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 Cara Lemieux had to say…
No. 17: Cara Lemieux
Where I live: New York City
Job: Journalist/Writer/Mom/Managing Editor ShriverReport.org
Ages/genders of kid(s): 3-year-old daughter
Is the job you have now the same one you had before kids? If not, how and why did you change directions?
My job is not the same as it was before I had children…which is sometimes really hard for me to accept. There are two main reasons that I left broadcast news and headed in the direction of digital media. First of all, I saw the shift in audience behavior, with more and more Americans using the Internet as their primary means for content consumption. And the second reason is that the definition of “the perfect job” changed from when I was 22 years old to where it is today, and the often rigid work structure of TV news was not adaptable to my new life. Although I miss the intense camaraderie of a newsroom, I now accept nothing is really perfect and that “the perfect job” for me right now is more about giving me a way to provide for myself and my daughter—without requiring tunnel vision 100% of the time. I do, however, expect that my list of wants from a job will continue to evolve as my life does.
Do you think having “it all” is realistic or overrated and why?
I am a single mom of a 3-year-old, so I’ve never even really felt part of the having it all conversation. For the first couple years of my daughter’s life, I was more worried about having dinner on the table and leaving the apartment without crying, than I was about some grand question about women and gender roles. Now that I am more adjusted to raising a toddler in New York City all on my own, I do wonder what “having it all” looks like. I have my version of “it all”—a wonderful daughter, a good job, and an excellent and entertaining support network. But I can’t engage all of those components in the exact same moment—and sometimes they are all pulling at me at the same time, which is where the benefits of being a former newsroom producer kick in and I am able to triage what really needs my instant attention and what can wait a few moments or…gasp…days.
What part of “balance” can you just not seem to figure out?
I have zero idea how to logistically add a romantic partner into this three-ring circus that I am managing. Relationships take work, and I feel like I am finally at a comfortable place with how much of myself I am comfortable giving to my work life and how much of myself I am devoting to my daughter and how much I am devoting to being a great friend/sister/daughter. I know I am getting a guaranteed return on my investment into those three aspects of my life. That is not always (or rarely is ever) the case in dating, so I often wonder what the point is. Even though I would love to have a life partner, who is in my corner and I in his, I am just not sure how to go from here to there. The time to devote to a romantic relationship would mean taking time away from the already established awesome parts of my life, and I struggle with what that would even look like and if it is overall worth it.
What part of “balance” are you getting better at?
I am getting better at saying no if I am tired and on occasion allowing myself to get into bed at 8:30pm, even on a Friday. I am accepting that the to-do list will never be totally complete, the email inbox never totally empty, and all of the dishes totally clean (there is always a sippy cup hiding out somewhere in this NYC apartment), so sometimes it’s just best to push the non-urgent matters aside and catch up on sleep.
What was the best advice you ever heard on balance…
From a mentor/co-worker? “There will come a point in time where you ask yourself, ‘What the hell did I just do to my life?’…don’t freak out, we all wonder that.”
From your mother? “You’ll figure it out.”
From your daughter? “I love you, Mommy.” (Because really not much else matters as long as there is love.)
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?
I would soak in the bathtub, go for a massage, or go for a run. All without an audience or a cell phone.
What do you wish you’d known when you were 20?
There is just nothing anyone could have told 20-year-old me that would have sunk in. But I do wish I had spent less time planning for a life that never happened and enjoyed the life I was living. I invested way too much time looking way too far into the future.
What do you hope to know by time you’re 60?
I hope to know if making room for a romantic life partner is really worth it—and I also hope that I discover it is not only worth it, it’s better than I could have ever imagined.
What one part of your home life do you wish you could outsource?
I really wish someone could make dinner every night so I could hang out with my daughter after I am done with work and she is done with daycare and then that person would help with the dishes so I could give my daughter a bath without stressing about the mess in the kitchen. When you are a single parent, all work is linear, so there is no dividing and conquering the management of the house.
Whose job do you wish you had?
I honestly have no idea. The last time I looked at a job I wanted was when I had just started working at a morning news show, and I started eyeing the control room producer position. Seven years later I got that job, and it was wonderful and exhausting, and since then I have been trying to figure out what my new dream job looks like.
Whose job are you glad you don’t have?
I am really thankful I am not a first responder, a nurse, or a doctor. I faint at the site of blood, and I worry about…oh everything…so it just isn’t a good fit for my brand of crazy. That being said, I thank God there are wonderful people who are willing to risk their lives to save the rest of us.
Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert; Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott; In an Instant, by Lee and Bob Woodruff.
What are you reading right now?
10% Happier, by Dan Harris.
Activity? Checking my email and social media for no reason whatsoever. Bad. Bad. Bad time suck.
Food? Large portions. I really like food.
Website? I manage a website so I really don’t gravitate toward them in my free time!
How many hours do you generally sleep at night during the week?
What do you read every morning?
theSkimm daily e-newsletter, my email, my text messages, and my Facebook feed.
Complete the following sentences:
I think I: am doing okay.
I wish I: had a crystal ball.
My daughter: is the best thing that has ever happened to me.
Do you have a personal motto or favorite saying?
Failure is not an option (but I’m ready to accept a different definition of success).
Anything else you’d like to add?
In my experience, some of the best life moments came from me giving something a chance that I never thought I would actually entertain in a million years…a job…a friendship…a move to a neighborhood…all started with saying “yes” to a request that I wasn’t 100% sold on. I’ve learned that part of balance lies in opening myself up to possibility. You never know.
Cara Lemieux is an award-winning multi-media journalist and writer. She is currently the digital director and managing editor for ShriverReport.org and a former network news producer. She graduated with honors from Ithaca College’s Roy H. Park School of Communications with a Bachelor of Arts in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in Sociology and is a lecturer for her alma mater. Lemieux is a runner and a three-time finisher of the New York City Half-Marathon. She currently lives in New York City with her beautiful daughter, Ellie.
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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