it up but knew I didn’t have it in me for the long-haul. Also, to be fair, I had burned myself out on covering the same subjects over and over again. I already knew the 10 Best Secrets to Say, Inner-Peace/Great Sex/A Perfect Diet because I’d written about it so much! 🙂
So I tried my hand at fiction. Actually, I tried it for four years—that’s how long it took me to draft my first manuscript. That manuscript didn’t sell, but it gave me the confidence to write another one. And that one did sell. I kept up with the steady freelance work for another year or so, but was fortunate enough to segue out of the weekly deadlines to the now-annual one-book-a-year (or so) deadline. I still write for magazines, but mostly just celebrity features, and since I love pop culture, those never feel like work!
Do you think having “it all” is realistic or overrated and why?
Hmmm, I think “having it all” is possible if you understand what your definition of “it all” is. To me, “it all” is not synonymous with “perfection.” And I think too often, the two are equated. Women have complicated lives now. That’s simply a fact, and the complications of our lives—working families, dual income, guilt, parenting crises, aging parents, languishing marriages, rejuvenated marriages, friendship lapses, you name it—aren’t going away. But, and this is something that I’ve tried to embrace as I’ve gotten older and hopefully a little wiser, that doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate every aspect of my life and be grateful for most of it. That, to me, is what having it all means. A stay-at-home mom may feel that she has it all. A working mom may feel that she has it all. There’s no one definition, no one size fits all. Some days, I really feel like the luckiest gal around. Some days, my kids and my husband (and my dogs) try my patience. That doesn’t mean that in the grand scheme of things, my life isn’t what I’m looking for.
What part of “balance” can you just not seem to figure out?
I am not the best at letting my husband take the reins, which means that sometimes I jump in and tell him how I would do it, rather than letting him just do it. 🙂 I mean, it’s not like I necessarily prepare their broccoli any better! But…I often tell him how I would do something, and I always regret it afterward. Parenting is a partnership, and I TOTALLY get that. And am trying to work on it!
What part of “balance” are you getting better at?
Patience. I think I’m a pretty decent parent and a pretty decent spouse and a pretty decent writer/worker. But I admit that my fuse can be short, not in an anger sort of way, but in an irritated how-many-times-do-I-have-to-ask sort of way. I’m trying to take a deep breath from time to time and recognize that kids are kids, and they screw up and make (enormous) messes and aren’t intentionally trying to annoy me. (Well, sometimes they are!) I don’t mean to make it sound like I’m crazy irritable, but I think plenty of parents have moments when, in hindsight, a few beats of patience would have dissolved a situation that then became a situation. So, I’m trying. My kids are old enough to be better listeners, and I’m also trying to be a better listener to them…and myself. If I’ve gotten annoyed over something that really wasn’t a big deal, I apologize immediately and don’t let it happen again.
What was the best advice you ever heard on balance…
From a mentor/co-worker? “Screw it.”
From your mother? “Try your best.”
From your kids? “Don’t worry about it.”
If you had one extra hour in each day and you couldn’t work or be with your family, how would you spend that hour?
Probably just taking a walk, to be honest. Not super-exciting, but getting out in the fresh air really clears my mind, settles my stress and makes me a better parent and writer.
What do you wish you’d known when you were 20?
That you’re not that old by the time you hit 41! Also, ditch the losers who might be really hot but don’t value you for you.
What do you hope to know by time you’re 60?
That you’re not that old by the time you hit 60! Also, I’ve been married for a decade and think my marriage has only gotten stronger over time, so I’d love to have the wisdom that comes with keeping a relationship healthy for what would then be 30 years!
What one part of your home life do you wish you could outsource?
My laundry. Actually, I do outsource that. I hate it. Haaaaaaaaaate it.
Whose job do you wish you had?
Gosh, that’s a tough one. I really love my job, I really do. I suppose a job like Katie Couric’s would be neat because she gets to speak to really fascinating people and is constantly learning new things. I think that angle appeals to me as a writer, as well. Initially, I was going to say Hillary Clinton or the like, but honestly, I couldn’t deal with that stress!
Whose job are you glad you don’t have?
You know, people often say to me: “It must be so hard to be a writer,” but I think it would be really hard to go into an office every day. So I guess that’s my answer. NOT because I don’t have admiration for those jobs…just the opposite. I would have such a hard time with the routine of it, just because of my personality, that I think I’d really struggle. But it works for plenty of people: my husband, for example, included. When he works from home, he’s constantly in and out of my office, looking for company. And I’m like: “Leave me alone!! I like my quiet space!”
What are you reading right now?
Us: A Novel by David Nicholls.
Activity? SoulCycle. I’m embarrassed to even type that. I figured I’d hate it because it’s such a “thing,” but a friend dragged me, and I kind of love it now. I just try to sneak in and sneak out. 🙂
Food? Anything chocolate. Seriously. ANYTHING.
Website? Crazy Days and Nights. Yup, I admit to reading it. I love trying to solve the blind items.
How many hours do you generally sleep at night during the week?
What do you read every morning?
theSkimm. It’s a newsletter that sums up all of the daily world events. I read it while still in bed while I wake up.
Complete the following sentences:
I think I: have gotten the hang of things now that I’m in my 40s.
I wish I: slept more. One more hour a night would make all the difference!
My kids: are pretty damn delightful.
Do you have a personal motto or favorite saying?
“If you ask me what I came into this world to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud.” —Emile Zola
Allison Winn Scotch is the New York Times bestselling author of five novels, including The Theory of Opposites and Time of My Life.
Find more about Allison here:
Please share your own tips on balance and check back every Friday for another interview from THE BALANCE PROJECT.
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THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 2: Veronica Beard, Fashion Designer
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 3: Emily Liebert, Author
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 4: Lyss Stern, Mom-trepreneur
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 5: Lauren Slayton, Nutritionist
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 6: Elizabeth Moyer, Blogger
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 7: Annabel Monaghan, Author
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 8: Holly Gordon, Director
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 9: Jill Salzman, Entrepreneur
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 10: Jennifer Levinson, Jen’s List
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 11: Jenny Hutt, Media Personality
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 12: Angela Santomero, Kids’ Media Creator
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 13: Carola Donato, Yogi
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 14: Tiffany Washington, Pastry Designer
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 15: Emily Giffin, Author
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 16: Alana Sanko, Writer
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 17: Cara Lemieux, Journalist
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 18: Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke, Authors
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 19: Nikki Mark, Author & Foundation Director
Shonda Rhimes on Doing It All
Indra Nooyi on Balance
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 21: Jill Bryan, Comedian
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 22: Cindy Callaghan, Author
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 23: Stephanie Hirsch, Artist
My Times of India Interview on Work-Life Balance
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 24: Whitney Dineen, Author/Baker
AmEx’s Sobbott on Balance
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 25: J0-Laine Duke-Collins, Dessert Stylist
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 26: Whitney English, Entrepreneur
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 27: Jennifer Gooch Hummer, Author
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 28: Melissa Amster, Book Blogger
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 29: Nigel Marsh, Author and Entrepreneur
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 30: DayNa Decker, Entrepreneur
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 31: Amy Selling, Blogger
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 32: Heather Sonnenberg, Entrepreneur
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