Viewing entries in
Work-Life

Emmy award winner Marisa Brahney on life as a working mom

Comment

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. 

 

Comment

How we share the load at home: Part III

Comment

How we share the load at home: Part III

Figuring out the division of labor at home is never easy. From those very first days when we nervously bring our fresh little human home, there are seemingly infinite decisions to make about who does what, when, and how often. We partnered with our friends at Bumkins to interview three full-time working #MINDRMAMAs about how duties are shared in their household. Up third in the series is intellectual property lawyer Rachel Santori, who shares her family’s unique approach to the home-life juggle.

Talk us through your typical weekday, at home and at work. 

Rachel’s daughter is pictured with Bumkins’    Junior Bib    in Watercolor

Rachel’s daughter is pictured with Bumkins’ Junior Bib in Watercolor

I work full time as an intellectual property attorney.  It’s a very busy career but thankfully I love my job and my firm is amazing! The leadership is sensitive to the needs of working parents. I work from home on Mondays and Fridays. Tuesday – Thursday, I go into the office and, on those days, I have an evening nanny who comes in at 5:30pm when my regular nanny’s day ends.  I’ve accepted that, if I go into the office, I am not making it home for bedtime. I found constantly trying to coordinate who will make it home on those days to be too stressful. Having regular evening help allows me to plan to stay late, plan my dinners and events for those nights, or just use that time to go get a manicure!   

What does the division of labor look like in your home?

My husband travels a lot and works very long hours, and is also passionate about his work. Every few days we look ahead and figure out who can do what. If you look at just the division of labor of childcare, it’s probably uneven and I do more of the work. But we don’t think about it that way and, instead, we divide up all of the “labors” of life. My husband fully takes on a lot of chores and responsibilities in other areas to balance the load. In my opinion, I get to do the fun stuff while he’s stuck with taking care of taxes and trash!

Our division is also changing as our daughter grows. In the early days when she was breastfeeding, there was less that my husband could do to contribute. Now that our daughter is walking and talking, it’s all hands on deck and it’s easier for my hubby to pitch in.  

Did you actively decide on this balance, or did it kind of just happen that way?

I thought a lot about it, did a ton of internet research and read several books on this topic. But, in the end, we just had to work out this new dynamic and keep trying new things until everyone felt comfortable. In the beginning, I thought I had “ruined” everything by taking on too much and set a bad precedent of doing everything. I’ve since heard several other moms tell me they thought they did this too. Moms – it’s ok! Once your kid gets older, I think it’s easier for dads to bond with them and they will want to hang out with them and take care of them.   

Is there anything you think could work better about how you share the load at home, and how do you think you could go about achieving that shift? 

One thing that I have come to realize is that this is always a process and we are always improving and figuring things out. I think for me the challenge is to let go and let my husband and others help me more often. 

What are your favorite tips and tricks for reducing the workload at home? 

I love automating as much as possible in our lives. I have Amazon subscriptions for all of our basic necessities, and all of our bills get auto paid. Packing lists have really changed traveling for me – it’s so much less work to follow a packing list rather than to mentally go through everything the baby will need each time we’re going away for a night.

At the moment, I’m experimenting with ways to reduce the load of meal prep each week.  I just tried Jennie’s Kitchen meal delivery, which was amazing, and I’m also looking to try hiring a culinary student to come in on Sundays and cook big batches of family style meals. (If you know of someone, let me know!) 

What’s your family’s approach to balancing the workload at home? Tell us in the comments. And check out Parts I and II of this series with Bumkins here and here.

Comment

How we share the load at home: Part II

2 Comments

How we share the load at home: Part II

Figuring out the division of labor at home is never easy. From those very first days when we nervously bring our fresh little human home, there are seemingly infinite decisions to make about who does what, when, and how often. We partnered with our friends at Bumkins to interview three full-time working #MINDRMAMAs about how duties are shared in their household. Second to share her story is Pearl Pari, who works in the finance industry.

Talk us through your typical weekday, at home and at work.

My husband Alden and I live in Ridgewood, NJ with our three-year-old daughter, Naomi. I am an attorney working in financial crimes at a financial firm and my husband is a network architect working at a pharmaceutical company. Our weekdays can look considerably different from week to week, especially because my husband is a low-key workaholic who consults during his free time and I spend a good deal of my free time working on pro bono immigration cases. However, as far as Naomi is concerned, our mornings and evenings almost always follow a similar flow.

Like a relay race, as soon as my husband enters the kitchen, I hand over the baton and I run out the door to catch my bus to the city.

Our typical day begins in shifts. I am the first one up around 5:45 am, followed by Naomi and then Alden. Naomi and I get ready together (which is no small feat). Mornings are trying ever since Naomi developed a serious opinion on her wardrobe, which often does not take into account the weather. We have several wardrobe and hairstyle changes (A.K.A. meltdowns) before Alden even wakes up. Then we somehow make it to breakfast.

Breakfast time, when we aren’t running late, is one of my favorite times of the day. Naomi and I get a chance to chat, dance and play a little before Alden joins us. Like a relay race, as soon as my husband enters the kitchen, I hand over the baton and I run out the door to catch my bus to the city. Alden and Naomi enjoy some playtime; he packs her lunch and drops her off to daycare before heading to work himself.  

Pearl’s husband Alden, the family’s ‘full-time chef,’ is pictured heaping deliciousness into her daughter Naomi’s Bumkins    Silicone Grip Dish    in Marble.

Pearl’s husband Alden, the family’s ‘full-time chef,’ is pictured heaping deliciousness into her daughter Naomi’s Bumkins Silicone Grip Dish in Marble.

Most of our day, Alden’s and mine, zooms by with meetings, phone calls and work. Before I know it, it’s the end of the day. I bust out of work like superman on a mission to catch the 5:30 pm bus home. My commute is a bit daunting. On a good day it’s an hour and a half door-to-door, but with traffic I get home closer to Naomi’s bedtime, which is around 7:30 pm. On evenings that I commit to my pro bono efforts, I don’t make it home until after Naomi’s bedtime and miss the fun of our evenings altogether. My husband’s commute is much shorter and he has more flexibility with work, so he drops off and picks up Naomi every single day. In writing this I have realized how much I enjoy the evenings we do get to spend together as a family, even though they seem so short.

What does the division of labor look like in your home?

The division of labor in our home goes through cycles each week depending on our respective work schedules and any attempts to exercise. We are both pretty exhausted by the end of the work day and end up playing catch up with house chores from Friday through Sunday. However, there are two chores or responsibilities that remain constant every week, Alden is our full time chef and I am forever buried under laundry.   

Did you actively decide on this balance, or did it kind of just happen that way?

As a family, we are always looking for ways to be more efficient with our time and often create to-do lists, calendars and schedules for our chores, etc. They don’t always work but we are open to giving anything a try. Our family motto could be “a constant effort to do better.”  Our housework dynamic is always in search of a better routine in an effort to have more time to relax and enjoy each other’s company. So our “balance” is always changing and is being tweaked from week to week, which is an active, intentional decision on our part.

Is there anything you think could work better about how you share the load at home, and how do you think you could go about achieving that shift?

There are several things that I can change to make our lives at home better, but committing to them is the hard part. The recurring challenge we face is cooking dinner every night and still being on track for Naomi’s bedtime. We have tried several times to meal plan and cook on the weekends and it has resulted in smoother weeknights. However, on weekends, we love hosting our friends and family when we can, and cooking for the week is often forgotten. As a family, we need to learn to say NO to Sunday plans. Wish us luck in the new year, this may be our family’s New Year’s Resolution for 2019!

What are your favorite tips and tricks for reducing the workload at home?

We are blessed to have extended family that is always around and willing to travel to help. At first, I wanted to do a lot of things on my own, especially when it came to Naomi, but now I realize I need the help and welcome it. Naomi is blessed with three loving aunts and both sets of grandparents that jump at the chance of watching her. We cannot express our gratitude enough to our village: not only do they watch our daughter but when the grandmas come over, our refrigerator and freezer are stocked with meals and all our laundry is clean and pressed.  Mom’s love really is the best! My biggest tip to any parent is to accept help in any form that it is provided. It may not be exactly what you asked for but if you are open to it, it can be a blessing in so many ways.

By discussing what we need to accomplish and our expectations for the week, we are able to roughly design a week that works for both of us.

One practice Alden and I have almost every Sunday evening is to go over our schedules together. By discussing what we need to accomplish and our expectations for the week, we are able to roughly design a week that works for both of us. During this time we also call dibs on events or things we want to do outside of work and home. We may not always do a great job carving out time to spend together, but we have somehow successfully managed to give each other time for ourselves. At least twice a month (but usually more often) we each spend time away solo, which can mean dinner with friends, or doing something we enjoy like golf for my husband and a girls night for me. It’s a nice treat that we can gift each other without keeping tabs on who gets to spend more time alone. Our Sunday evening scheduling is key to ensure that as a family we have a successful week.

2 Comments