04.13.12 Career & Finances

Juggling It All: a Q&A with ‘The Conversation’ creator Amanda de Cadenet

Juggling It All: a Q&A with ‘The Conversation’ creator Amanda de Cadenet

BY Jennifer Still

The Conversation creator Amanda de Cadenet has a lot on her plate. A photographer, TV personality, media mogul – not to mention a wife and mother – she knows that no one does it perfectly, there is only finding a way that works for you. In the spirit of it being ‘Work it, Girl’ Week, we asked her how she finds time to manage her multifaceted life …

How do you find time to balance your career with having kids and a husband?
“I always feel like something is suffering, it’s just a question of which part of my life is taking the hit at what time. I know that if my relationship is getting less time because my work is demanding more time that I have to then make it up down the road, or make it up in advance!”

What would you say is the most rewarding part of your working life?
“The most rewarding part of my working life is actually seeing progress being made, getting to do it. You spend years researching something or getting an idea and finding out how to make it happen and each phase has its own rewards. I like coming up with an idea, finding a way to make it work and then seeing it through.”

How do you go about prioritising projects when you have so many things going on at once?
“It’s more like an internal scale. It’s like a pie chart in my brain where the ratios keep changing. Most of the time I feel like I can’t meet everyone’s needs, but you know what? I do my best.”

Does work ever get 0%? Do you allow yourself those complete breaks?
“On Sunday, it’s my family day, so I pretty much disconnect. I don’t work at the weekends. I might do stuff on my computer when my kids go to bed, but I really try to make time for them. No matter how fulfilling my work is, the true value comes from my kids being balanced, healthy little people.”

How do you cope with high pressure situations?
“I take a lot of self-enforced time outs. Because I work from home, I’ll do things – like right now, I can sit on my stoop in my garden and talk to you. Even when we hang up, I’m going to sit here for another 5 minutes in the sun. I take mini-breaks as many times as I can manage throughout the day.

The biggest way I take care of myself is that I don’t go out at night, I don’t spread myself thin. I don’t have the energy to have a social life right now – there is time at the weekend, but it’s important to get enough sleep. If I don’t get enough sleep, I’m not able to function in the day. I take care of myself by getting a massage – I get one every single week.  I make myself stop. I don’t eat my lunch at the computer, I take my food away from where I’m working and do a pattern interrupt.”

What is the biggest challenge you face in your professional life?
“Not knowing how to delegate and also not taking on too many responsibilities. I want to do so much and there aren’t enough hours in the day.. That’s been the biggest challenge – learning what I can do now and what can wait until a space opens up. Burn out is really quite serious – if you burn out your adrenals, they don’t come back and you’re always kind of tired. I also deal with some health problems that can be quite disabling at times, so that doesn’t help!”

What is something you’d like to accomplish that you haven’t yet?
“I’m really just excited to continue making programming for women that is hopeful and authentic. Whether that is a comedy, a webisode series, a film, a documentary, a book – I just want to be able to keep making interesting, dynamic media for women.”

Why is this cause – beyond the obvious aspect of being a woman yourself – so close to your heart?
“I grew up in the public eye – I was a teenager, then I got a job hosting a TV show and I got catapulted from being a schoolgirl to being a household name, since I was on TV. I think that really did a number on me, and I realised that everyone will try to pigeonhole you and want you to be a certain way and if you don’t conform, you’re trouble. I was always told, ‘You’re too opinionated, you have too much to say, can’t you just be quiet about things?’

I identify with people who don’t have a voice and I’ve always been a big advocator of people speaking up because I do believe everyone has the right to be heard. I very much believe that people are equal and I don’t believe anyone is better than anyone else. I learned very early on that just because you have a fancy job doesn’t mean you’re a great person.”

What accomplishment are you most proud of, professionally speaking?
“As a photographer – which has been my job for the past 15 years – I’m proud of being able to represent women in a very beautiful but not manipulative way. I feel like I’ve definitely shown diversity in beauty and showing that a woman that you don’t necessarily think of as beautiful is beautiful. I’m able to find something beautiful in almost anybody and I’m able to photograph that and I’ve definitely done my part in putting those images into mainstream media. I also think that The Conversation is an extension of that desire, which is to show the beauty in all different kinds of women and show that vulnerability and our flaws are what make us different and beautiful.”

What do your kids think of your career? Your older daughter obviously knows what has been going on, but the twins are still young.
“The twins have no idea. They know I take pictures and they know that Mommy does something called The Conversation ‘cos they say, ‘On The Conversation, we talk about body image, money and career!’ They quote it at me because they’ve heard it so many times but they don’t know what it is.

I’m very proud of what I do and I work really hard. I’m very proud of my job. I think for my eldest daughter, it’s really important – she’s obviously known me 20 years and it’s important for her to see that I’ve worked my ass off, beyond what is probably wise for me to do in order to get this information and these stories out there. It’s a gift that she be able to witness that.”

What does your husband make of your career? Do you guys try to switch off from that when you’re together in order to have a ‘normal’ relationship?
“I think he’s sick and tired of hearing about women’s issues! He’s a real guy’s guy and he needs to go be around testosterone ‘cos he’s in a house full of chicks all the time, you know? But on that level, he knows more about women’s lives than any man probably should know! He raises a daughter, a step-daughter and he’s got me and he’s got some strong women in his life. He’s very compassionate to the plight of the woman.

I would not have been able to do what I’ve just done – creating this show, shooting it in my house, running my business out of my home – without him. If he gave me a hard time about it, I couldn’t have done this. The guy has a film crew in his living room for six months. My kids would be suffering so badly right now if I didn’t have a supportive husband. Every woman I’ve spoken to who’s married has a successful career agrees – you’d better have a supportive husband. It’s not possible to do it otherwise, at least in a healthy way.”

What is your ultimate way of unwinding after a long day?
“There’s a Thai massage place in my neighbourhood. It’s like, $35 so I go get a massage or I get in the bath. I really love very simple things. I love reading my books – I just try to disconnect my brain, whether that’s a 5 minute meditation or something else. Whatever turns my brain off is a good thing.”

Jennifer Still is the Managing Editor at HelloGiggles, writer, compulsive iced coffee drinker and pyjama enthusiast. She has a fondness for long baths and England, but who doesn't? You can follow her on Twitter @jenniferlstill or check out her blog at stilljennifer.com.

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