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 Colleen Oakes had to say…
No. 20: Colleen Oakes, Author
Where I live: Denver
Job: Bestselling Author/Professional Diaper Changer
Ages/genders of kid(s): 1 boy, almost one year old
Is the job you have now the same one you had before kids? If not, how and why did you change directions?
I was an author before we “got” our son (he is adopted), but he just happened to arrive right during a major book launch season for me, in which I planned to release three books within a year. It’s been crazy, absolutely nuts.
Do you think having “it all” is realistic or overrated and why?
I think there is a weird misconception out there that having it all means three things: 1. Possessing a Pinterest-worthy home 2. Having an intimidating career where you yell at people and wear red heels and 3. Having a gorgeous family that you feed organic, gluten-free meals to three times a day. Oh, and don’t forget to look like a J. Jill catalog model while doing it! It’s sort of sad that this is the standard now for women. It’s totally unachievable in every way. I love my family, my job, and most things about my life. That seems like having it all, even if I don’t do any of the above things.
What part of “balance” can you just not seem to figure out?
Chores. We cannot get a handle on the chores around here. I am seriously considering selling something every month so that I can afford to have a housecleaner come.
What part of “balance” are you getting better at?
Well, I can take my baby to the grocery store now without it being a major event, so that’s something.
What was the best advice you ever heard on balance…
From a mentor/co-worker? “There is no secret to writing a book. You just write it.”
From your mother? After we became parents: “Honey, your house won’t be clean again for a long, long time.”
From your son? He’s not talking yet, but his smile is enough to remind me why I’m doing everything I do.
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?
Will I be lame if I say sleeping? I would love to say something amazing like, doing hot yoga while meeting with my spiritual advisor, eating wild greens and reading the classics, but yeah… I would probably sleep. I would sleep and I would dream fantastic dreams.
What do you wish you’d known when you were 20?
That there is nothing as irritating to adults as the ridiculous hubris of a college freshman.
What do you hope to know by time you’re 60?
How to manage finances so that I end up with condos in Kaua’i and New England.
What one part of your home life do you wish you could outsource?
Cleaning the bathroom and the kitchen. All day, every day.
Whose job do you wish you had?
I would like to be the person who gets to take the Song of Fire and Ice books by George R. R. Martin and turns them into the Game of Thrones TV series. Interpreting books into other media would be a dream.
Whose job are you glad you don’t have?
I’ve been told—several times—that I would be a horrible social worker or therapist, because my tendency is to hear about a problem and then jump in with “Okay! Here are the three things you need to do.” I’m a fixer.
This list could be so long, so I’ll try to limit it: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling, State of Wonder by Ann Patchett, Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple, and The Chronicles of Narnia series by C. S. Lewis.
What are you reading right now?
I always have a stack of about five books on my night stand. Right now it’s This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper, Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close, The Maze Runner by James Dashner, and The Widow File by S. G. Redling, which is my book club book this month.
Activity? My husband and I love seeing movies in the morning on a weekday, like the 9 am show on a Monday. It’s always empty and we sneak in coffee and pastries. It’s simply wonderful.
Food? Brownies. I’m particular to the almond brownies at the Cheesecake Factory. They are to die for—and can only be eaten once a year.
Website? Buzzfeed and EW.com were so distracting that I blocked them from my computer. I could also spend too much time on Modcloth, Zulily, and Writer Unboxed, as well as a dozen blogs that I can’t get enough of.
How many hours do you generally sleep at night during the week?
I usually get about 7 hours, but I should be getting more.
What do you read every morning?
If I’m having a writing day, I read over the previous chapter to get a feel for the tone and mood that I’m setting. It’s a good refresher and way to plunge yourself as a writer into the world of the reader.
Complete the following sentences:
I think I: didn’t understand how necessary a strict schedule would be to complete my writing goals when we had a child.
I wish I: had traveled to Europe before I had a child, maybe right out of college.
My son: is a life’s worth of sunshine on my face and worth every tear shed during a rigorous adoption process.
Do you have a personal motto or favorite saying?
I love this quote by the great philosophical thinker Mindy Kaling: “Sometimes you just have to put on lipgloss and pretend to be psyched.”
Colleen Oakes is the author of both the Queen of Hearts and the Elly in Bloom series. She received her B.A. in Creative Writing at Concordia College in Bronxville, New York, and is currently signed with SparkPress. A proud member of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, Oakes lives in Denver with her husband and son, where she reads, swims, and blogs. Queen of Hearts is her first fantasy series. Look for her next fairy tale, Wendy Darling, coming soon.
Please share your own tips on balance and check back every Friday for another interview from THE BALANCE PROJECT.
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 1: Jessica Mindich, Entrepreneur
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 2: Veronica Beard, Fashion Designer
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
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 19: Nikki Mark, Author & Foundation Director