By KARI COBHAM
Six weeks after having my daughter I was back in the newsroom, prepping for George Zimmerman’s murder trial and the social media deluge that would come with it. It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done.
Media moms face unique challenges with unpredictable news cycles and daily deadlines that make it difficult to balance family life. I’m a relatively new mom – my daughter is two – and I’ve had to learn to set boundaries and be forgiving with myself.
There are still days I must remind and re-learn.
Over the past few months, women I’ve worked with have approached me seeking advice on how to manage being a mom and having a career in media. It’s a learning process and I don’t think there’s such a thing as having perfect balance, there’s only doing your best. Here’s what I shared with them:
1. Find your mommy cohort. One of the things that brought the most comfort and inspiration was the organic cohort of other newsroom moms — anchors, reporters, producers, editors in the trenches, juggling motherhood and daily pressures with equal measure and determination. Watching them chase stories that helped make their communities better or finding ways to pump in live trucks was inspiring. Having them a desk away to talk quietly when a child was sick or to celebrate milestones was life-saving. Seek out other newsroom moms who’ve faced and understand the unique challenges you’re facing. They will save you, too.
2. Jettison the guilt. Going back to work can be wrenching. You’ll probably feel like a terrible mother at some point for choosing a (demanding) career. Maybe a Stay At Home Mom friend makes you feel like the Worst Mother Ever for having a career at all. Just when you think you’re OK, a tragic story involving kids will cut you deeply. Just when you think you’re OK, leaving him the next day will leave you in tears. Just remember that you still have your dreams and your goals; you know what’s best, not just for your family, but for you to feel fulfilled. If that means working, that’s OK.
3. Forgive yourself. Back in April, WFTV (ABC) Channel 9 anchor Nancy Alvarez wrote a moving Facebook post about mixing up the days and missing the Easter egg hunt at her son’s school. “As working mothers, we will miss things,” she wrote. “It’s inevitable. But we rise above. Because our work is important. Because loving our jobs doesn’t mean we love our kids any less. And because everything about our jobs – from the paycheck to the example we set by working hard – is for them. So I pulled it together and headed back to the station.” And that about sums it up. You’ll make mistakes. You’ll forget to turn in the family photo at daycare. You’ll be late sometimes. You’ll buy instead of baking. It doesn’t make you a bad mother; it makes you human. Go easy on yourself.
4. Take time. It’s harder than ever to disconnect from work when emails, breaking news alerts and social media notifications follow you home. Set aside some sacred time that’s just for family. The world will not collapse if you have dinner with your loves or get on your knees to draw with chalk on the sidewalk or build Legos or nurse without checking your phone. Even if it’s not as much time as you’d like, make it an oasis, make it count.
5. Thank your partner, babysitter or nanny often. I have been blessed with an incredible husband who’s dedicated heart and soul to our family. (He also has a background in media so he understood the weird hours and deadlines.) Without him to take up the slack, my career would’ve been a considerably steeper path. I’m grateful to him for being a good partner and father and I thank him every single day. We all have someone in our lives—a close friend, godmother, parent, grandparent, longtime nanny—who loves and cares for our kids. Thank them and thank them often. They deserve it.
What are some of the lessons you’ve learned as a mom in media?
Kari Cobham is a writer, editor and social media strategist. She is the social media analyst for Cox Media Group TV stations, where she works with digital teams and on-air talent to grow their social audiences. She was previously executive producer of social media at WFTV (ABC) Channel 9 in Orlando, Fla., and vice president of media and communications for former Philadelphia 76ers president Pat Croce. A former SPJ award-winning journalist at The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Kari’s work has been featured on MSNBC’s Today Books, Orlando Sentinel, SHE and Caribbean Beat magazines.