We had the good fortune of connecting with Vanessa Nielsen Molina and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Vanessa, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
My yoga teacher sometimes tells us: “Never take balance personally. It can be easy one day and near impossible the next.” She’s talking about a yoga pose, of course, but I feel that quote applies so well to work/life balance as well.
What has always helped me is to think of it less in terms of balance, and more like a juggle. I’m always juggling many different balls: kids, marriage, work, housework, health, rest, friends, family, fun, etc. And some of those balls are made of plastic— if I drop them for a time, no big deal. But some are made of glass, and those are the ones I prioritize in the days or seasons I can’t do everything.
For essentially my entire time as an entrepreneur, I’ve been the primary caregiver for my three small kids (now 6, 4, and 2). Especially in the first few years of running my business, I often felt frustrated at how slowly I was able to accomplish things, working only during nap time and at night while everyone was asleep. With a lot of introspection (and experience), I’m slowly learning to prioritize joy and ease at least as much as I prioritize hustle. My family is entering a new season of no-babies, and I know this will come with another shift in the work/life juggle!
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Sometimes I joke that I’m a professional shape-shifter. I have worked as a translator and interpreter, a publicist and marketer, as a writer, as an entrepreneur and educator. Through it all, the thread that has tied my work together is my love for the Latinx community and my passion for work at the intersection of communication and migration.
One thing that I’m proud of is the way I hustle for my own opportunities. I’ve emailed the person, entered the contest, pitched the idea, and applied for the opportunity hundreds of times. It doesn’t always work out, but sometimes it does!
When I started Sol Book Box, my first business, it came from a desire to help my community’s babies feel rooted in their heritage, in the language of their families. I was a new mom at the time. I didn’t have much experience, but one thing I knew for sure was that I wanted my daughter to be able to communicate with lots of different people (including members of her family), in both English and in Spanish. I wanted my kids to reap the cognitive and professional benefits of bilingualism, and to appreciate and experience the beauty of our world’s diverse cultures and languages. And I wanted the same for other Latinx families raising our future leaders.
And this work has expanded, from a Spanish children’s book subscription service to my newer venture, BILINGUIFY! BILINGUIFY! is a program for Spanish-speaking parents who also want to raise bilingual kids, but don’t know where to start (or have a hard time staying motivated).
Because what I understand now, more clearly than ever, is that bilingualism is the key that opens doors to relationships with people that we wouldn’t have known otherwise. And in our fractured world, that type of bridge-building is exactly what we need more of.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
If you came to visit me in Phoenix, here’s where I would take you.
We’d definitely stop by Changing Hands, our local bookstore, for some treasures.
We’d also go to Palabras Bilingual Bookstore for books in Spanish because… can you ever really have too many books? (No.) From there, we’d pop next door to Mucho Mas Art Studio to admire and maybe take home some amazing creations.
We’d eat chiles en nogada at Barrio Cafe, and we’d definitely eat enchiladas at Presidio Cocina Mexicana. And just for fun, we’d grab a torta at Tortas Paquimé, which was founded by an acquaintance from my hometown in Chihuahua, Mexico. For a change from Mexican food, maybe we’d grab brunch at The Farm in South Mountain. We’d eat at FEZ and Hana Japanese Eatery too!
We would stop by the Uptown Farmer’s Market, and go for an easy hike to Hole-in-the-Rock at Papago Park. We’d hit up the Phoenix Art Museum and also drive north to catch a movie at the cutest RoadHouse Cinema in Scottsdale.
And we’d spend a LOT of time at the pool, because, let’s face it, that’s what you do in the summer here!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My entrepreneurship story started at SEED SPOT, Phoenix’s wonderful social impact incubator. Shoutout to them for teaching me (and hundreds of other students throughout the years) how to make an impact on the causes and communities I’m passionate about, while also showing me how to grow a business that would allow me to do it.
Laura Waugh for the images of me and my kids, on the blue couch reading, and me at the table with laptop.