THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 132: Monica Reccoppa, Finance Manager

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 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 all 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.”

By the way, looking for THE BALANCE PROJECT novel that was inspired by these interviews? It’s here.

No. 132: Monica Reccoppa, Finance Manager

Age: 42
Where I live:
 Totowa, NJ
Job: Finance Manager at Cardwell Beach, Marketing and Branding Agency
Kids: A 8.5-year-old daughter and 4.5-year old boy/girl twins

20150623_CardwellBeach-150Have you changed jobs or adjusted anything in your career to have more balance?
Yes I did. In 2004, I made a choice that would allow for more balance. I had been promoted at JP Morgan Chase and found myself commuting from New Jersey and working 12-hour days in Brooklyn. The town where I listed my permanent address was largely foreign to me—I only slept there. Because I lived at my job. I knew that a family could not survive under those terms. That was when I first realized that there are choices available, even when on the surface it appeared that there were no choices.

Fast forward to 2014, and three kids being the major part of my life, I started working for Cardwell Beach remotely from home. I attribute this opportunity to challenging the norm that a “job” had to be a 9-to-5 desk job in an office with a day care center raising your kids. In fact, some of the same people who told me that working from home and raising my kids could not be done, are doing the exact same thing themselves and cannot imagine ever going back to the “norm.”

Do you think having “it all” is realistic or overrated and why?
I believe “having it all” is a personal definition and centers on being content with your choices and current place in your life. Things change and our perception of what we want and need may change, so the definition itself may change. For me, I do not focus on a definition of “having it all.” That is not what drives me. I’ve always had an innate drive to do my best at everything I commit to, and that is what drives me—everything falls into place around that.

What part of “balance” can you just not seem to figure out?
Exercise. Having been an athlete when I was younger and accustomed to training for hours a day, I seem to have a hard time with exercise that does not fit into the athlete intensity. (It’s almost an “all or nothing” perspective.) Because my schedule is subject to frequent changes, it’s difficult to plan for exercise; and it’s a challenge for me to get motivated for 10 or 15 minutes of exercise if I do not have a full hour.

What part of “balance” are you getting better at?
Perfectionism and organization. I have a tendency to strive for excellence in everything all the time. Now that I’m a mother, I’m learning that perfectionism takes a back seat to life, and I’ve gained a newfound perspective on what truly matters most to me. Everything does not have to be put away all the time—“messy” really means “lots of fun” as well as “awesome memories.” It’s quite the norm for toys to be all over the play area all day. As long as sharing and fair play govern, anything goes.

Do you have a favorite time management tool, hack, or other strategy you use that helps you achieve balance that you would recommend to others?
Make the very last task of the day your plan for the next day. It allows you to prioritize your tasks while fresh in your mind, prepares you to start the next day on time, and it’s the best way to deal with unexpected events that are sure to pop up.

What was the best advice you ever heard on balance?
From a mentor/co-worker? 
Something that I’ve learned since working with the Cardwell Beach team is truly focusing on one email or task at a time and getting it done in the moment rather than trying to multitask. Keep moving and chip away at the to-do list one task at a time. It seems cliche and I have heard it so many times before, but the CB team brought it to a new level and redefined it for me.
From your mother?
 “Be true to yourself and it’s okay to not be part of the ‘in-crowd’.”
From your spouse/partner? “Take a step back from the problem and look at it from a different angle.”
From your kids? “Laugh and sing and dance as much as you can.”

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?
Swimming. Even though I was a tennis player, I developed a strong love for swimming when swimming became a major part of my physical therapy after a serious injury. I would love to fit swimming laps into my schedule.

What do you wish you’d known when you were 20?
When I was 20 I had no grasp of the possibilities that a “job” doesn’t have to be a 9-to-5 desk job that does not stretch and expand your capacity and skills. There are so many options available and so many paths to take. While our education system is great, looking back on my experience, I wish I had been exposed to different professions and different perspectives on careers and “working.” Since our careers/jobs are such a big part of our lives, I would have liked to have learned much more about different career opportunities. This is a major reason why I developed such a love of biographies. Real people’s experiences open our eyes to other perspectives, choices, and accomplishments.

What do you hope to know by time you’re 60?
I hope I learn how to resist the urge to be helpful all the time and take on everything.

What part of your home life do you wish you could outsource?
Cleaning. It’s important by all means, but it’s time I would rather spend doing something else, such as spending quality time with my kids, reading, or sleeping.

Whose job do you wish you had?
A job that allows me to be financially independent.

Whose job are you glad you don’t have?
I’m glad I don’t have a job that fosters a feeling of being trapped. A tournament system type of job where the hours and commitment required are excessive and the returns are negligible. Graduating from Brown University and interviewing for investment banking positions that boasted with pride working 90-hour weeks for two years for a chance at a permanent position, only to do more of the same as the reward and being let go as a consolation prize, did not appeal to me then and does not appeal to me now.

Favorite books?
Biographies. It’s intriguing and inspiring to read about real people—the challenges, accomplishments, and motivations that shaped their lives. I’m particularly drawn to autobiographies.

What are you reading right now?
I’m re-reading Forever, Erma: Best-Loved Writing from America’s Favorite Humorist by Erma Bombeck. In the quest for balance and stress-management, humor serves an important and essential role.

Biggest vices…
Food?
 Not enough salads and vegetables.
Website? 
Don’t really have one. Since I work remotely and spend so many hours on the computer, I usually can’t wait to get my work done and take a break from the screen.

How many hours do you generally sleep at night during the week?
As important as sleep is, and I know that, I average about 4 hours a night. I’m always looking for ways to add more sleep back into my schedule. I view it as a temporary circumstance and have a conscious goal to improve.

What do you read every morning?
My mornings are spent getting everyone ready for the day. I usually read at night or sometimes during the day.

Complete the following sentences:
I think I: am very blessed.
I wish I: expressed myself more clearly.

About Monica:
Monica Reccoppa’s career has evolved quite unexpectedly. Earning a degree in Economics from Brown University, Monica went on to attain positions with the Bank of NY, JP Morgan Chase, and Barclays. Monica’s entrepreneurial spirit led her to run her own office and financial organizing business for several years during which she supported a range of clients including a million dollar dental practice. Now, in addition to serving as the finance manager at Cardwell Beach, she is the proud mother of three: an 8.5-year-old daughter and 4.5-year-old twins.

Find out more about Monica:
www.cardwellbeach.com/blog/
LinkedIn: Cardwell Beach
SoundCloud: Cardwell Beach

WANT TO READ MORE ABOUT WORK-LIFE BALANCE? CHECK OUT MY NOVEL THE BALANCE PROJECT!

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