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 Nikki Mark had to say…
No. 19: Nikki Mark
Where I live: Los Angeles
Job: Executive Director of sbe Foundation and Author
Ages/genders of kid(s): 2 boys ages 6 and 9
Is the job you have now the same one you had before kids? If not, how and why did you change directions?
Kind of. I have always been in operations, helping to build and run entrepreneurial companies for very talented visionaries. I was typically one of the first ones in the office and last ones out until six weeks after having my first child, when I started going home by 6 pm. But I was so uncomfortable leaving so early (and had so much work to do) that I made up for it by working from home until well past midnight every night after the kids went to sleep. So technically, my job didn’t initially change but the way I approached it did. More recently, however, when my kids were 4 and 7, I started feeling a strong pull away from the office and toward being with my kids to watch them play sports, develop homework routines, and have family dinners. At the same time, my company was growing and becoming more demanding. So I was given an opportunity to work part-time and start the non-profit arm of the company. I love it and haven’t looked back. I continue to supplement this new role at sbe by writing a MightyMom book series, getting involved in local politics, and serving on the board of a local non-profit. While I may be just as busy, the pressure is different and my mind is much more present as I switch roles throughout the day. I’m definitely embarking on a new direction that seems to a better fit at this stage in my life.
Do you think having “it all” is realistic or overrated and why?
I just think having “it all” means different things to each of us at different stages of life. I have focused a lot of energy on my career, but I never neglected the joys of getting married and having children, and I am thankful for all the 40-year-old working women who advised me not to miss out on these aspects of life. I might get depressed thinking about “all” I don’t have, but at the end of the day I have what feels right for me.
What part of “balance” can you just not seem to figure out?
I think I’m terrible at doing nothing. If I cut back on work, I fill it with volunteering time elsewhere. If I am on an airplane with downtime, I’ll write a new book as part of my MightyMom series. I have become so busy as a working mom, scheduling every minute of my day to perfection, that I have nearly forgotten how to just take time out and do nothing.
What part of “balance” are you getting better at?
I finally have a regular workout schedule and love it. I don’t feel like I’m just trying to get it over with and move on to the next task, which means I’m much more present and my mind and body are better for it.
What was the best advice you ever heard on balance…
From your mother? My grandmother said that as long as my kids feel loved, nothing else matters. Meaning, go work, have another kid, go travel, go do what you need to do, just make sure your children are loved and know it every day.
From your kids? When I told my kids that I was cutting back on work hours last year, my older son immediately looked up and said “Thank God.” We aren’t very religious, but I knew right then I was on the right track.
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?
Just going on a walk or having a coffee with a friend. I don’t get to see enough of my girlfriends, some of whom have been in my life for over 30 years. We are all so busy and rarely can just call each other last minute and do something fun. And now that I think about it, texting has replaced phone calls! When we can catch up, it’s really meaningful.
What would you have told yourself 20 years ago?
I will always work as hard as I can to keep learning and build a career that I love. It’s important to have “my” thing.
20 years from now?
I’m so glad I was open to change because it led to so many great experiences that I never would have expected.
What one part of your home life do you wish you could outsource?
Driving in Los Angeles from Point A to Point B. I don’t want someone else to drive me, I just want a magical route that gets me where I need to go in the time frame I have scheduled.
Whose job do you wish you had?
Without knowing what her life is really like, I wouldn’t mind being P!nk for one day. She’s a rock star. She’s so talented. She does it how she wants. She has a family. She has a sense of humor. She looks like someone who knows how to have fun. She pretty much stays out of the tabloids. And she loves what she does, you can tell. Just for a day…
Whose job are you glad you don’t have?
The President of United States. So many differing opinions makes it nearly impossible to get anything done. The stress seems overwhelming to me.
All Malcolm Gladwell books.
What are you reading right now?
I am reading Grain Brain. Trying to better understand how wheat has changed in this country and how a low-carb diet is better for weight loss and overall health. One of my sons has allergies, so I’m trying to find alternative ways of helping him.
Activity? Getting massages once every few weeks. It’s as close as I get to doing nothing.
Food? Dark chocolate.
Website? Amazon – I pretty much get it all there.
How many hours do you generally sleep at night during the week?
I need 8, but I get 6 or 7, and it’s awful. I don’t have great sleepers in the house, and their little footsteps wake me up.
What do you read every morning?
Nothing. My mornings are all about getting my kids ready for school and then I’m off to work. I sneak some emails in-between and my husband shouts out any big news headlines as I cook breakfast.
Complete the following sentences:
I think I: am really lucky.
I wish I: could sleep more.
My kids: have changed my life and made me a better person.
Do you have a personal motto or favorite saying?
“Mommy Brings Home the Bacon,” the title of my first book in the MightyMom series. For a few years it was a fun way of letting the kids know I was off to work.
Balancing her roles as Executive Director of sbe Foundation and raising two children, Nikki is intimately familiar with the challenges and rewards of being a working mom. Passionate about reading books to her children, Nikki was driven to write “Mommy Brings Home the Bacon” for her young boys after quickly realizing how few stories covered the subject of working mothers. Nikki was born and raised in Los Angeles and currently resides in her hometown with her husband, children, and rescue dog found at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. She holds an MBA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management and a BA in Communications from the University of California Santa Barbara.
Please share your own tips on balance and check back every Friday for another interview from THE BALANCE PROJECT. Better yet, subscribe in the box to the right and I’ll let you know when a new one posts…
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THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 3: Emily Liebert, Author
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 4: Lyss Stern, Mom-trepreneur
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 5: Lauren Slayton, Nutritionist
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 6: Elizabeth Moyer, Blogger
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 7: Annabel Monaghan, Author
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 8: Holly Gordon, Director
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 9: Jill Salzman, Entrepreneur
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 10: Jennifer Levinson, Jen’s List
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 11: Jenny Hutt, Media Personality
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 12: Angela Santomero, Kids’ Media Creator
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 13: Carola Donato, Yogi
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 14: Tiffany Washington, Pastry Designer
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 15: Emily Giffin, Author
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 16: Alana Sanko, Writer
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 17: Cara Lemieux, Journalist
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 18: Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke, Authors