THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 134: Cristina Alger, Writer

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. 134: Cristina Alger, Writer

Age: 35
Where I live:
 New York City
Job: Writer
Kids: A daughter, Emma (2), and a son, Owen (8 weeks)

Credit: Deborah Feingold

Credit: Deborah Feingold

Have you changed jobs or adjusted anything in your career to have more balance?
Absolutely! Before I had kids, I was free to work all the time. Now that I have two little ones at home, I’m lucky if I can carve out a few hours each day to write.

Do you think having “it all” is realistic or overrated and why?
No one has it all. We all have to make choices about how to spend our time, energy and money. For me, it’s important to find a few hours a day to write while still being the primary caregiver for my two young kids. I end up scrimping on a lot of other things to make that happen; I don’t sleep or exercise or see my friends nearly as much as I’d like to. But it’s what works for me.

What part of “balance” can you just not seem to figure out?
Sleep.

What part of “balance” are you getting better at?
Compartmentalizing. Before I had kids, I was always thinking about work. Now I have to make a conscious effort to turn off my work brain when I’m around my kids so that I can be present for them. It’s taken some practice but I think I’m getting better at it. It helps to have an opinionated, almost three year old who calls me out when I’m checking my email around her or not paying enough attention to her latest Magnatile creation.

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?
I put my phone away when I’m with my kids. That way I’m not tempted to check my email when I’m with them.

What was the best advice you ever heard on balance?
From a mentor/co-worker?
 A female partner at the law firm where I used to work once told me, “You can have it all, just not all at the same time.” I remind myself of that a lot. There will be days when I get no work done because I’m with my kids. And there will be days she I get a lot accomplished professionally but haven’t seen my kids nearly as much as I (and they) would like. And that’s okay. It’s more important to have balance over the long term.
From your mother? My mom was a devoted stay-at-home mom, but she told me one of the best things she did when I was little was to get a sitter every Saturday afternoon so that she and my dad could have some alone time. She said they were always too tired to go out at night, so having a “day date” worked best for them. My husband and I are similar—we’re often exhausted by the time our kids go to bed—so we try to spend time together during daylight hours on the weekend so that we can actually enjoy ourselves.
From your spouse/partner? My husband likes to remind me that everything makes more sense after a good night’s sleep. He’s always right.
From your kids? My toddler has taught me the value of a good nap.

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?
Reading.

What do you wish you’d known when you were 20?
How to embrace my body.

What do you hope to know by time you’re 60?
How to embrace my body.

What part of your home life do you wish you could outsource?
Cooking for my toddler. There is nothing more exhausting than producing a meal only to watch it get dumped on the floor.

Whose job do you wish you had?
Nick Hornby‘s. He’s a both a wonderful author and a terrific screenwriter.

Whose job are you glad you don’t have?
Preschool teacher’s. Keeping up with one toddler is exhausting enough. I have no idea how they manage 12 at a time.

Favorite books?
This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison, The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe, and The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. Apparently I mostly read books by authors named “Jonathan.”

What are you reading right now?
Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple.

Biggest vices…
Activity?
 Shopping for children’s clothing online.
Food? Ice cream.
Website? Diapers.com. I log in to buy baby wipes and I end up buying a new spring wardrobe for both my kids.

How many hours do you generally sleep at night during the week?
I have a newborn at home, so we’re sleeping in three-hour increments over here. But in general, 5 or 6 hours a night.

What do you read every morning?
theSkimm.

Complete the following sentences:
I think I: am pretty funny.
I wish I: had more hours in the day.
My kids: are everything.

Do you have a personal motto or favorite saying?
Nope. I should get on that.

Anything else you’d like to add?
Thanks for letting me participate in this! It’s a great, thoughtful exercise.

9781501103759About Cristina:
Cristina Alger is the author of two novels, This Was Not The Plan (out February 2, 2016, Simon & Schuster) and The Darlings (published in February, 2012, Penguin). In a previous life, she was a corporate attorney. Cristina lives in New York City, where she was born and raised, with her husband and two children.

Find out more about Cristina:
www.cristinaalger.com
Twitter: @cristinaalger
Facebook: Cristina Alger
Instagram: cristina.alger

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

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