What The Rich Ladies On Glamour’s “Love Your Life” Panel Can Teach You About Work-Life Balance

Yesterday I was thrilled to leave work early and attend Glamour magazine’s “Love Your Life” conference, held at New York City’s 92nd St Y. I only got to hear one of the two panel discussions: “Love Your Work Life.” With a lineup including “Top Chef”‘s Padma Lakshmi, designer Anna Sui, makeup guru Bobbi Brown, Dylan’s Candy Bar owner Dylan Lauren, and my old boss, politics blogger Arianna Huffington, who wouldn’t be psyched? The panel, moderated by journalist Deborah Roberts, was supposed to be about “high-achieving women discuss[ing] success and work-life balance.” And while there were some really solid gold pieces of career advice dished out (Anna Sui, adopt me!), I also couldn’t help but feel frustrated by how little I could relate to these women, who are faaar wealthier than the average woman ever will be. Most of us won’t be so lucky, like Padma Lakshmi, to force herself to let her baby’s nanny deal with her crying child.

After the jump, some of the afternoon’s highlights, both good and bad:The question posed: “How do you manage work-life balance?”

Anna Sui: Anna offered the most useful advice — for me, at least. She spoke candidly about how everything was a learning process for her and when she first started out working as a designer, she didn’t know how to balance a checkbook and would spend her paycheck before she had it. But as time went on, she grew into managing her success. Everything in life, Anna stressed, is a “process” and “everything doesn’t happen right away … you have to make an effort to work towards it.” I, for one, found it really refreshing to hear someone say that success doesn’t just happen, but it’s something a woman builds up over time. I also thought she gave great advice when she suggested asking one’s elders for guidance because they have “life experience” advice that may be useful, even if your career is not parallel to theirs.

Bobbi Brown: “There is no such thing as work-life balance,” Bobbi said. “It so does not exist.” She may be exaggerating for dramatic effect, but Bobbi convincingly persuaded me she didn’t seek the success she’s had with her cosmetics and her how-to makeup guide. Bobbi really laid out how work-life balance is a series of purposeful choices: she and her family intentionally live in suburban New Jersey instead of New York City; she would purposely leave work at 5 p.m. each day no matter what; she would stick to plans with her family even if beauty industry muckety-mucks wanted to go out for drinks. Bobbi said her husband supports her but that it was important to him that they had “a normal life” and by all accounts, he got what he wanted. So has she, I assume. “My decision to keep it real is just who I am,” she said.

Dylan Lauren: As the youngest career woman on the panel, Dylan had the least amount of advice to offer on work-life balance, but she did encourage women to multitask. Dylan admitted to checking emails on her Blackberry while running on a treadmill so she can cut back on her working hours. That sounds dangerous to me, but the woman owns candy stores and has a sick body, so it must work!

Arianna Huffington: “Men have not done it right,” Arianna said of managing both a family and a career. Broadly speaking, high-achieving men work themselves into an ulcer or a heart attack and deal with the imbalance only when it’s affecting their health. As women are taking their place at work alongside the men, they are saying they won’t do that, she said.

Arianna also plugged her and Glamour editor Cindi Lieve’s campaign to end sleep deprivation among women. Three years ago Arianna fainted from overworking and smacked her head on her desk. (I remember this! She had a huge bruise on her face!) That’s when she had a “wake-up call” about running herself ragged. Now Arianna sets a bed time and commits to sleeping eight hours a night; she seemed to imply it’s been helping her family life as well. She also wishes all women would stop checking their cell phones or Blackberries in the middle of the night because it disrupts sleep. Arianna talked a bit about sleeping in silk pajamas and listening to meditation tapes on her Bose headphones, which I couldn’t relate to, but she nevertheless made her point.

Padma Lakshmi: Padma’s a new mom adjusting her baby daughter, Krishna, to a new crib and isn’t sleeping too well these days! She agreed with Arianna that adults need bedtimes, too. But Padma also said it’s been tough to train herself to let the nanny handle her baby daughter when she cries so Padma can keep on resting. I found that comment annoying since having in-house childcare is a considerable luxury, especially in this financial climate.

However, I really liked Padma’s parenting observation that there are different ways to give your child an interesting childhood. She described how she used to go along with her mother to work and therefore learned a lot of cool things at her mom’s job. Even if she’s not at home with her daughter Krishna all the time, her kid can visit her mom at her various jobs and learn about everything from TV production to publishing to jewelry design. Padma also said that women should look to both women and men as mentors. When she was growing up in New York City, she said, there were not many Indian women to look up to, so she broadened her criteria for what a mentor should be. “You don’t need somebody to be exactly like you to learn from their achievements or failures,” she pointed out, quite rightly.

How do you achieve work-life balance in your own life? Do you agree with these women? Disagree with my interpretations of their comments? Let us know in the comments.

You can read another account of this “Love Your Work Life” panel — which will probably be far more intelligent! — by my friend Chloe Angyal at Feministing.

To read more about Glamour’s “Love Your Body” panel, check out this account from our friends at TheGloss.com.