Mika Brzezinski: All Things At Once
I think I spelled that right. I t would be bad to misspell the name of my new American Idol. And it's embarrassing to admit it's taken me a few years to recognize her genius. I knew who she was and that she was on "Morning Joe," the MSNBC show she co-hosts with Joe Scarborough and Willie Geist, but I didn't know her story until, of all people, my dad sent me a harrowing excerpt from her first book, "All Things At Once."
It was the section about how she was running around on fumes, barely sleeping because she was working overnights, juggling a toddler and a newborn, and in the midst of talking a mile a minute to her nanny, she slipped and careened down the stairs, WHILE CARRYING HER BABY. She landed at least twice on the baby, who ended up at the bottom of the stairs all listless and broken.
I won't ruin it for you with more paraphrasing but talk about working mother's guilt exponentially multiplied. There were so many things in her memoir that any woman in this industry can relate to...and so many parallels in her life that resonated with me as a woman/TV journalist/mom/human:
1. Make it a priority to find your life partner. It was so interesting to hear her talk about this and to say that jaws drop when she counsels aspiring career women because it's something no one ever talks about. At least I didn't hear it when I was coming up in the business. But I've always made it a point to tell my female interns that this is a tough career to balance against marriage and family. But I always follow that up with, "If that's something you want, make it happen. Don't lose focus of the people you will want at the end of your career because jobs come and go, a partner and a family are forever." And really, what good is all the success in the world if you don't have a life co-captain to celebrate with? So says the lady who found hers in a 9th grade geometry class.
2. Don't wait forever to have your babies. If you don't want kids, fine, and if you don't want to be married, fine. But if you do, only you will be able to make it happen. Prioritize and proceed. But don't rush into something that doesn't feel right, because your gut is your best friend. Like your career though, once you get the right gig, it takes work to maintain and to grow and to prosper.
3. Strive for all things, but know that having them "all at once" in your life isn't always the healthiest option. I have anxiety all the time about whether or not I'm doing it "right" and whether I'm maximizing all the angles and doing everything I should and taking advantage of all the opportunities that come up. You feel that pressure even more when you become a parent because you want to set a good example and you want to provide and you want to establish financial security for your family
4. Being a working mom makes some of us better moms. You appreciate the time you spend at home and with your loved ones if you're happy in your life and with yourself. For some, that balance is in working part time, for others, it's in full time mothering, for some, it's the juggling between both full time jobs. We know how lucky we are to have family nearby and to have Asian Grandma full time with Emmy. Things might be different if we had to choose a daycare or Swedish au pair. But we have what we have and it works for us. There are definitely times when I bemoan the fact I'm not a "kept woman" but in those fleeting moments, The Good Doctor always slaps me back down to reality with, "You can NOT be a kept woman. It's impossible." And he goes back to eating peanuts, satisfied he has Spoken The Truth.
5. TV news is subjective and fickle and fraught with ups and downs, many of them far, FAR beyond your control. You can be a talented writer, excellent ad-libber, 60 Minutes correspondent and fill-in anchor for Dan freaking Rather, and new management can come in and you're yesterday's "blonde roadkill" as Mika put it. Makes me feel a little less lonely on my career rollercoaster.
6. Shiny Penny Syndrome is real. It's when you're the new It Girl and you can do it all and everyone wants a piece of you. Wield that magic carefully and make sure you're compensated for it. Be gracious and accommodating, to a point. Realize when you're working for free and make sure you don't let that situation overstay its welcome. Everyone has a different balance point and sometimes having multiple gigs is better than having none.
I'm now halfway through her Mika's second book, "Knowing Your Value: Women Money, and Getting What You're Worth." I'll file a book report after I discover the secrets to negotiating my next raise.