Photo Credit: NBC
Women now make up 50 percent of the American workforce. Now if only working moms could shed 50 percent of the guilt they carry around. Mastering the life-balance thing may be an impossible quest, but MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski has come out with a refreshingly candid book about her bumpy ride to the top of TV news and why she believes that the time she spends building her career is as good for her two daughters, ages 11 and 13, as the time she spends at home.
Her story has struck a chord. The book, All Things at Once, just became a New York Times bestseller and her tour has been packed with long lines of admiring women (and men). Of course, Brzezinski, 42, is no ordinary working mom. She's up at 3:30 am every day to cohost an influential political show, Morning Joe, and she follows that up with a radio broadcast.
The straight-talking Brzezinski spoke to iVillage about her job, her book and the lessons she learned after she became so exhausted that she fell down the stairs holding her infant daughter, leaving the baby with a broken leg.
You caused some controversy recently when you wrote a blog post saying women shouldn't put off having kids till their career is established.
I've been really misunderstood on this so I'll try and be as clear as I can. If children and family are something you want in your life, I would not put off looking for that to happen. If the opportunity for love strikes in your 20's, and you hold off till your mid-30s because there's some rule that you have to wait till your career is at a certain point before you can have a kid, you are an idiot. I'm not saying go back to the 1950s, I'm saying, look, it's hard to find a good guy so increase your chances by starting at an early age, just like you do for your job.
So how do you do all things at once and still do them well?
For me, my career would be nothing if I didn't have kids that have grown through it with me. You don't need to have your career first then have kids and keep them in separate boxes. Think of them of them as a set of cultivating experiences that can interrelate in a challenging, tough and incredibly fulfilling way. If you want to nurture the career, your kids will survive. If you love the work, if it's true to your identity, you will be a more cultivated, happier person and that's good for the kids. You're growing yourself for them.
You wrote that after you fell with your baby daughter you re-evaluated your life and got more childcare. Why is it so hard for women to ask for help?
I think we as mothers who work feel a tremendous friction in our own minds about transferring the authority over our children to someone else. We feel guilty about it and we're control freaks. We leave the house and think, "Are they doing it right?" But you have to let go. I learned that by making the worst mistake of my life. I wanted to show the world I could be supermom and have this amazing network job. I wanted to be all things to all people. I learned after the accident with Carlie -- which was the worst way to have to learn a lesson because that accident was my fault -- that if I'm going to work, that there are times I have got to let people help.
Is it difficult to switch into mom mode after work?
There are times when I work for three days straight and I barely see my daughters. I just kiss them good night because I'm better off not seeing them because it's hard for me to transition. Then I'll throw myself into them for like 36 hours. I know that's very unpredictable for them, and guess what, that's my household.
You're in amazing shape. How do you manage that on top of work and your family?
I get home and I'm dead tired -- I've been up since 3:30 in the morning, and I want to sleep so badly -- but I've got to jog at least a few miles and I'll have a little less time with the kids but I will have run and I'll feel better with them. Exercise is essential for me. No excuses. Do you need to look like a supermodel? No. But do you want to feel exhausted and overweight for your husband and your kids and your job? Is that the best way to present yourself? No.
Any advice for new moms who are going back to work?
First: Put away the guilt. You're going back to work, face it and get the job done. Stop with the tears. Celebrate it. You're doing this not only for yourself, but for your kids. Second: Don't try to overcompensate when you come home. Work on your time management realistically. And take care of yourself. Do not let yourself fall apart because you will pay for that in the end and so will your kids and your marriage.
Do you have guilt about being a working mom -- and how do you deal with it? Chime in below!