THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 156: Cynthia Silver, Director, Actor, Entrepreneur

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. 156: Cynthia Silver, Director, Actor, Entrepreneur

Age: 45
Where I live:
 New York City
Job: Stage & Film Director, Occasional Actor, Acting Teacher, Entrepreneur & Founder of Baby in Tow™
Kids: An almost 7-year-old daughter

12065671_10153660886709932_1370457598016583579_nHave you changed jobs or adjusted anything in your career to have more balance?
I actually think I’ve taken on more jobs since having my daughter. Or rather, more projects. After having Sadie, my primary creative focus shifted from acting to directing, and during the course of her life so far, I’ve directed six plays and two short films. My “money job”—pre- and post-pregnancy—is as an acting teacher at an off-Broadway theater company. (I’ve been there nearly 20 years.) When I was on maternity leave from that job, I couldn’t be on leave from being creative, and started drawing napkin sketches of ideas for baby products. It certainly would have been the more sane and financially sound decision to leave those sketches on the napkin, but instead, I ventured into the world of product development. Cut to five and a half years later: Baby in Tow’s first product, Spoon Cocoon™, has come to market. And, why? Something to do with the seismic shift that occurred in me after the birth of my child. And my journey in overcoming post-partum depression. That probably also had something to do with it.

Do you think having “it all” is realistic or overrated and why?
I have really come to loathe the term “having it all.” I think it’s sexist. When have you ever heard a man being referred to as “having it all”?  And, if so, I’m sure “having it all” for a man includes some delightful, hot, young woman who has no ambitions of her own other than birthing and raising his children, throwing fabulous parties, and outdoing herself in the bedroom. So, I guess my answer is no. I don’t think “having it all” is realistic. And, since it’s not realistic, it’s totally overrated.

What part of “balance” can you just not seem to figure out?
I procrastinated this interview like a black belt ninja. Mainly because of this question. I kept holding out for the day that I had found this elusive “balance” that I so desperately wish I could achieve, and then I’d be able to say “Nothing!  I’ve figured it out!” and offer some brilliant insight and practical solution on the matter.

Recently, both Shonda Rhimes and my pal Felicity Huffman have said very publicly that if they are succeeding in one area of their lives, they are, simultaneously failing in another. I certainly can relate to this, but it seems rather harsh, and unfair. That somehow it’s okay for these women to be crushing it on the career front, so long as they are incredibly hard on themselves, at all times, for not being the kind of parent they think they should be. It’s a kind of perfectionism, really. And, to a certain degree, I was engaging in another strain of perfectionism in trying to become balanced, before writing about being balanced.

So here’s what I’ve learned: Balance comes from within. It has to do with accepting how things are, as they are in this moment, without engaging the inner critic. It’s about relinquishing the shackles of perfectionism, and allowing ourselves to be imperfect. In my case, it’s about choosing to post a selfie of me at the soccer field, damp, disheveled, on my second cup of coffee, chipped nail polish and all.  Cuz, in my world, that’s what “balance” looks like.

And, for the record: I do not believe that either of those women is failing at parenting. (In Flicka’s case, I know, most definitely, that she is far from it.) They are putting themselves first. And that somehow makes everyone uncomfortable. (But, I digress…)

What part of “balance” are you getting better at?
I’m better at getting sleep. More so than before I had a child. This is mostly due to the pure exhaustion I encounter by the end of the day. I simply cannot keep my eyes open. The surprising by-product of this is that I find myself becoming an early riser, which I never, ever thought I’d call myself. And, it turns out I am far more productive. Which is interesting, isn’t it? Who knew that you could get more done by spending more hours asleep?

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?
My friend Betsy Capes, who is a career and life coach, turned me on to Priorities, an app by Hand Carved Code. It’s a task-manager that sections off the different departments of your life, and then combines all those to-do lists into one priority list. $2.99 well spent. I also recently downloaded Insight Meditation Timer at the recommendation of my chiropractor, Lisa Kirsch, which also includes thousands of different guided meditations of various lengths. It’s fantastic.

What was the best advice you ever heard on balance?
From a mentor/co-worker?
 When I was pregnant with Sadie, my former teacher, now friend William H. Macy, told me, in all earnestness, that the key to good parenting is 1) Never lie to your kid and 2) Throw money at the problem.
From your mother? Before anything else, drink a glass of water.
From your spouse?
 Come home.
From your daughter? Pay attention.

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?
In the bathtub.

What do you wish you’d known when you were 20?
It’s not a failure to be a late bloomer.

What do you hope to know by the time you’re 60?
What it’s like to be a late bloomer.

What one part of your home life do you wish you could outsource?
This is not that kind of blog.

Whose job do you wish you had?
If I had their brains and talent, I’d say Lynn Shelton’s, or Jill Soloway’s, or Nicole Holofcener’s, or Anna Shapiro’s, or Jenni Konner’s, or Maria Popova’s, or Krista Tippett’s…

Whose job are you glad you don’t have?
Hillary Clinton’s.

Favorite books?
Crazy Salad and Scribble Scribble: Some Things About Women and Notes on Media by Nora Ephron, Just Kids by Patti Smith, Shiksa Goddess by Wendy Wasserstein, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed, and The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield.

What are you reading right now?
How to Raise an Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims, A Mind of Your Own: The Truth About  Depression and How Women Can Heal Their Bodies to Reclaim Their Lives by Dr. Kelly Brogan, The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible, by Charles Eisenstein, and The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck, by Sarah Knight. (It appears I may be succeeding at balance in my Kindle library. Although, it could use some fiction.)

Biggest vices…
Activity?
 Professional blowouts.
Food? Coffee. Coffee. COFFEE.
Website? I have a very complicated relationship with Facebook. By and large, I would describe it as a crummy ex-boyfriend I can’t stop sleeping with..

How many hours do you generally sleep at night during the week?
7-10 hours. (Like I said, I am currently nailing it in the sleep department.)

What do you read every morning?
In between visits to Facebook and Twitter, I will spend a good hour reading theSkimm, Seth Godin’s daily blog post (although, I’m not digging his not-so-subtle thoughts on the election lately), Chani Nicholas’ weekly forecast, Lenny Letter, and if I have time, maybe a chapter from one of the three or four books currently in rotation on my Kindle.

Complete the following sentences:c
I think I: have a great many untapped resources.
I wish I: liked to exercise.
My daughter is: such a badass.

Do you have a personal motto or favorite saying?
Trust Your Gut. Be Honest. You are Enough. Abandon Hope. The latter sounds harsh, I know. It’s one of Pema Chodron’s teachings: How hope robs us of the present moment, and sets us up for incredible disappointment.

Anything else you’d like to add?
Here’s the long story, short about how Spoon Cocoon™ came to be: In 2009, when my daughter, Sadie got to the age of eating baby food, we were on-the-go a ton. In truth, I was trying to stay out of the house as much as possible. You see, I had been hit with the PPD stick, BIG TIME. Medication helped. So did walking. A LOT of walking. I’d get up in the morning, feed & dress us, pack up the diaper bag, put her in the stroller, and hit the streets. Much of the time, I had no idea where we were headed. I just needed to be in motion. It became my mantra to “Keep walking…”

During those days spent out and about, I discovered I had a container for every one of her accessories—diapers, wipes, breastmilk, snacks, her pacifier—EXCEPT the spoon. I got a bit of a bee in my bonnet, and our daily outings became somewhat of a quest for a cute, BPA & PVC & phthalate-free, RECYCLABLE container for her feeding spoon, to no avail.

One day, when we had stopped for lunch, Sadie was holding her spoon in one hand, and her favorite Gund plush caterpillar in another, while I unpacked her food. That’s when it hit me: What if that caterpillar were a container that carried the spoon? Nearly six years later, and an incredible journey in product development, what began as a napkin sketch, and kept me sane during a very challenging time in my life, is now Spoon Cocoon™!

IMG_4497About Cynthia:
Cynthia Silver is a director, actor, teacher, mompreneur, and CA girl gone NYer. She is a faculty member at the Atlantic Theater Company Acting School and an ensemble member of Partial Comfort Productions in New York City. When on “maternity leave” from her multi-hyphenated career in 2009, Cynthia started making napkin sketches of products she felt would make life for on-the-go parents a tad easier and touch more entertaining. From those pile of doodles came her brand, Baby in Tow™ and her first product, Spoon Cocoon™, now available at Amazon.com, Bumblebean.com, and Diapers.com. A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, Cynthia lives in Greenwich Village, NYC with her husband, Matt, a stage manager, and their 7- going on 17-year-old daughter, Sadie.

Find out more about Cynthia:
www.cynsilver.com
www.babyintow.com
Facebook: BabyinTow
Twitter: @cyn_silver and @babyintowco
Instagram: @ccsilver
Pinterest: BabyinTow

 

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

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