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Mamas we love: Meaghan Murphy, Good Housekeeping

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Mamas we love: Meaghan Murphy, Good Housekeeping

As Executive Editor at Good Housekeeping Magazine, reaching an audience of 18.4 million people, and mom to ‘Irish Triplets’ Charlet (8), James (6) and Brooks (3), #MindrMama Meaghan Murphy knows a thing or two about staying busy. We caught up with this mama mogul to find out how priorities and positivity help to keep her head above water, why she believes a made bed means a quiet mind, and how a dinner invitation from J-Lo could lead to all the rules being thrown out the window.

You've said you're always guided by what's best for your family, who you call Team Murphy. Talk us through the ways family drives your decision-making, even when you're on deadline.

My motto is “family over everything” — and that requires creating some very distinct boundaries. For starters, I’m fiercely protective of my mornings and only work late two to three nights a month, when I have to because we’re closing an issue.

I front-load the day with quality kid time. After the kids wake up, we have a no TV/no devices rule and instead read a couple chapters of Captain Underpants (it’s the one series they all agree upon!). We eat breakfast, pack lunches, make beds, brush teeth… and argue over outfits. When the babysitter, arrives I power shower with just enough time to walk my little guy to preschool before hitting the train. I don’t schedule meetings before 10:30AM with the exception of a TV appearance so I have this Team Murphy time.

Once I’m at work, I’m there to work and I say no to things that aren’t work-related… a lot. The joke around the office is: “Don’t ask Meaghan for drinks because there’s a zero percent chance she’ll say yes.” It’s not that I don’t like my co-workers or business contacts, or that I don’t like to be social, but with an hour-plus commute to the ‘burbs, one drink means I miss what my family calls Highlights (a rundown of what made my kids say “YAY” that day) and the nightly tuck-in — and I need those things! A dinner request from JLo and A-Rod might be the only thing that would keep me in the city past 7PM!

As Executive Editor of Good Housekeeping, you're in a high profile and high pressure role. What do you do to look after yourself and stay fully charged? 

I’ve got a pretty consistent routine that keeps me operating at full battery. Exercise is key! I’ve found the only way to fit in fitness is to do it at the crack of dawn with my #goodvibetribe of like-minded workout buddies. We cheer each other on and make each other accountable. I’m at the gym by 5:30am and back by 7am, but I swear I feel like I’m going for drinks when I leave the house! Our exercise routine is pretty set: Extreme Boxing at POE on Mondays; Tuesdays it’s hot yoga at Home Power Yoga; FireBeat hot barre on Wednesdays; SLT Thursdays and The Blast (interval workout) on Fridays.

There’s also lots of “extras” that give me a charge: things like matching my mani to the cover of Good Housekeeping each month or over-decorating my house for every perceivable holiday!

You recently launched "The Yay List," recommending that people take the time to pay attention to the moments of joy that come up in any given day. Why do you think practicing positivity in this way is important?

Your brain might not be a muscle, but you have to train it like one to see the good. The more you actively and purposefully seek out the positive, the more easily you begin to automatically default to the positive, noticing all the awesome things around you. It doesn’t mean you no longer perceive the negative, it just prevents you from dwelling on it. The good vibes take over.

What is something you think needs to change about the way our culture treats parenthood? 

My husband didn’t carry our kids for nine months or push them out, but he is 50% responsible for their existence and their livelihood. Yet, I often feel like society puts more onus on the mom for everything. Somehow it’s supposed to be my job to: organize the play date; volunteer to be the class Mystery Reader; RSVP for the birthday party and buy the gift; etc. etc. etc. even though my husband and I both have full-time jobs. I love doing (most of) those things, but my life only works because I have an equal partner — a teammate who cooks, walks the dog, signs my son James up for karate and more. I applaud companies like Estee Lauder that now have 6 months paid leave for both moms and dads – it’s a start in the right direction!

What are your favorite go-to strategies for maintaining an organized home even amidst the chaos of working parent life?

Make the beds! Studies show that people who do are happier and more productive. When I leave the house with at least that one thing done I feel calmer, more in control and ready for the chaos ahead.

My #momlife hack is Beddy’s, zip-up bedding that makes it ridiculously simple for the kids to make their own beds. Also, if you can, hire help. Biweekly we have someone tackle the bathrooms, vacuum, dust…things I weirdly enjoy doing, but have to take a backseat to family time. You’ve gotta learn to outsource to the extent that you can!

Meaghan Murphy has been in the media for 20+ years. She got her start at YM when she was 19, after winning an essay contest on overcoming adversity, and being spotlighted on an NBC special. Two years later she was one of the founding editors of Teen People, an on-air lifestyle correspondent for MTV, worked on the creative team at Victoria’s Secret, helping to launch the PINK line, moved on to a senior editor role at Cosmopolitan before heading to SELF, where she was the fitness director and Deputy editor for nearly 9 years. Meaghan is now the Executive Editor at Good Housekeeping. She married her brother’s best friend who is 4 years her junior and they live a happy life in the Jersey suburb of Westfield where Meaghan was named Chief Spirit Officer, unofficially renaming the town Bestfield.

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The perks and pains of working remotely

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The perks and pains of working remotely

Many of us have dreamed of giving up that hectic commute and the morning rush of coffee to go, and a recent Gallup study found that more Americans are working remotely than ever before. In search of workplace flexibility, #MINDRMAMA Deanna Neiers decided to switch both her career and industry, leaving her coworkers in the beauty world in order to work remotely, from home, for a nonprofit in another city. We asked Deanna, Director of Northeast and Central Regions for Global Impact, to share her experiences as the sole NYC-based employee of her organization. She talks us through her journey - from the perks (like taking calls in PJs) to the challenges (like sometimes feeling isolated and missing out on learning from co-located coworkers.)

After working in the beauty industry for nearly a decade, I knew it was time to make a change. The world of nonprofits had been calling to me for a while and it slowly began to eat away at me. I knew what I had to do. So, I left my job with a luxury beauty brand and my office in the Meatpacking District to work for a nonprofit. What this also meant was that I became a remote worker. I took a job with Global Impact, a nonprofit dedicated to building partnerships and raising resources to help the world’s most vulnerable people. Their headquarters are located in Alexandria, Virginia and they do not operate an office in New York City, where I am based.

When I took the job, I was newly married but without kids. It was a big contrast going from lunches with my boss at top restaurants in New York City and a beautifully designed creative office space... to a tiny spare bedroom in my apartment that would serve as my office, all alone.

Like any work environment, there are perks and pains to working remotely. During my first week of remote work at Global Impact, I could not believe the amount of extra time I had in my life. From packing my lunch, picking out clothing and getting ready, to commuting, and getting settled in at my desk with a cup of coffee - I never realized what a lengthy process it was! My new working situation - specifically the lack of going into the office - translated to nearly 3 hours of extra time a day for “real” work. I also found that my ability to concentrate improved. There wasn't that noisy desk neighbor who is always on the phone or rolling their chair back to talk to you. I could complete my projects very quickly and efficiently.

I also realized that, working remotely, I would now have a lot more control over my workday. I’m not tied to a set schedule of hours where I’m expected to be in the office even if I have finished current projects and am all caught up. In many offices, its taboo to just walk out and leave for the day when you are done working. Working remotely allows you the flexibility to be a bit more in control of your own schedule. When I worked in an office, as soon as I got home, I would immediately change into comfortable clothing. What a luxury it is to now be able to spend each day in comfort! 

While it is nice to be in control of my time and schedule (and my clothing), I found that there were also a number of real challenges to my new working set-up. First, since I was taking on a new style of working as a remote employee, my learning curve was incredibly steep, especially because I had also joined a new sector. Without colleagues co-located with me, I missed out on the ability to join meetings and glean knowledge from conversations overheard around the office. I also was not able to quickly learn the terminology people around me used. While my new team was great about doing Skype video calls and offering as much training as possible, I still found it very challenging to learn a completely new business from afar.

I also felt a little isolated and longed for the camaraderie—and maybe even missed that noisy desk neighbor a bit. It’s hard to build relationships with people over instant messenger and email. Working with a group of almost strangers felt a lot different than the close relationships I had while working at my previous office. And I missed the little things: the group birthday cupcakes, the leftover catering that we could help ourselves to, and the bonding over the huge snowstorm that we all had to trudge through to get into the office. 

Even with all the challenges, I would say the benefits of working remotely grew exponentially after I became a mother. I chose to have in-home childcare so that I could be with my babies all day, and I feel very fortunate to have what I consider to be a dream situation. I get up with my children in the morning and spend time with them until my nanny arrives at 9 am. And then I close the door and go to work. I can pop my head out any time to see them and we often eat lunch together. I never feel guilty or like I’m missing out, because I’m there all day.

This was a total game changer as a breastfeeding mother. I rarely pump and instead just block 15 minutes off of my calendar throughout the day to nurse my baby. For me, there’s nothing more valuable than that.

It’s also very comforting to be around when they’re sick or hurt. I am always available to run them over to the doctor or come out and give them a quick hug when they need me. At the end of the day, I sign off and a moment later am back spending time with my kids, instead of rushing home and missing out on more time together.   

No working situation is perfect, and working remotely is not for everyone. For some, the disadvantages of being physically far from your coworkers and team may outweigh the advantages. Some people may feel incredibly lonely or find it hard to remain motivated every day. But for me, I would even go as far as to say that my work from home gig has made me a better mother. I still get tons of time with my kids, but I get to tune into work that I am incredibly passionate about. I genuinely feel part of something bigger - and my work for a nonprofit helps me feel that I contribute to making the world around us a better place. As society becomes more open to the flexible workplace, I think things will get better for remote workers. For now, though, I will relish every second of the extra hours every day I get to spend with my babies. There’s nothing more important to me than that. 

Deanna Neiers works as the Director, Northeast and Central Regions for Global Impact from her home on the Upper East Side of New York City.  She lives with her husband, two kids (son Jack, 2 and daughter Sorin, 1) and cat George. 

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Emmy award winner Marisa Brahney on life as a working mom

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Emmy award winner Marisa Brahney on life as a working mom

#MindrMama Marisa Brahney is an Emmy Award-winning television news anchor for News 12 New Jersey. She is a wife to her husband Tony, and a mom to 3 children – 2 boys, Kennedy (2) and Ashton (1) as well as a daughter, Charlotte, who she lost unexpectedly at birth. She lives with her family in New Jersey, where she grew up, and has now settled after working at TV stations around the country throughout her career. We caught up with Marisa to talk about love, loss, and her dazzling career in front of (and sometimes behind!) the camera.

Tell us about your journey to becoming a news anchor. How did you get to where you are today?

It definitely has been a journey! I knew I wanted to be in this business from the time I was young. While in college in Baltimore, I was fortunate to intern at Dateline and a local ABC affiliate. The experience I gained as an intern enabled me to make a demo reel, which I sent as a resume tape (yes, it was a VHS!) to small, entry-level stations all over the country after graduation.

I took the first on-air job I got, in snowy Binghamton, NY. It was a “one-man-band” reporting job (which means I did all my own camera work and editing) for $9 an hour. I worked at Starbucks in the Barnes & Noble the rest of the week to pay my rent. Within a few months, I was made full-time, and I stayed there for two years. From there, I moved to Ft. Myers, FL, to the NBC affiliate, which is an extremely competitive station and TV market. That’s where I cut my teeth and learned a ton about the business. 

While in Florida, I fell in love with one of the producers at my station who was also from the New Jersey shore. We got married and knew we wanted to move on to larger markets and back closer to our families. In 2010, we moved to Philadelphia and both got jobs at the NBC station there. It was an amazing opportunity professionally for us both. I reported there for three years, gaining national exposure by covering major stories like Hurricanes Irene and Sandy, before getting the opportunity to anchor at News 12 New Jersey, covering my home state.

I love covering the area I grew up in and where I am now raising my own family. This business requires a lot of moving around, working all kinds of crazy hours (I worked weekends and mornings for 7 years which meant a lot of 2 AM wake-ups) and a lot of sacrifice, missing holidays and family gatherings and little things along the way. It still requires a lot of hard choices, and I’m doing my best to balance my love and passion for what I do with my most important role – as a mother and wife. 

You have written about the heartbreaking loss of your daughter Charlotte shortly after her birth in 2014. How did you cope with such an unimaginable tragedy and move forward?

Losing our daughter completely changed me as a person. It was my first pregnancy, which was completely healthy and normal. She was a week or so late, and after a normal, fast labor with no signs of distress, she wasn’t breathing when she was born. She aspirated meconium in the womb and despite doctors frantically trying to save her, they couldn’t. 

Going to the hospital filled with the excitement and wonder of becoming a mother and finally meeting your baby to leaving with empty arms is an experience unlike any other. It was shocking, devastating, traumatic and affected every part of my life, even things most people would never think about. Everything reminded me of her, of being pregnant. I couldn’t go into Target…for months. It was filled with babies, and baby things and memories of stocking up on diapers and indulging in my random pregnancy sweet tooth cravings for decaf caramel macchiatos. Seemingly everywhere I turned there were baby girls. All my friends who I was pregnant with at the same time had their beautiful baby girls. The royal family named their baby Charlotte, my daughter’s name, and I had to talk about it on the air over and over and over.

To say that a loss like this is all-consuming is an understatement. At first, my husband and I just focused on putting one foot in front of the other every day as best we could. I leaned a lot on my family and friends. They were supportive and thoughtful and incredible in so many huge and little ways that lightened our days in ways I still haven’t been able to properly thank them for.

Connecting with other moms who had been through the same heartbreak was invaluable for me. Being able to talk, cry, and now parent with moms who understand what we’ve been through has been crucial in coping with life after loss. I try to offer the same support to others. 

Talking about Charlotte and sharing our experience helps me feel close to her. Because of my job, I had no choice but to be open about my story, since I had a full-term pregnancy that our viewers watched and celebrated with me. When we lost Charlotte, our viewers’ compassion and support was absolutely amazing and humbling. Many have contacted me personally over the years, sharing their own stories of baby loss, or asking for support or guidance on how to help a friend or family member. 

I have found that my job gives me a unique platform and opportunity to spread awareness and understanding about pregnancy and infant loss, which is far more common than most people realize. One in four women experiences it. One in 160 babies in the U.S. is stillborn, and there are roughly 23,000 infant deaths each year. I have done a number of stories on the issue to help foster a more open dialogue. 

I’m also involved in an organization called the TEARS Foundation, which raises money for funeral costs and support for families who have lost babies. One of our favorite days of the year is the TEARS Foundation New Jersey Rock and Walk. We walk in honor of Charlotte, and it’s such a special day remembering her and raising money in her memory to support other families who share in our heartbreak.

We are so sorry for your unthinkable loss, and in awe of your resilience in the face of it. You now have two wonderful boys, Kennedy and Ashton – how has becoming a parent changed or impacted the way you approach your career?

I have heard it said that becoming a mother breaks your heart wide open in a very vulnerable way, and I completely feel that every day. The difficult, heartbreaking stories that we cover day in and day out, especially involving children, affect me more now than ever before. It’s hard to not take that home with me, especially given my own experience with losing a child. 

The business I’m in tends to be all-encompassing and that too has changed drastically since becoming a mom. My family, my kids – they come first. But there are many times where I feel pulled in several directions, stretched too thin and feel guilty about not giving enough in one realm or another. I know this is such a common theme for working mamas. The struggle of the juggle is real. And hard. And it’s all a big work in progress that I aim to do better with every day. Some days I succeed, and some days I fail. I’m learning to be okay with that, and just be confident in what I’m doing. To accept that when I’m doing my best, it is enough for everyone. My boys, Kennedy and Ashton, are my everything and I’m constantly trying to be a better me – in every area of my life – for them.

At Mindr, we are focused on building community and finding your "tribe". Where have you found your parenthood community?

I am so lucky to have an amazing group of cousins and girlfriends scattered all over the country who lift me up and keep me sane daily through group texts, video chats and phone calls. They have helped me with everything from breastfeeding and pumping-at-work questions to hashing out issues around sleep and boosting household immunity in these sickness-ridden winter months. And they always make me laugh and remind me I’m not alone in times that feel heavy or overwhelming. They’re all in the thick of it with me and having them is everything!

My sisters-in-law are both super moms of three who are here in New Jersey and have set an amazing example for me in motherhood – they’re raising our nieces and nephews to be such great kids for my boys to look up to. And as I mentioned, social media has led me to fellow baby loss mamas who are also navigating the world of parenting after loss, which comes with a lot of its own challenges and conflicting emotions. I’ve also made a lot of mom friends professionally through my work (more on that in a minute) who I share a lot in common with – fellow working mamas who are trying to juggle everything like I am and who are so supportive of one another. I love having them to bounce personal AND professional ideas off of, and they keep me encouraged to keep going and growing as a mama.

Your News 12 "Moms Minute" segment has highlighted the work of some amazing mamas, including our own founder Sarah Lux-Lee. How did you come up with the idea for this segment and what has been your favorite part of producing it? Have there been any challenges?

This segment has been so rewarding for me and I feel so grateful to be able to highlight so many awesome mamas doing great things here in New Jersey and beyond. When I first started anchoring the mid-day shows, my producer at the time (also a mom of two boys) and I had both been thinking a there was a need for a moms segment on the station. We pitched the idea to our news director and made it happen. That was almost 2 years ago now. 

Since then, I’ve had so much fun producing the segment weekly – finding important, relevant and fun topics that resonate with moms, and meeting so many incredible mothers who blow me away with their dedication to their children, their passion, their business savvy, and their creativity. That has really been the best part for me – networking with other moms and learning their tips and tricks, and really just expanding my circle and tribe to include moms who inspire me and who I know inspire our viewers.

I would say I’ve actually been surprised at how few challenges there have been in coming up with segment ideas and booking guests. As the word has spread about the segment, moms reach out to me all the time (thank you social media) with suggestions and pitches. Those pitches, along with my own parenting experience, allow the ideas to really flow.

Reporting the news and telling stories has been a passion of yours for a long time. What advice can you give to the Mindr community about pursuing a passion project? Do you have any tips for balancing a passion project with motherhood?

A mentor gave me this advice when I was starting in the business, and I always give this advice to interns – just try it. Best case scenario, it’s a perfect fit, a huge success and a chapter in your life that you love! Or, you may decide or realize it’s not for you, or doesn’t work for your life, or isn’t what you thought it would be. And what’s the harm in that? You’ll grow from it. You’ll learn something. You’ll have that experience under your belt.

I have, however, found it a little harder to take my own advice and jump headfirst into something since becoming a mom, because as we all know, our decisions – big and small – all have a ripple effect to the little people who we love more than anything. And with that in mind, balance becomes a key word! I would say I’m continually amazed by all the entrepreneur moms I meet and I constantly look to learn from them.

What is something you think needs to change about the way our culture treats motherhood/parenthood?

Support for working parents and the cost of childcare are huge issues that need to be addressed. While not every parent wants or needs to work, many parents don’t have a choice financially. Even for those who do, the costs of childcare are staggering and force many families to make hard choices about whether it’s “worth it” for moms to work. That can often force women away from careers they are passionate about and that make a difference in our communities, our country, and our children’s future.

It shouldn’t have to be an “either/or” scenario for so many in this country. I’m inspired to see the conversation about this evolving, and I hope it continues to move in a positive direction. I think it is really important for moms to come together and unify – especially in the age of social media. Supporting each other by saying “I see you, I see all you do for your kids, I see how much you love them” can go such a LONG way for another mom. We need to extend grace to ourselves and each other and remember we’re all just doing the best we can for our kids. 

 

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