I have to tell you, when I tweeted NBC 4 Morning Anchor Eun Yang and asked her if she would do an interview on being a working mom in DC, I really didn’t expect to hear back from her. Her profile description on Twitter piqued my interest quite a while ago because when given 140 characters, she chose to note that she’s on the perennial search for work-life balance. If a successful and high-profile working mom with young kids is going to use her 140 characters to note her struggle with working and family balance, then you must know how much I wanted to talk about it with her. Just imagine my sheer delight when I heard back from her within a few hours and she enthusiastically agreed to the interview, noting it sounded fun.
How could I chat with her and not sound like a crazy stalker, I worried, because I have this flawed sense of knowing her just because I watch her on TV, including watching her through some of her pregnancies, wondering what it felt like to have to show the DC metro-area every day just how much bigger you were growing. Fortunately, she was as warm and open during our interview as she seems on TV, (not helping my attempt at playing it cool and having to keep reminding myself that we aren’t BFFs) so if you, too, have ever wondered how she doesn’t look exhausted, how she manages a demanding job with 3 young kids or what it’s like to endure 3 pregnancies in front of a camera, read on. Her recession-proof trade secret in reducing under-eye puffiness will surprise you, as much as her candor on pumping in strange places.
First, some background. Eun is one of those elusive true Washingtonians, hailing from Silver Spring. She has 2 boys and one girl, ages 7, 5 and 3 and will celebrate her second anniversary of anchoring NBC 4’s morning news in January. Before earning the anchor job, she worked weekend mornings and reported news on scene. Her husband is from Bethesda and she repeatedly noted how lucky they are to have the help of family so close when they need it, as do many of us, because we all know that when you have two working parents, messy kid stuff happens during business hours and you need help. Even when your business hours start at 4:30am. I went into our interview prepared with a list of questions but what I found was how easily the conversation flowed to topics that we all dish on every day and I was so impressed with her willingness to openly discuss her challenges as a working mom and the, sometimes, unflattering reality of revealing 9-month girth in front of the camera. With that, let’s jump in.
WM: What is it like being pregnant on camera?
Eun: I worked until the very end with each pregnancy. In fact, with my first child, I was working the night before he was born and around 7pm was joking that because of the scheduling shuffle we were all doing, I was going to go into labor. Sure enough, I went into labor that night. I faced the same challenges we all do with finding professional outfits and would end up wearing the same black outfit almost every day. By the very end of each pregnancy, I really could only wear yoga pants. I gained 60lbs with my youngest. And she was born in the height of the summer, late July, and by then I could only wear flip-flops and was so uncomfortable sitting on set and had to go to the bathroom all the time. Everyone loved to comment on how big I was getting and how huge I looked from the side. The photographers loved to joke that they didn’t want me going into labor in their vehicles. I also ate a lot and that made for great commentary. I really did eat huge cheeseburgers and fries, though.
WM: Did you feel pressure to get back to work after each of your pregnancies, given your demanding field?
Eun: I was really lucky because the station worked with me to make the transition back really seamless. I know so many women just aren’t that lucky. I saved up my vacation time and took 3 months off, I even worked part-time for a few months and nursed each of my kids. The truth is, you never want your kids to be an excuse while you are at work, so when I am at work, I am really centered on the work in front of me, but I am grateful for the family support I have, which helps make it possible.
WM: I talk a lot about work and kids on my blog, I really don’t believe balance is possible and hate the common use of the term. Do you think balancing kids and work is possible?
Eun: I think there is no such thing as balance. We make sacrifices, we might miss some of our kids milestones, and it hurts, but if you have a career, you are going to feel pushed and pulled apart in two different directions. Sometimes time it feels like you just can’t give 100% to either side. There are times it feels heart-breaking, and especially with 3 kids, I just can’t be there for every single thing. I do my best and my schedule accommodates the fact that I can be there in the afternoon. But I also don’t get any time for myself. Tell me when I can find an hour to go to the gym, I’ve got a pair of pants that have needed to be hemmed for over a year, I just have no time to go to the gym or run errands or grocery shop.
WM: So, you mentioned being really focused when on set, are you able to compartmentalize, so your focus is solely on the job?
Eun: I wouldn’t say I compartmentalize because I think about my kids all the time. Anchors have to really know the stories and pay attention, otherwise we just aren’t effective. So I really have to be present when I am on air but when I am covering stories that affect children, for example, I think about my kids automatically. I thing being a mother gives me a different perspective and provides another element to my work. Becoming a mother really changed me and how I cover the news, I can really identify with certain stories in a different way.
WM: Does the news really start at 4:30am, is anyone watching then, and what time do you have to wake up? Honestly, if I am seeing you as early as 5am, it’s because my kids have me up and then I’m just sorta pissed.
Eun: Yes, the news starts at 4:30am and I think especially in DC, people are up early. We are a busy city and so many people are out the door to work by 7am. So many want to get the news before they head out and start their day. So I wake up at 2:30am, I leave by 3:30am and then am on the air by 4:30am. I do 2.5 hours of news, then cutins for the Today Show, participate in a morning meeting, then I contribute to our non-stop news channel, then I get to a mountain of emails and return phone calls. Then I’ll pick up my youngest from preschool and we play and have lunch before we pick up the older two. In a perfect world, if I can get my daughter to cooperate and there is no unexpected drama, I can get a nap in with her before the 3pm school pick up. But as you know, sometimes the stars just don’t align. Sometimes it’s a great day and sometimes it’s a horrible day. I am so lucky to have family here, I just couldn’t do it without family. Our house is so small, we don’t have room for an au pair, so when my husband travels for work, my mom spends the night in our office.
WM: Wow, I would imagine you’d have live-in nannies and night nurses.
Eun: No. Not me. I know some people do. I nursed all of my kids for a year. Fortunately they only needed to nurse at night for a few months. I dragged a pump with me to work and all over the place. I covered the second Bush inauguration and the Obama inauguration and I had to pump in a closet next to Lafayette Park. I’ve pumped in crazy places – random office buildings, in the live-truck van, all over the place.
WM: I love it. I know so many people can relate to dragging the pump around and pumping in really uncomfortable places – but this is a great working mom in DC story – just picturing you covering presidential inaugurations and behind-the-scenes pumping in a closet. So about that 2:30am wake up – especially with high-def TV now – how do you not look exhausted? What is your secret to not having puffy eyes?
Eun: I’ve reached a point in my life where I am willing to pay more for skin care than clothes. I really love Aveeno and Neutrogena products, I use my products in the morning and the evening. I really love GinZing by Origins to take down the puffiness. But I also splash ice-cold water on my face. In the summer, if the faucets can’t get cold enough, then I put ice in a bowl and dunk my whole face in it. That takes down the swelling and the puffiness. I also really like Smashbox Photo Finish, it really smooths out the skin.
WM: I love this recession-proof tip on reducing under eye puffiness – it is fantastic! But everyone is going to want to know – how long do you splash on the water for – or dunk your face in the cold water?
Eun: Haha! In the winter, and most of fall and spring, my pipes are cold enough, that I splash cold water from the faucet on my face at least 10 times, and then a few more time on my eyes for good measure. In the summer, I need ice water in a mixing bowl and do the same thing. If I’m particularly puffy, I’ll dunk my face for a few seconds, about 5 times. You can store your anti-puff anti-black circle eye cream in the fridge too.
WM: Excellent. Now, how about your kids, do they watch you on TV or do they not really care?
Eun: The content of the news is just not really appropriate for young children, so maybe in the last 5 minutes if there is a reason to watch, they might tune in but they really aren’t impressed. I am just Mommy to them. It’s especially important for us to be careful about what’s on with my 7-year-old because there’s no speaking around it anymore, now that he spells. It’s harder and harder to have conversations because he’ll ask questions – these kids can really snuff you out.
WM: I totally agree – it’s really important to monitor what is on TV when the kids are around as they get older. I’m always amazed with what my 6-year-old picks up on. So, a friend of mine wanted to ask you how you get to the station when there’s a bad snowstorm – do you drive yourself?
Eun: When it’s really bad, they have designated SUV drivers that will come pick us up. One morning, the roads weren’t plowed and I really didn’t think it was that bad out. Of course my husband was away for work when this happened and we live in an old DC row house with an alley in back. I was trying to get my car out of the alley and I was stuck. I had to wake up my mother who then drove the car while I shoveled the snow at 3am. I will never let my husband live that one down.
WM: Isn’t that how it always happens? They are always away when crazy things happen! I know you’re busy, so can we end with this – have you ever gotten any great advice or do you have any final parting words on balancing kids with a career and being a busy mom?
Eun: I just want to say hats-off to working moms. It is such a tough job and finding time to be your best at home and at work and finding time for ourselves is so hard. I think it’s important to try not to neglect yourself completely and I truly believe it takes a village. Moms need to support each other, I am always looking to step in and help another mom, and pick up something extra to do for the preschool class, for example, because you just never know when you will need the help. I believe that we working moms can do this. That we are strong, capable, smart and we can raise successful children and have successful careers. Yes it is challenging but like everything else we do, we use our resources and our wits to make it work.
Thank you so much to Eun for her positive parting words and for taking the time to talk so candidly about her own struggles and challenges in being a working mom. I really loved getting a behind-the-scenes peek at what it’s like to be pregnant and be a mom while working in front of the camera. And her budget-friendly tip on reducing eye puffiness is invaluable because if she can wake up at 2:30am 5 days a week, and not look tired, then I guess I better stop complaining and dunk my face in some cold water. For more fun, trashing of the concept of “balance” or really anything else, don’t forget to “Like” the Wired Momma FB page.