The concept of “work/life balance” has taken on a new meaning during the coronavirus pandemic. With many offices, schools and other spaces closed, parents (and particularly women) around the world are working while caring for family members at the very same time.
Know Your Value recently spoke to several on-air moms at NBC News and MSNBC to find out how they’re handling the “new normal,” as well as their top tips and greatest challenges.
Sheinelle Jones, “3rd Hour of TODAY” co-host
How she’s managing overall: Jones recently went on medical leave for vocal cord surgery, so she had already been “completely consumed” with the school lives of 10-year-old Kayin and 7-year-old twins Clara and Uche. She’s currently managing work from their three virtual classrooms, and it’s been challenging to come up with ways to keep the children connected to their friends. When Jones starts work again next week, that will add a significant layer to the daily tasks.
“I told them that when Mommy is going live, they’ll have to read quietly or do something that doesn’t require my immediate attention,” she told Know Your Value. “The silver lining to all of this, is that I’m getting a closer look at where my kids are academically. While it is stressful juggling it all at once, I’m thankful for this time I have with them, because I’m not usually home in the mornings.”
Her biggest challenge: “My biggest challenge is trying not to feel overwhelmed by it all. It sometimes feels like I bounce between cooking and teaching, while also silently worrying about how long we’ll have to stay quarantined. From worries about this virus, to mental health, to squeezed finances, it’s a lot to carry emotionally for so many families.”
Her best tip: “Try to find examples of grace. For me, it’s being able to spend time with my family, and occasionally closing the door to a room — alone — just to get a break! Thinking about others and reaching out to friends and family also helps. My faith in God brings me the most peace.”
Mika Brzezinski, “Morning Joe” co-host and Know Your Value founder
How she’s managing overall: Brzezinski and husband Joe Scarborough, her fellow “Morning Joe” co-host, are managing the lives of seven children and her mother. “It’s a firehose of information about who’s where and when,” Brzezinski said.
Brzezinski and Scarborough are at home with his son Andrew, 30; some of the time with his children Katherine, 16, and Jack, 11, who also spend time with their mother; and with Emilie, 18, the daughter of Brzezinski’s best friend Tia Garner who died in 2017.
Meanwhile they’re also checking in with Brzezinski’s daughters Carlie, 22, in New Hampshire and Emilie, 24, in the New York City area, and Scarborough’s son Joey, 32, in Nashville.
“It’s a daily juggle to figure out what everyone is doing,” Brzezinski said. “I do the show and then I call each kid to see how they are and what I can do to make their lives easier.”
Her biggest challenge: Brzezinski is checking in with her mother, Emilie, but staying six to eight feet away from her while they chat on the porch. That can be frustrating for Emilie, who has a difficult time hearing from that distance and also has Parkinson’s.
Beyond that, Brzezinski is also challenging herself to use her time and platform wisely: “We’re trying to do a show that gives people a look at where we’re headed. In some ways, life has slowed down, and in others it’s completely sped up. With the platform we have, I don’t want to waste a second.”
Her best tip: “Some people are really sinking right now. Some people will die. I already know people who have died. No one will be untouched. What we can try to do is re-establish our values of what’s important, the preciousness of life. We can move through this as mindfully as possible. We all need to focus on getting everyone through — not just ourselves, but the people who are vulnerable, our healthcare workers on the front lines, everyone.”
Kasie Hunt, “KasieDC” host and NBC News Capitol Hill correspondent
How she’s managing overall: Hunt and her husband Matt Rivera, a “Meet the Press” senior producer, are both working full-time from home while parenting 7-month-old Mars.
“We both feel incredibly grateful to still be employed in these times, and we’re getting better at trading the baby back and forth while we do our jobs,” Hunt said. “Matt’s also juggled putting the baby to bed on Sunday nights with helping me print scripts and get the lighting right for ‘KasieDC.’”
The juggle is a lot to handle, but Hunt said she’s enjoying the unexpected extra time with her son while he’s still an infant. “We’re lucky he’s not crawling yet,” she added. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we have to readjust everything here in lockdown when he learns.”
Her biggest challenge: “Everyone in our families is healthy and well, and we’re just so grateful for that. We really miss grandparents visiting Mars, so we’re trying to FaceTime often with them. And Matt’s sister is a nurse in New York — we’re so grateful for the important work she’s doing, but of course we’re worried about her and her family.”
Her best tip: “I’ve been trying every day to make a list of the things I’m grateful for — things that maybe I blew through noticing before in the hectic day-to-day. I’m also finding particular solace in watching things grow: my baby, the herbs we planted in the kitchen window, the flowers outside in the yard.”
Katy Tur, “MSNBC Live” anchor and NBC News correspondent
How she’s managing overall: Tur’s basement is now a studio not only for herself but also for husband Tony Dokoupil, co-host of “CBS This Morning.” In between helping each other set up shots and print off scripts, the couple are also raising their son Teddy, just shy of his first birthday.
“It has its pros and cons,” Tur told Know Your Value. “For one, we still have jobs. And we get to be here with each other and the baby way more than we would usually. We saw him take his first step in the middle of the afternoon. When Teddy is laughing and giggling and smushing spaghetti on his face, it’s like reading a fantasy novel — total escape.”
Still, the novelty of doing her husband’s TV makeup and helping each other produce their shows is wearing off, she said. The days can be “monotonous,” Tur added, and they’re blurring into one another.
“But I know we’re luckier than most,” she said. “I’m scared for the country, for the economy. I’m in no position to complain.”
Her biggest challenge: “It’s a professional challenge to bring the enormity of this story to the air every day, giving it a sense of not only perspective but national importance. It’s hard when that subject is the same, in a sense, all day, every day. And usually when you cover a news story you go to the polling place or the plane crash and then you go home. There’s a separation. But now there is no separation between what I’m talking about at work and what's going on in my life.
In order to connect on camera and be present you have to have a relationship with what’s going you need to live it and breathe it; it has to be all you consume. But usually you have a moment to live too.”
Her best tip: “Not to diminish anything, but the fact is this too shall pass. That’s always been what I go back to when something is tough personally or professionally. I recognize that’s a lot to ask of somebody who lost their job or can’t buy groceries or is worried about losing their loved one. But time marches on. And because it does, there will be a point where we look back and this is a painful memory and no longer a present reality.”
Stephanie Ruhle, NBC News senior business correspondent and MSNBC anchor
How she’s managing overall: Ruhle and her family left their New York City home to hunker down at their second house in Long Beach Township, New Jersey. She’s enlisted sons Harry, 13, and Reese, 10, along with daughter Drew, 6, as “audio engineers” to help with her shoots at home.
“There’s a silver lining of simplicity,” Ruhle told Know Your Value. “We all always talk about disconnecting and being present, and now that’s what we’re able to do.”
Still, Ruhle is “stressed and scrambling” at times even with the privileges she enjoys. And she said the plight of others brings her to tears. “I have a private workspace, a husband, computers for my kids — the thought of what this is like for some working families is weighing on me like a stone,” she said.
Her biggest challenge: “For me it’s this balance with work: We have a really important responsibility in news right now to get the right information out and yet not make people panic,” said Ruhle.
She added, “There’s a huge health impact, but this has also ground our economy to a halt. And at the same time, my whole family has been disrupted. For one of the first times in my career, we’re the characters in our stories too. I’m covering the small business loans being offered, and then when I get off the phone, I’m calling my dad to help him apply for it.”
Her best tip: “Remember that no one is failing as a wife, a daughter, a spouse. We need to give ourselves and the people in our lives a break. Everybody is just trying to take care of our families during a difficult time,” said ruhle.
Yasmin Vossoughian, MSNBC anchor and “Morning Joe First Look” co-anchor
How she’s managing overall: “It’s rough. I’m not sugarcoating it,” Vossoughian said. “I’ve already cried once today.”
Vossoughian doesn’t yet have a home-camera setup, so she’s still working at the studio. And leaving her New York City apartment can be anxiety-inducing. She’s splitting childcare of Azur, 3, and Noor, 1, with her husband — who is also busy with his own business selling contracts for law enforcement.
“We feel so grateful to have jobs and our health and our home — not everyone does — so we’re keeping it all in perspective,” she said “My husband and I talk about our schedules the night before, and I definitely try to be as present in the moment when I’m with my kids. When they do something cute, I stop and I hug them and kiss them.”
Her biggest challenge: “I don’t feel restricted by the closure of businesses and all. What’s toughest … is how this will affect my kids. Will they be different? Will they have anxiety? Are they spending their days the best way they can? Work is the same in a way, but parenting is so personal. It’s all us and all them.”
Her best tip: “Just keep reminding yourself this too will pass. You have to go through it to get over it. For the most difficult times in my life, like when my father died, I look back and think, ‘I can’t believe this happened.’ But I got through it; it’s now a memory. And this will be too. It will change us all, but someday it will be a memory.”
Christina Geist, True Geist brand strategist and Boombox Gifts founder, and wife of “Morning Joe” co-anchor Willie Geist
How she’s managing overall: For Christina Geist, who runs two small companies and writes children’s books, working from the office adjacent to her New York City home is status quo. Lucie, 12, and George, 10, are used to watching her work — although now power cords are in short supply as the kids have begun online schooling.
One new tradition is helping the family stay upbeat: On the day social distancing rules and school closure went into effect, Christina and Willie hopped on Facebook Live to read bedtime stories to their nieces and nephews. They enjoyed it so much that it’s become a daily routine.
“It's grown into a daily "production" for our entire family,” Christina said. “[It gives] us structure and a daily deadline and connects us to old friends and a new little community of kids and parents who are stuck at home.”
Her biggest challenge: “Like other small business owners, I'm worried about my teams and I feel a tremendous amount of pressure to keep the business running in order to take care of my employees.
At Boombox Gifts — where we create custom memory boxes filled with messages and photos for a loved one — our product is created digitally and our team already telecommutes. But when the business shutdown went into effect, we realized we are vulnerable if printing and fulfillment were to land on the ‘non-essential’ list. Rather than hold our breath, my team decided to design and launch a purely digital product as an alternative in just seven days. Hopefully we won't need it. But I don't like to live in a state of hopefully.”
Her best tip: “I'm just trying to wake up each day and control the things I can control, while spreading some form of light to my corner of the world.”
Sharon Epperson, CNBC senior personal finance correspondent
How she’s managing overall: Epperson is working more now at her home in Westchester County, New York, than she has in the past few years, she told Know Your Value. After suffering a life-threatening brain aneurysm in 2016, she spent a year recovering in hospitals and then at home. Upon her return to work she went into the studio three or four days a week.
“Now I’m putting in long work days every day but from my home, which is my happy and safe place,” she said. Along with husband Christopher, son Dylan, 17, and daughter Emma, 14, “we’re staying in the house, except for our daily walks (me) or runs (everyone else), and eating dinner together every night. Being with my family nurtures and sustains me.”
Her biggest challenge: “I don’t have to oversee online learning or prepare school work or activities for my kids, as many of my colleagues with smaller children are doing. But it is still a struggle to work and stay engaged in a dire, stressful and rapidly developing 24/7 news cycle, while making sure that my children do not absorb my fears and anxiety about this health crisis and its financial ramifications.”
Her best tip: “As we are forced to stay at home and ‘shelter in place,’ take some time to just be still. I start every day with prayer and devotion. My faith gives me the strength to face the day ahead. I also remind myself to be present, mindful and grateful every day.”