THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 146: Lynn Smith, HLN Anchor of Weekend Express

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. 146: Lynn Smith, HLN Anchor of Weekend Express

Age: 36
Where I live:
 Atlanta, GA
Job: Host of Weekend Express with Lynn Smith on HLN
Kids: One-month-old baby boy

????????????Have you changed jobs or adjusted anything in your career to have more balance?
Of course! Everyone sacrifices something as a working mom. It’s a constant balance and juggling act to keep things afloat at home and at the office. I do that by letting go of perfection and accepting that not everything will get done on time. That’s no easy feat for a type A personality, but it’s a lot easier than feeling like you are failing.

Do you think having “it all” is realistic or overrated and why?
There is an article being shared all over Facebook titled “Having It All Kinda Sucks.” Naturally, the headline caught my attention so I gave it a read. The author pretty much sums things up by saying, “Here’s the truth: You want to have a career and kids? You totally can, but both will suffer.” I don’t think many people disagree. But things start to go south for me when she proposes how to fix that looming question of how to “have it all.” The argument is that women should be made to feel like it’s “ok” not to work and be a stay-at-home mom. Society should make it “ok” for women to decide not to have kids or wait until their 40s to focus on a career. And companies should make it “ok” to have children by offering a generous maternity leave.

But shouldn’t women stop looking to others for what’s deemed acceptable? We all know that unless we figure out how to clone ourselves, we can’t be in two places at once. So when you are at home caring for your children, you will feel as though you are falling short at work and vice versa. That’s ok. And if you decide it’s not ok and can afford it, then stay home and focus on your family or don’t have children. If you ask “Why do I have to choose?” well, because that’s life. It’s not always fair. And looking to society to somehow make it better will leave us all feeling a bit empty because you’ll be waiting a long time for someone to validate your choices.

I write this fresh from an “emergency” trip to the pediatrician (spoiler alert: runny noses are normal for a newborn) after trying to find 15 minutes to do anything in the past week, while staring at the clock calculating when he might wake up for his next feeding, as I figure out if I ate breakfast this morning. Many women deal with all the stresses of these typical situations while working and probably juggling a few more kids. It’s not easy but it’s certainly worth it.

As women, I think we need to ask ourselves what does “having it all” mean? Does it mean you can excel in every role you have been given (mother, employee, wife, friend, sister, daughter…the list goes on)? Does it mean you make it all look easy and somehow still have time for a blowout so you make it look good to? The reality is… something’s gotta give. If we are realistic and accepting of this, things might start to get clearer.

So what IS the solution? I’m not saying I have any answers but for me it’s about prioritizing life. I know what is at the top of my list: my family. After that, my work, and after that comes a long list of things I’d like to excel at and probably won’t have the time to and that’s certainly ok. When I have to make a choice, at least I’m clear about which path to take.

What part of “balance” can you just not seem to figure out?
How to not disappoint others. That goes back to my point, something’s gotta give.

What part of “balance” are you getting better at?
Accepting that some things will not get done when I want them to. If it’s late… it’s late. Better late than never.

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?
Lists. I always make a list. I don’t know what it is about checking a box, but it’s extremely motivating for me.

What was the best advice you ever heard on balance?
From a mentor/co-worker? My good friend and colleague Christi Paul gave me a treasured piece of advice: “When you feel like you are losing your mind and haven’t slept in months and can’t seem to get anything accomplished, just remember there will be a time you will wish for the 2 am wake-up call to hold your baby in your arms. It reminds me to slow down and appreciate this time of chaos.” I will wish it back down the road. I can already tell she’s right.
From your mother? 
“Get rest.” My mother has been preaching this to me my entire life. You can’t accomplish much when you’re exhausted. You are a better person after you’ve slept and even a 15 minute cat nap can make a difference.
From your spouse?
 “You are an amazing Mom.” My husband says that to me almost daily. I may not always feel that way but it’s all I need to hear to feel like everything is going to be ok and what isn’t will get figured out tomorrow.
From your kids? I am counting down the days until he can tell me.

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?
Exercising. This isn’t about vanity, it’s about sanity. Nothing makes me feel more healthy and clear than an hour of sweating it out.

What do you wish you’d known when you were 20?
That mistakes are not failures, they are tipping points that can shape your life into something even better.

What do you hope to know by time you’re 60?
I hope my husband and I know that we raised a happy and fulfilled child. Back to that priority list, no one will be asking if I worked 80 hours a week, they will ask “how’s the family?”

What part of your home life do you wish you could outsource?
Housework. Seriously, if someone could please get on this robot thing so laundry, dishes, and cleaning can be outsourced we will all be in a better place.

Whose job do you wish you had?
I always wanted to be a television reporter, there’s a well-hidden VHS of my mock newscast at 7 years old. But if I could take another path, I would always choose working with and helping children. One of the most fulfilling jobs I’ve ever had was volunteering at a crisis nursery in New York City. Children from homeless shelters, the projects, or just broken homes were brought there because their parents had no way to care for them for a period of time. Our job was to just offer them love and attention. You could see how starved they were for it, and I felt the most fulfilled knowing they got it, even for a short time.

Whose job are you glad you don’t have?
Politics. Not reporting on it obviously but actually participating in the game. No, thank you.

Favorite books?
The Berenstain Bears books by Stan and Jan Berenstain. My Aunt recently gave me my personal collection from childhood (signed by yours truly). I had no idea that she even had them let alone kept them to pass down when I had children. By far the best gift I could have received. I still remember spending hours in my room reading those books and can’t wait for my son to do the same.

What are you reading right now?
The Happiest Baby on the Block by Dr. Harvey Karp. As you can imagine, there’s very little time for War and Peace these days.

Biggest vices…
Activity?
 Flywheel. It’s indoor cycling and it’s addictive. I even did a class on my due date, which elicited more than a few stares.
Food? A vanilla cone from Chik-fil-A. I don’t know why but it’s the most comforting and refreshing tasty treat.
Website? Right now it’s Amazon.com. I can’t leave the house with a newborn, so it’s my virtual errand machine.

How many hours do you generally sleep at night during the week?
Ha! Is this a trick question? I sleep about 5 or 6 total and definitely not uninterrupted. It’s certainly worth the snuggles that come before and after.

What do you read every morning?
CNN.com. It’s my go-to, too-busy, don’t-have-time-for-much-so-I-can-stop-there-and-only-there-and-know-I’m-not-missing-much-of-what’s-happening-in-the -world spot.

Complete the following sentences:
I think I: can always do better at balancing it all but as long as I’m doing the best I can, I’m satisfied.
I wish I: could have a long conversation with my son and hear his voice. That day will come but for now when he’s looking around and so curious about this new world around him, I’m dying to know what he’s thinking.
My son: is everything. When it comes to having it all, he’s it.

Do you have a personal motto or favorite saying?
“Just keep going.”  I’ve found it applies to everything that requires motivation. Simple and sweet.

Lynn_Smith3About Lynn:
Lynn Smith is the host of Weekend Express with Lynn Smith on HLN. Prior to HLN, she served as the anchor of Early Today on NBC and First Look on MSNBC. During her time at NBC, she was a fill-in newsreader on Weekend TODAY and covered overnight breaking news for MSNBC. Prior to NBC and MSNBC, Smith was a local reporter and anchor for WNBC-News 4 New York and WCAU in Philadelphia.

Find out more about Lynn:
www.hlntv.com/shows/weekend-express.com
Twitter: @lynnsmithtv
Facebook: lynnsmithtv
Instagram: @lynnsmithtv
Pinterest: lynnsmithtv

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

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