In describing the balance between her work and home life, Kristin van Ogtrop, managing editor of Real Simple magazine, invoked a famous quote of John Lennon's: "Life is what happens when you're making other plans."
The editor and author of the recent book "Just Let Me Lie Down: Necessary Terms for the Half-Insane Working Mom," spoke to businesswomen and members of Ladies Who Launch, a national organization of female entrepreneurs, this month at Carlisle in Greenwich, sharing some of the techniques that enable her to manage both her high-powered job and her family.
"I feel like women of my generation were raised to believe they could do anything and I do think women who are able to successfully balance a career and a family can go on believing that," van Ogtrop said. "If you make the right decisions, then you can do it."
Van Ogtrop drew equally on her experience raising three boys, ages 16, 13 and 5, and her position at Real Simple, where she has worked since 2003, dispensing advice on delegating tasks, adapting skill sets to changes in a job and knowing when to hide the Blackberry or iPhone in a drawer, to avoid the temptation of checking emails at home.
"In corporate life, the pitfalls and dangers are not as easy to spot but the environment is much more controlled," van Ogtrop said. "At home, the problems are much more apparent, but harder to control. So, I'd say I manage the transition with humor."
Inevitably, the disparate worlds of the office and the living room will intersect; van Ogtrop recalled moments she spent on her laptop during a vacation, or emailing during her son's dental appointment, acknowledging that sometimes a bit of give and take is needed to maintain the balance. And, it can help to keep a talisman of home life in the office, some variant of "Zuzu's petals," van Ogtrop said, referencing a scene in the 1946 movie "It's a Wonderful Life."
"I think you have to know you can't be all things to all people at the same time," she said. "Some days you're going to be better as a mother, others you'll be better at your job, but they're not necessarily going to be the same day."
Kathy McShane, managing director of Ladies Who Launch Connecticut and host of the event, selected van Ogtrop in part because of her appeal as a speaker, both in terms of her life as a mother and her job at a magazine that seeks to smooth out some of the wrinkles of daily life.
"I believe women in general are so overwhelmed with the work and life balance, they need things that make life simple," McShane said. "And she's doing a lot of things that my ladies can relate to."