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Asha Dornfest 29 March 2008

Asha Dornfest

Writer, founder of, well-intentioned but ill-equipped homemaker

Asha Dornfest is the mother of two remarkable kids, the wife of an extremely smart man, the founder of what has become an amazing online parenting community, the author of several books about various tech topics, and a woman who’s always asking questions.

Professionally, the main event is Parent Hacks, a web site that started as a curious musing (“Wouldn’t it be cool to collect parents’ best bits of hard-earned wisdom and clever tricks and put them all together for everyone to share?”) and has turned into a business. Sort of MacGyver-meets-childrearing. Asha has always loved the role of community guide, and Parent Hacks lets her participate in an ongoing conversation about parenting with thousands of smart, imaginative people around the world.

But family life is the actual main event — the ongoing adventure of raising kids is continually throwing surprise twists in the road. It’s an amazing journey.

What are you up to?

Right now I’m trying to get a handle on the juggle. Work-family balance may be a cliche, but it’s a real trick to pull off with grace, especially because it’s REALLY work-family-home-friends-spouse-community-self balance. I find myself reading a lot of “life hacks,” personal organization stuff looking for the secret of simplifying my life. Time to stop reading and start doing.

What are you into?

I’m into being outside. The emergence of Spring in Portland never fails to thrill me. I was up on Mt. Hood skiing not long ago and was literally breathless from the beauty. I’m into reconnecting with the things I’ve let fall by the wayside while I’ve been too busy with busy-ness: the outdoors, time with friends and extended family, time having fun with my husband and my kids, time alone.

What do you like most about Portland?

The friendliness, the accessibility, the green.

Are you ever going to have a real job?

I left the traditional workplace in 1995 when I wrote my first book, and I’ve never been back. In large part that has to do with having children, but it also has to do with the Internet, and how one can now make a living from writing that’s independent of the publishing industry.

I miss the camaraderie of the workplace (have for years) but as my kids get older I am hoping to build more “face time” into my online life. That generally involves travel (I think? Maybe not if Raven’s work in the Portland community is any indication!)…which is tricky right now while my kids are young.

Work-family balance, huh? So have you learned ANYTHING?

Um. Perhaps you can ask me again in a few months.

I’m approaching 40, so maybe my life is coming into greater focus now, who knows. But I am beginning to see that frittering one’s days away with busywork is a huge waste of one’s essence. I think it’s reasonable (and not too new-age-y) to say that we all need to take some time to figure out what gives our life meaning and to DO those things…not just PLAN to do those things.

So first, identify the shiny, lovely goal — what you want to do/accomplish/be in all the free space you’re about to create.

Next, get rid of the clutter in one’s life (mental clutter especially). The trick is to not get mired in the backlog — spend a limited amount of time there per week.

Automate the stuff that shouldn’t require much brainwork (bills, laundry, housekeeping, etc.).

Finally, live your life (the one you imagined in Step 1). Reality will be a lot messier than your shiny fantasy, but that’s what it’s all about. There’s no way to find those hidden paths unless you stumble upon them by accident (or get pushed there).


Parent Hacks

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