The Working-Mom Story Every Young Woman Should Hear

The Working-Mom Story Every Young Woman Should Hear

I’m a big believer that all of our experiences—especially the tough ones—help us define our future. This is particularly true when it comes to taking risks, experiencing failure, and making mistakes. But, there’s one mistake I made in my professional career that I don’t feel this way about—and it’s a mistake I can never fix.

When my son was born, I took only three weeks off work. With my twin daughters two and a half years earlier, I took six weeks.

This is time that mattered. Time I’ll never get back.

I didn’t need to rush back to work. Both CNBC and Bloomberg, the respective news outlets where I anchored when my children were born, had normal maternity leave policies. My husband has always been my biggest champion and, both times, he encouraged me to take the time off for our family.

And yet? I rushed back. Twice. After C-sections and while still nursing. And in those initial months, I hated every minute of it. I was constantly in a state of conflict wishing I was home when I was at work—while convincing myself I was ultimately doing the right thing for my family, my network and my career.

A lot of this pressure was self-inflicted. (Yes, I’m driven—and I wanted my television shows to succeed. Given that it’s TV, you kinda need to be there if you’re going to achieve that!) But, I was also highly influenced by my work environment and that’s the reason why I make such a point to tell my story to the prospective mothers with whom I now work. That’s why I’m sharing my story here today.

When I worked at Bloomberg in 2012, management worried I might not be able to lead our Republican and Democratic Convention coverage since the events coincided with my maternity leave. And I felt even a bit guilty because I had promised, when I took the job, that I would lead all network political coverage. Granted, that was before I knew I was pregnant, but I still felt a responsibility to keep my word and to honor my promises. I didn’t want to let anyone down—including myself. Anchoring the convention coverage was a pretty big deal and I didn’t want to lose that opportunity.

So, when the conventions started, I packed up my newborn baby boy and brought him to my parents’ place. Then, I took off for Tampa and Atlanta, clocking 18 hour days for two weeks. I was exhausted and I missed my children and husband. When airport security took away the milk I’d been saving up for my baby, I burst into tears. A definite low point.

I had done the same thing at CNBC — rushing back six weeks after delivering twins because somehow I didn’t want my network to think I wasn’t just as capable of doing my job as any man would be…or any other woman who wasn’t having a baby.

What I now realize is that I was striving to prove something—to myself, to my bosses, and perhaps even to my gender. As a kid I used to love wearing a t-shirt that read, “Anything boys can do, girls can do better.”

But women should never be made to feel this way. We prove ourselves every day and don’t owe anyone any more proof. Women shouldn’t have to feel bad about taking time for themselves and for their families, if they choose that.

Being a woman, having children, and taking time to care for them should never be confused with weakness. It’s strength. It’s part of what makes us who we are.

For me, the main takeaway, built on the perspective of time and experience, is that the job will always be there. But childhood is short.

At my previous employers, there were no women telling me this. I had no female mentors offering advice. There was no role model of a successful woman who had had a child, taken her full maternity leave, and come back and picked up where she left off. Had someone tapped me on the shoulders and said, “Hey, you’re going to have a career for the next 30 years, but being a mother is a special time,” I might have made different choices.

At Fox Business Network, a young woman on my team came to my office about a year and a half ago. She was a little nervous. I recognized that feeling. She shared with me the amazing news that she and her husband were starting a family and she was three months pregnant. I jumped up, threw my arms around her, and we both teared up. I then told her everything I just told you. I told her about my mistakes and urged her to take every last day she could of her maternity leave. She did.

I am lucky to have a lot of women on my team at Fox Business Network, including several young parents. I tell them our show is far better served by individuals who maintain a balanced work and family life than a bunch of workaholics who are stressed out because they’re being pulled in too many directions. A happy, well-rounded person is a far better worker — and will do much more to promote a workplace culture of success.

I encourage women in our company to come to me if they ever feel overwhelmed or if they’re struggling to figure out balance in their life. I’ve been there—and I want them to know it’s okay to feel doubt and uncertainty. We can’t do it all (just typing it there feels antiquated) and we shouldn’t expect ourselves to. Instead, with a bit of perspective, we can learn to do a lot of things really well.

Here’s what I learned the hard way from my too-short maternity leaves—and what I hope you can learn just by reading about (and not living through) my mistakes.

There’s nothing wrong with being a little selfish.

Work for an employer that understands your commitment to both work and family. As employees, women (and men!) need to be a little selfish about where we work and for whom we work. For example, I expect great work product from my team but, if someone needs to take their child to the doctor or has a personal commitment, I get that. Face time is not what matters to me — work product is what matters.

Find a way to keep yourself happy.

I realized I missed my children so much when I traveled and felt so horrible when I was away from them that I now make it a point to always take one of the three with me. They take turns— and they love the “adventure” and one-on-one time with Mom. And I feel so appreciative to have them with me. Plus, it’s a huge learning experience for them. My 8-year-old daughter joined me in D.C. for our State of the Union coverage and read my research packets three times over. When she went back to school, she gave her classmates a whole history of the SOTU and read excerpts from the speech and rebuttal!

That said, I know I am very fortunate to work for a company that has no problem with an 8-year-old being present at our State of the Union coverage (hey, Chris Wallace was even showing her where the candies and cakes were on the catering table) and not everyone can do this. However, whenever you can, I would encourage you to look for little ways to keep yourself happy and bridge your work life and your home life. Even if it means something as small as FaceTiming with your children when they get home from school. (I do this, too.)

Prioritize your life. And let your team do the same.

As a boss: employees who work for you are not employees. They’re people—with families, with challenges, and with emotions. They must be appreciated as complete individuals. As leaders at corporations, it’s up to us to nurture and support talent. As women, we need to support and encourage each other. Part of this means respecting and understanding the contribution an individual is making to the world with her baby—we must support her through what (every working mom knows) can be an extremely challenging time, both physically and emotionally.