Erica Rivinoja is a writer and consulting producer for the sitcom “Up All Night” and a writer/producer for “South Park.” She lives in L.A. with her husband, Prince, and their two-year-old son, Ivan. They’re also expecting a “lady baby” (as she puts it) in October. Here’s how she attempts to balance it all…
1. What’s your work schedule?
Recently it’s been super hectic. I’ve been doing three days a week on NBC’s “Up All Night” and the other four days on “South Park.” I work on “Up All Night” from about 10am to 7pm, unless we’re shooting my episode, in which case I’m there from about 7am to 9pm. My days on “South Park” are much easier; we only work from about 9:30am to 1pm, so I usually have my afternoons free to play with Ivan, write my own projects, run errands, go to the gym, fight crime or do the occasional fun thing for myself.
2. How do you handle childcare?
We have the best nanny in the world, Ana. She’s really flexible with her schedule, which is great because sometimes we need her early in the morning or on the weekends. Before Ivan was born, we were worried that we wouldn’t be able to guarantee her forty hours a week, but she regularly works fifty to sixty hours a week. And she’s a wonderful cook, which is great for Ivan. If I were solely in charge of cooking for the family, we’d eat a lot of Goldfish (capital G) and take-out.
3. When do you typically hang with your child?
I don’t have to be at “Up All Night” until about 10:00 AM, so I get to see Ivan in the morning. My husband is an anesthesiologist and is usually gone in the mornings, so Ivan and I get some alone time. My work at “South Park” is usually only about a half day, so I also get to see Ivan in the afternoons and evenings on those days. If we have free weekends, we’ll go on outings to the park, the museum, or (don’t judge me) the mall. I figure it’s important to teach him consumerism at an early age.
4. What do you like best about your current setup?
Because of our awesome nanny situation, I get to work on several different projects at once. I like that I get to work on two very different shows, yet I still have time to work on my own things. Even though it’s a little hectic having so much going on, it’s nice to have variety in my work life. I couldn’t do that if our nanny weren’t so flexible and my husband weren’t so supportive.
5. What do you find tricky about your current set-up?
I wish that my jobs were closer to my house. It would be so nice to be able to see Ivan on my lunch break. But it’s about a thirty minute commute each way. And when I need to write at home, that also has its challenges. I have my own office upstairs, but it’s also the hangout for our two cats. So if it’s not a two-year-old screaming downstairs, it’s a cat chewing on my laptop. I definitely thought it would be easier to work at home when I had a child. People used to make it seem like it was so easy. Before Ivan was born, I thought I’d just write while he would play quietly by himself. Boy, was I wrong.
6. How do you and your husband fit marriage into the balance?
It’s tough. Ivan definitely changed our relationship. Suddenly, everything became about the baby. Now we really have to make time for each other. Before the baby we used to travel all over the world (India, Tanzania, Ecuador, everywhere) and have these intense, wonderful experiences just the two of us. We still try to take a big trip just the two of us each year—since Ivan was born, we’ve gone to Hawaii, Israel and Spain—but I find that people are very judgmental of us leaving the baby at home with his grandparents and our nanny. People act weird and say things like, “Wow, I don’t know if I could ever do that.” But if your life becomes just about focusing on the children, it’s really easy to lose sight of the relationship that brought the children into being.
7. Do you have any time for yourself?
Very little. I used to spend a lot of time at home by myself, just enjoying the peace. But now I have to get out of the house to find peace. People always say after you’ve have a baby, “Oh, can you even remember what life was like before the little miracle?” And my answer is, “Yes! Definitely! And life was wonderful!” Not that my life isn’t wonderful now; I adore Ivan. But I definitely miss those times when I could just spend infinite time at Target perusing the aisles and buying trashy clothes and cheap make-up. Now most of my shopping is on Soap.com, Diapers.com, and Amazon Prime (it’s worth the extra 80 bucks a year for two-day delivery). Time for myself is so precious now, so I make sure to really indulge myself. I go to the spa, spend time with my brilliant friends, or watch garbagey TV. I think I miss garbagey TV the most. But I wouldn’t trade Ivan for “Toddlers & Tiaras”…most of the time.
8. Who cooks and cleans?
Our nanny cooks for Ivan. Prince and I usually order in or ask our nanny if she can stay late and we’ll go out for dinner, or Prince and I will fend for ourselves. Thank god for Whole Foods prepared meals.
9. Do you ever wonder how other women manage the juggle? Have you talked to other women about it?
A few other moms work with me on “Up All Night,” and we all agree that we feel like terrible moms most of the time, just because we can’t make it to every toddler music class and every baby birthday party. But we all agree that we would not feel as fulfilled if we didn’t have our jobs. I want Ivan to see me as a role model for all that a woman can achieve at home and at work. I have a surprising number of friends who are stay-at-home moms. They find great fulfillment in that, but that’s not me. When Ivan’s off to college (hopefully college, or off to work on a shrimp boat), I want to make sure that I haven’t spent 18 years solely as a mom, and suddenly I’m struggling to find out who I am and define myself as a woman.
10. What advice would you give to other moms about how to balance work and life?
Don’t lose yourself in your identity as a mother. You were a woman before you met your husband/partner. You were a woman before you had your children. Don’t lose sight of who that person is. Spend as much time with your children as you can, but don’t feel bad if you’re spending time at work. Enjoy that time that you spend contributing to society, even if it’s mostly fart jokes, like I do. When you’re at home, be present with your child. It’s quality over quantity, always.
Thank you so much, Erica!
P.S. Last summer’s first balance series about moms who work from home.