Mothers know best: recipes for work/life balance

by Karen Alberg Grossman

Always special and often emotional, this year’s Mother’s Day luncheon added a good dose of humor to the annual event. The honorees talked about the challenges of balancing work and parenting, the wisdom they gleaned from their own mothers, what they hope to impart to their children and what it takes to be a great mom.

Joanna Coles, Liz Rodbell, Meredith Vieira and Dee Hilfiger
Joanna Coles, Liz Rodbell, Meredith Vieira and Dee Hilfiger

So what does it take? Mostly, a strong sense of humor and the ability to accept one’s own shortcomings and imperfections. “There is no balance; embrace the chaos!” proclaimed Joanna Coles, editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan. She confided that at the end of a busy work day, her children have been trained to welcome her home with a Martini in hand. “Just kidding: of course it’s a Cosmopolitan…” she quipped. She also said that there’s nothing in life more beautiful than the sound of children’s laughter, which she heard plenty of when she told her kids that she was getting an Outstanding Mother award…

Dee Hilfiger

Dee Ocleppo Hilfiger is a mother of seven: two sons from her first marriage, four kids from her husband’s first marriage, and son Sebastian with husband Tommy Hilfiger. After listing a detailed job description for parenting (15 visits to the ER, 2,030 diaper changes, nine trips to Disney…), she offered this advice: “Do the best you can and don’t beat yourself up.”

Liz Rodbell

Liz Rodbell, president of Hudson’s Bay and Lord & Taylor, spoke about the bittersweet role reversal that is an inevitable part of parenting. “My mom was always my number one friend and advisor. We’d talk every day about everything from world events to clothes. She would always listen, never judge, and now that she’s struggling with Alzheimer’s, it’s my job to be there for her…” From her parents, Rodbell learned to believe in herself and follow her dreams, lessons she lives every day with support from her husband and two teenaged daughters.

Meredith Vieira

Meredith Vieira (former co-anchor of the Today Show, special correspondent for NBC News, and moderator of The View and current host and exec producer of The Meredith Vieira Show) was virtually a one-woman comedy act. She went on about the perpetual guilt that working mothers must learn to live with. “You always worry that you’re going to screw up your kids,” she confides, relating a story about how she somehow missed an announcement about her son’s first grade play so he was the only kid who showed up both without a costume and without a parent in the audience. To make her feel guilty, the teacher (“that bitch!”) had him write a note home about how sad and disappointed he was, about how hard he cried, a note which Vieira, overwhelmed with guilt, saved to this day. Wanting to read the note years later on The View, she of course first asked her son’s permission. Gabe, now 23 and a reporter in Spokane Washington, had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. “What letter? What school play? No that’s not how you messed me up. But if you want to know the many ways you messed me up, I can tell you…”

The luncheon was hosted by HSN’s Mindy Grossman and raised $650,000 for the Save the Children Foundation.