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. I hope the conversation will be steered toward that reality rather than toward the flawed and dangerous assumption that we should try—or even want to try—to perfectly do “it all.”

2015 marks the second full year of The Balance Project! And there’s lots in store: First, The Balance Project is celebrating its first birthday. Read all about how it got started and what I’ve learned from it here. Second, my second book, THE BALANCE PROJECT: A NOVEL, will be published in April. It’s women’s fiction and it was inspired by these interviews. More about that here. Third, in preparation for the launch and because these interviews have received such tremendous response, I will publish new interviews two or three times per week, not just on Fridays. Thank you for your continued support!

No. 44: Susannah B. Lewis: Stay-At-Home Mom and Freelance Writer

Age: 33
Where I live:
Job: Stay-At-Home Mom and Freelance Writer
Kids: A girl, 8, and a boy, 4

step3Is the job you have now the same one you had before kids? If not, how and why did you change directions?
Before I had children, I worked as a “gofer” for a local county politician. I answered his phones, picked up his dry-cleaning, and took out his garbage. Since I’ve become a SAHM, I still do all of those same things for my family and yet I don’t feel like a “gofer” at all.

Do you think having “it all” is realistic or overrated and why?
My definition of “it all” is simple compared to most—taking daily steps to grow in my faith, doing what I can to keep my family happy and healthy, meeting my writing deadlines, and washing clothes every Wednesday. As long as I meet those goals, I do have “it all.”

What part of “balance” can you just not seem to figure out?
I cannot seem to balance my children’s extracurricular activities. Every year I say that we are going to cut back on sports and after-school clubs, but every year the list seems to grow. I guess I also can’t balance saying no to some things!

What part of “balance” are you getting better at?
I used to stress horribly about squeezing in writing time amidst the hustle and bustle of parenting. I finally realized that I had to carve out some “non-negotiable” time to get my work done. My family is slowly learning my writing schedule, and when the office door is closed, the children know to ask Daddy for a juice box instead of me.

What was the best advice you ever heard on balance…
From a mentor/co-worker? 
When we were in Florida for Thanksgiving several years ago, I planned for us to take our family Christmas photos on the beach. My son refused to wear the appliqued reindeer Jon Jon I had so carefully picked out, and I thought it was the end of the world. A stranger, an older lady, noticed that my son’s outfit didn’t match his sister’s, and that he was wearing weird attire (Cars shorts) for a classy Christmas photo. She immediately knew that he must have protested my clothing choice. This sweet stranger stopped and quietly said to me, “Pick your battles, Mom. The picture will look just fine with Lightning McQueen.” I nearly cried right there. It taught me a valuable lesson—not just in picking battles with my children—but all battles. I’ll never forget her words. 

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?
I would usually answer with “reading,” but since I’ve recently discovered running to be a cathartic activity, I’d say lace up my shoes and hit the neighborhood.

What do you wish you’d known when you were 20?
That time flies and I won’t be 20 forever.

What do you hope to know by time you’re 60?
I hope to know that although I lost my patience, sighed, yelled, and made mistakes when I was a young mother, my children still love me, call, and come home for Christmas.

What one part of your home life do you wish you could outsource?
Toilets. I don’t know why the boys in my home (adult and child) can’t aim straight.

Whose job do you wish you had?
I want to be a famous author. The perfect day would start off on the Today Show where I would share a glass of wine with Kathie Lee and Hoda and then sit behind a table at Barnes & Noble, incredibly humbled by and grateful for the line of people there for me to sign their copy of my book.

Whose job are you glad you don’t have?
The poor guy that scoops up elephant dung at our local zoo. I’ve seen him in action. It looks miserable.

Favorite books?
I love old literature. Faulkner, Steinbeck, and Flannery O’Connor are a few of my favorite authors; however, Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy blew me away. And I’m not even a young adult.

What are you reading right now?
Beautiful Mess: Motherhood for Every Moment by Tracey Eyster and Sherry Surratt.

Biggest vices…
Food? Carbohydrates. I could eat pasta with a side of biscuits and be content.
Website? Facebook. I take a Facebreak every summer to focus on my family and children, and I find it extremely refreshing. However, social media is so important to my blog, writing, and building my brand that I can’t stay away for too long.

How many hours do you generally sleep at night during the week?
7-8. Anything less and animals and small children scurry for cover when I enter the room.

What do you read every morning?
I read devotionals every morning. Right now my Sunday School class is studying, Beautiful Mess: Motherhood for Every Moment, and it is teaching me so much about forgiving myself for parenting mistakes and truly understanding that I am the mother meant for my children.

Complete the following sentences:
I think I: am better today than yesterday.
I wish I: could let go of guilt.
My kids: are precious to my sight.

Do you have a personal motto or favorite saying?
I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.

christmasAbout Susannah:
Susannah B. Lewis is a freelance writer, blogger, humorist, wife of one, and stay-at-home mother of two. She regularly contributes pieces to The Huffington Post, Hahas for Hoohas, and YourTango. When she’s not putting pen to paper, bandaging boo-boos, or spraying Shout on unidentifiable stains, she enjoys reading, playing the piano, and teaching her children all about Southern charm.

Find more about Susannah here:
Twitter: @whoasusannah
acebook: whoasusannah

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THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 35: Karen Sutton MD, Orthopaedic Surgeon
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THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 37: Pam Yudko, Holistic Health and Transformational Coach
THE BALANCE PROJECT| No. 38: Nancy Huang, Nonprofit Outreach Director
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THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 40: Towanda Long, Marketing Communications Specialist
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The Balance Project Interview Series Turns 1!