I decided early on when I became a mother that I wasn’t going to feel guilty. I really love my children, and I really love my job. So I knew that there had to be a way that they could both live harmoniously. My job was never, ever more important than my son and daughter; I just said, “I’m not going to beat myself up if I can’t always be in the running for mother of the year.”
I didn’t go to every single game, and you know, when they’re playing little league, there are a gazillion of them. I had to pick and choose, and so I made a point of going to the ones that I knew were really important.
I remember once I was anchoring the news, and while I was at work, my daughter, Kirby, took her first steps. The next day at work, they said, “Oh my gosh, you must have felt so bad—you missed her first steps.” But you know what? She took her first steps at noon, and I got home at 6. And I didn’t feel like, “Oh my gosh, I didn’t see the very first one,” because, you know, the first one isn’t a whole lot different than the 10th one when they’re wobbling around. She didn’t start running marathons in those six hours.
So many women beat themselves up, and so I had to learn to let go of all these preconceived notions, like that you have to bake the cupcakes from scratch. I remember making cupcakes for Kirby’s birthday once, probably when she was in middle school, and they were terrible. And I thought, “Why am I trying to do this when I love going to the bakery and they make delicious cupcakes?”
When you’re working and you have children, it’s a decision you make. That’s what I like about the world we live in: You can make the decision. It isn’t one-size-fits-all.
For working mothers who haven’t been able to let go of the guilt, I say: Relax and release. The most important thing is that your child knows you care about them. If kids don’t know you care, they don’t care what you think. And my son and daughter always knew that I cared. I was always talking to them about it. I’d say, “I’m not going to be able to make it today, I have to anchor the so-and-so news,” or, “There’s an election.”
You want your kids to be proud of you, and by the same token, you want to be proud of your kids. Children really thrive when you know they have mothers who are engaged, whether they’re working or not.
I think having a baby, raising a happy, healthy, responsible, kind child is the most important thing you can do. I don’t care what your career is; there will come a day when you’re not relevant at work. When parenting is done right, you’ll always be relevant.
My son is 28, my daughter’s 29, and they still call me for advice. I love that.
Gayle King is co-host of CBS This Morning and an editor at large of O, The Oprah Magazine.