By Deborah Roberts & Al Roker
In A Woman's Nation, making family time a priority is no easy feat, particularly for a busy, high-powered media couple. Deborah Roberts and Al Roker write about what it takes to keep their dual-career family going strong.
Every day is an adventure in juggling in the Roberts/Roker household. While Al and I are both committed television professionals, our real life revolves around our three children. One is in college, one a tween and the youngest, a first grader. Our son has some special needs, so each day is a race to get him from school to therapies and to his newest love, Tae Kwon Do, while also giving our middle daughter the attention and time she needs.
Neither of us will claim to have a parenting prescription; however, we have learned a few things. First, dinner with our children matters and trumps nearly everything. And finding moments to “just be” with them nourishes their souls and ours. We’re often in a relay race with life. Before Al leaves the house each day at 4:45am, thankfully, he makes our son’s lunch. I take the baton next and drop each child at school, most days. It’s cherished time together.
But for Al and me, the key has been learning to delegate what we cannot do and making peace with that. Our dedicated and wonderful babysitter saves our lives and sanity on many days. Life in our home is never a breeze, but by making our children the focus, we feel that we’re in balance… sometimes, anyway.
I'm pretty sure Deborah and I are a lot like other two-career couples. Whether you're both on TV, or are a schoolteacher and a firefighter, when that alarm rings in the morning, you are Mom and Dad, and the little people in your life don't care what you do as long as their clothes are relatively clean, and there are corn flakes in the bowl in front of them.
Probably like you, we careen from bliss to chaos and everything in between during the course of any given day.
A daughter in college, a daughter in middle school and a son with learning issues in elementary school present their own challenges, but add my being at work in the morning and Deborah being at work in the afternoon, and you have quite a party. First of all, as much as I like to think I'm a hands-on Dad, much of the burden falls to Deborah. She is, flat-out, an amazing Mom. She is one of those women who manages a house, gets the kids off to school, works a demanding job and frets that she's not doing enough for the kids.
We try to do as much pre-planning as possible, but it still seems like a crazed fire drill in the morning. Most mornings, after breakfast and a lot of whining and begging, Deb bundles the kids into the minivan and drops them at school, a remarkable feat in the heart of Manhattan.
We have a terrific caregiver named Bibi, who is a whiz at navigating the kids' afterschool activities and therapists. During the day, Deb and I communicate by phone and Blackberry, coordinating schedules and changing plans. We try to slip away for a spontaneous lunch once a week, when we just talk and reconnect. I don't know about you, but the odd evening when we try for dinner and a movie, we have dinner and see that huge mega-hit, "Let's Hit The Sack Early: The kids are asleep."
We each try to pick up one of the children from school, and I generally make dinner. That's when we try to make sense of the day, with the kids doing homework in the kitchen and then gathering for dinner in the evening. Even if Deb and I have something in the evening (which we are saying "no" to more and more), we eat dinner as a family before going out.
During dinner, no TV, phones, Blackberrys, Nintendo DS or anything with a screen. Bedtime is usually a family time, everyone gathered on our bed and a story is read by either a parent or one of the kids followed by an increasingly difficult piggyback ride upstairs.
In theory, after the kids are in bed, that's when we plot the course of the next day, but in reality, nine times out of ten we collapse and start all over again the next morning. Sound familiar?
Deborah Roberts joined the ABC newsmagazine “20/20” in June 1995. Since then she has also served as a substitute anchor on “Good Morning America” and “World News Weekend.”
Al Roker is a host, weatherman, and features reporter of NBC News - The Today Show and The Weather Channel – Wake Up with Al. He is also the CEO of his own multimedia company, Al Roker Entertainment, Inc. with the development and production of network, cable, home video, and public television projects.
Photo by Julie Skarratt Photography [www.julieskarratt.com]