Friday, February 1, 2013

The Having It All Project: Liz O'Donnell

Liz and I first connected as part of the Boston Parent Bloggers Network, and I follow her blog Hello Ladies religiously. I was honored when she interviewed me for her upcoming book on working women, and I can't wait to read the finished product. Here's how Liz is having it all.

Briefly describe your life and what you think makes it unique.
I am the mother of two elementary school-aged children and the sole breadwinner for my family. My husband runs the house and is the primary caregiver. We knew this was how we wanted to structure our lives even before we knew we wanted children. While there are moments when I wish I could bail out of corporate America, our arrangement works well the majority of the time. In addition to my full-time job in public relations, I run the blog Hello Ladies and am the author of the forthcoming book, “The Truth about Working Women,” to be published by Bibliomotion November 2013. My day job feeds my family and my writing feeds my soul. I know I have it easier than many working mothers because I have a spouse dedicated full-time to our kids and who is an amazing cook. That helps a lot.

What are some of your favorite tips and strategies for coping with the chaos?
How do I manage? First, I live in a very, messy house. My husband doesn’t like housework and I won’t pick up the slack. It’s just not how I choose to spend my free time. So, I live in fear of someone stopping by for an unannounced visit. Second, I don’t have a social life. I have two and a half friends. I choose to spend my little free time with my kids or writing so I don’t make time for going out or talking on the phone. Third, I am crystal clear about my non-negotiables. My family, my job, my writing, and exercising (when I feel like it) are priorities. Everything else is optional. I have no guilt about my choices and I am comfortable saying no. And finally, I don’t believe in should. When I help a family member or volunteer at school, I make sure I’m doing it because I want to; not because I should. When I respond to “should” nobody wins; I am cranky and make everyone around me cranky too.

Please share a moment where it all broke down, and how you got through it.
My life works, until it doesn’t; and then it really doesn’t. I have elderly parents and when they have a health crisis, my life goes out of whack. This past summer, for instance, my mother fell and was badly hurt (she’s okay now). She was scared and I was too. I worked remotely from her house so I could help with meals and doctor’s appointments. But I was fragile; I was exhausted, stressed and I missed my kids. I got through that incident because I wanted the opportunity to help my parents, not because anyone told me I should. I asked my sisters for more help than I usually would, and, I ran every day in an attempt to stay sane.

Do you have any balance role models? Anything you try to avoid because it wouldn't work for you?
One of my best friends and former bosses is a role model in how she lives her life and runs her business. She is crystal-clear about what is important to her and she prioritizes based on her non-negotiables. She, however, somehow manages a social life and a clean home too. 
What do I try to avoid? Comparing my life to other women's lives. It's a no-win. The grass always looks greener, especially on Fakebook, oops, I mean Facebook.

Think back to your 18th birthday. How is your life different from how you expected it to be then?
When I was 18 I thought that after college I would move to New York City and be a city-girl. I didn’t have any plans as far as career or family, I only knew I wanted to wear all black and be hip. Now I’m a suburban mom who takes the Acela to New York once a week for work and who does wear mostly black. But that’s because it’s more slimming than color, not because I’m cool. I am so not hip. Never was. Never will be.

Relate to what Liz is saying? Leave her some love in the comments. Read other posts from The Having It All Project here. Want to participate? Send me an email at!


  1. Hi Liz,
    I'm so impressed with your post. I really appreciate how clear you are about priorities. I have so much trouble saying no! How do you do it and not feel guilty? It is a skill I'm trying hard to learn but I seem to get caught in that loop over and over again whether it is work or outside activities. I also appreciate your honestly about what does NOT get done!

  2. Liz,

    What a great story. I loved it. Honest and entertaining - I'm sure many can relate. You are an inspiration to anyone that wants it all. You are doing an awesome job, can't wait to read your book.

  3. Thanks ladies. Allison, when I said I make me and everyone around me cranky when I say yes but I mean no, I really meant it. My good intentions just backfire and it's never worth it. The way I see it, we all can't be and do everything. We all have different roles we're supposed to play at different times. So my no today might be a yes later on. But it might not...

  4. Another great Having It All post! Liz's story is a reminder to honor ourselves by keeping what's most important the priority. I love the "I don't do shoulds" - too often we do what we think we SHOULD do, not what we WANT to do. I taking that advice to heart. Thanks!

  5. I like the part about "shoulds". Need to remember that more.