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 Jennifer Levinson had to say…
No. 10: Jennifer Levinson, Jen’s List
Where I live: Calabasas, CA
Job: Owner and Operator of Jen’s List
Ages/genders of kids: 5 boys: Zachary-11; identical twins Ben & Josh-8; identical twins Matthew & Joey-5
Is the job you have now the same one you had before kids? If not, how and why did you change directions?
Not in the slightest! Prior to having kids I was an automotive fraud investigator, solving mysteries. I left that job to become a stay-at-home-mom. I found myself craving more, and Jen’s List was born. As well as PTA Co-President at the kids’ elementary school and a member of the school district’s Education Foundation.
Do you think having “it all” is realistic or overrated and why?
It’s completely overrated. To “have it all” can leave a person, and family, feeling empty a lot of the time. I think we can teach our kids to strive for the best. In our family, health and happiness is something we need to work toward together. If we don’t have those things to keep us grounded, we have nothing.
What part of “balance” can you just not seem to figure out?
I may over-commit. I see something, and I want to help. Charities. School. There’s no end to how we can make good in the world. I want to do it all, to have time to volunteer—to be with friends, to make the world a better place. But I can’t do it at the risk of my family.
What part of “balance” are you getting better at?
For the first time in my life I’m saying “no” and it doesn’t necessarily feel right. But, it’s a necessary evil. It doesn’t mean that I don’t volunteer, that I’m not a productive member of the community. It means I’m doing everything in stride. My own stride.
What was the best advice you ever heard on balance…
From a mentor/co-worker? “Work will always be there tomorrow.”
From your mother? “You have nothing without family.”
From your kids? When my kids tell me they need me, it puts everything in perspective. From homework, to attending their extra-curriculars, the impact on having their Mommy there puts everything in perspective.
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?
There are so many things. Sleep. Exercise. Meditate.
What would you have told yourself 20 years ago?
Don’t rush the clock, slow down. There will always be time to accomplish the things you want to do.
20 years from now?
I’ve lived a blessed life. At the end of the day, your family and true friends are the ones who have stood by you on good days and bad days.
What one part of your home life do you wish you could outsource?
Homework. While I love sitting with my kids and facilitating their work, five kids in five different classes creates hours of work.
Whose job do you wish you had?
I wish I had Ellen’s job. She makes people laugh, she’s witty, and she puts her family first.
Whose job are you glad you don’t have?
POTUS. No one can make everyone happy.
The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, by Wendy Mogel Ph.D., a must read for every parent.
What are you reading right now?
I don’t have time to read right now!
Activity? Skiing, I’ve recently gotten back on skis after more than 20 years and the rush is still there. Next up, snowboarding!
Food? I just gave up Diet Coke after 30 years. It feels amazing.
Website? TMZ, obviously.
How many hours do you generally sleep at night during the week?
4-5, if I am lucky.
What do you read every morning?
Huffington Post, CNN, local news, mom- and parenting-related sites, and Jen’s List!
Complete the following sentences:
I think I: do the best I can, every single day.
I wish I: had more hours in the day.
My kids: are my reason for living, and doing the things I do.
Do you have a personal motto or favorite saying?
“Volunteers don’t get paid, not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless.” —Sherry Anderson