Many women multitask their way through life.
What happens, though, when you juggle being a mom and a celebrity?
Former Justice Leah Ward Sears; Grammy-winning singer, businesswoman and “Real Housewives of Atlanta” cast member Kandi Burruss; Grammy winner Laura Story and environmentalist Laura Turner Seydel discuss balancing career and family.
LEAH WARD SEARS
Former chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, partner in the Atlanta office of Schiff Hardin
Sears got her start in public service when her children were very young, so their growth followed the trajectory of her career through local and three statewide campaigns.
Women of all stripes, she said, face additional pressure to do it all and are sometimes judged harshly by the public when they falter.
“The children were sometimes embarrassed with the criticism I endured,” she said. “When I was on (President) Obama’s short list, they were being Facebooked by the people vetting me. They (the people doing the vetting) wanted to see my children’s behaviors. I couldn’t even tell them they were being watched very carefully.”
The pressure — sometimes internally — was always on. Sears sometimes felt guilty about how her career in public service may have affected her two children, who are now 29 and 32.
“They weren’t high-profile like Barack Obama’s kids, but the expectation was that we were going to be a perfect family and no family is perfect. I didn’t realize they were going through this and that’s the sad part,” she said. “It took a minute for my daughter to figure out that I was very comfortable with her being whatever she wanted to be. She didn’t have to be a public figure. She could be a ballet dancer or NASCAR driver. Whatever she wanted to be was fine.”
Her advice to other mothers is to keep your children close. “I wasn’t always there but I was there when it was necessary. It’s a hard lesson and I had to grow to that. There were times they needed me to talk to them, listen to them and be their mother, not Justice Sears.”
Grammy-winning singer, producer, “Real Housewives of Atlanta” cast member and entrepreneur
Burruss, a mother of three, has been in the spotlight since she was 16 as a member of the popular group Xscape.
What is it like to raise her children in that same spotlight?
“It’s crazy,” said Burruss, who recently had a son, Ace, with husband Todd Tucker. “Now you have to deal with social media. Back then (with her first daughter, Riley, now 13) social media was not really happening. Some people are so supportive, which is great. Other people are outright rude. … Nobody wants to hear negative things about their children. It really gets under my skin.”
For Burruss and other celebrities, the Internet has made their parenting an open book.
“Fans are invested in everything about you now,” she said. “Back in the day, they just heard your record and saw your video.”
How does she protect daughter Riley, who is on Instagram and Snapchat?
At first, Burruss was hesitant to let her on social media because “people can be really harsh.” She later relented. “I told her she has to have thick skin if she wants to be on social media. … She’s a strong girl and has gotten tough over the years.”
Burruss has a strong support system to help her with the children: her husband, mother, aunts and friends. Sometimes, she and close friends will alternate taking their children to various events, so they don’t miss out on activities while their mothers work. “They were never sitting there thinking, ‘Oh my mom is not really doing anything with me.’ It has helped a lot.”
How does she keep her daughter grounded?
She’s open and explains how hard work allows them a certain lifestyle. “I talk with her about the importance of money and why I have to work so hard,” she said. “You know I have to work this weekend just so you can get this extra this or that.”
Grammy-winning Christian singer and songwriter
Story, a mother of three, says it’s fine “not to be that perfect mom” even though she knows all eyes can be on you if you’re a celebrity.
“I’m just a new parent,” she said. “It’s OK to bring store-bought cookies to your daughter’s birthday party.”
Story knew what she was signing up for when she and her husband, Martin Elvington, decided to expand their family.
“I travel a lot and the kids come with me,” Story said.
“I could be concerned about that (what people say), but you have to set that aside,” she said. “At the end of the day, I feel like I’m raising my children in the best way possible. You have to figure out what works for you. It’s important to have our family together more than for them to go to every birthday party or stay in the same bed every night. … It’s so rewarding.”
For instance, her young daughter, Josie, had been to 48 states before she turned 18 months old.
They’ve developed a surrogate family with band members and the crew.
“She has 30 aunts and uncles and she loves it,” said Story, who plays a lot of churches and arenas, all “in family-friendly environments.”
It also teaches her children a valuable lesson — life is not just play. “They see it’s about work. A lot of times, I’ll have my little girl sitting next to me at the piano and she’ll say, ‘What are we writing next?’”
Her best advice for mothers?
“Pray, pray and pray for your kids,” she said. “I’m an imperfect person, but I pray that I can be the best parent that I can be for these kids.”
LAURA TURNER SEYDEL
Environmentalist and humanitarian
Seydel, a mother of three, had one of the best teachers when it came to raising children of well-known parents.
Her father, after all, is Ted Turner.
“My dad was pretty famous locally before he was famous nationally and internationally,” she said. “He always made us think that we were just like everyone else. We weren’t raised with silver spoons in our mouths. He helped us develop a (work) ethic. We needed to help, work and be contributors. To whom much is given, much is expected.”
That ethic included caring about others and the planet.
Picking up trash around the neighborhood became a regular routine. In fact, she and her family still will do it when her father is in town. They will have dinner downtown and walk around picking up discarded paper, bottles and cans.
She said her children do a lot of community service programs and have all had summer jobs and internships. Plus, the family’s travels focus on helping others.
“When we travel, it’s not to some fancy resort,” she said. “It’s also about doing site visits and helping others where poverty is rampant and people are struggling to make it day to day.”
A key factor in raising her children was her village of family and friends, including former stepmother Jane Fonda. “It’s funny because they say it takes a village to raise a child and my son said it took an army,” she said. It’s important to have the right people to help you find that work-life balance.
She always wanted her children to find that balance as well. She said they used a good helping of discipline and allowing the children to explore their own boundaries in the world.
“We work a lot to make sure our air is clean, our water is clean and there’s healthy food for others,” she said. “Our kids have been very much brought up in that culture. When you do things that are mindful like that, it really keeps you grounded.”
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