Mamas At Work: CNN Anchor Laura Coates On Juggling Career And Kids And Being ‘Unapologetic’ About Me Time

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Mamas At Work: CNN Anchor Laura Coates On Juggling Career And Kids And Being 'Unapologetic' About Me Time

Maro Hagopian

I have 30 minutes of Laura Coates‘ time. As our Zoom chat begins, her smile lighting up my laptop screen, I’m cognizant that that’s a pretty big deal. The CNN anchor and legal analyst, author and attorney has a full day, every day. As she told me, “It’s sun up to sundown.” She hosts her Sirius XM radio show, The Laura Coates Show, for two hours every weekday, shares her legal expertise on different CNN shows throughout the day, and late into the night, hosts her own show on the network called Laura Coates Live from 11 p.m. to midnight. In the middle of all of that, she’s in meetings planning out programming and guests. It’s an action packed schedule for any woman, let alone a mom.

“I feel like I have a level of control over how I structure my day, but that’s not coincidental,” she says. “I have had to fight very hard to be unapologetic about the time that I need to restore and be attentive, not only to my children and my husband and my family and friends, but also to myself.”

Coates, who is based in Washington D.C., is a married working mother of two elementary school-aged children, a boy and girl, and when she’s not handling her professional responsibilities, she’s focused on being present for them. Dropping them off at school, getting them to their activities once the school bell rings, she still manages to be a hands-on mom. In fact, sometimes when she is in the middle of doing work, she’s simultaneously tending to their needs.

“They’re getting ready for school, they’re popping in, they’re sitting down. I’m braiding my daughter’s hair, oftentimes, in the middle of interviews doing the whole mute button like, ‘Girl, sit. Shh,’ And she’s so tender-headed, and at the same time I’m saying, ‘Yes, senator. That’s a very important question you just asked,’” she says.

Yes, Coates can do it all, but thankfully, she doesn’t have to. Her family supports her in big and small ways to ensure she can wear her many hats.

“My husband, full stop, is an equal partner who really believes in me, to the point where you could say to him, ‘Honey, I think I found a way to live on the moon.’ There’d be an Amazon package later that day with astronaut food, because he’d be like, ‘You know what? She must’ve figured it out,’” Coates says. “So we really are a team, in that respect.”

She adds, “There is a lot of give and take, and he certainly does his more than fair share, and then it switches. When he needs, I give. When I need, he gives.”

In addition, Coates’ retired parents “frequently” travel from Minnesota to D.C. to help out, and her two sisters, also lawyers, assist her in getting things she needs, whether that’s items from Target or a meal for her kids from DoorDash when she’s too busy to cook. She also is aiming to do a better job of delegating tasks to others to rid herself of mommy guilt, which she she said was difficult for her in the past. As someone who grew up watching her mom and dad work busy careers, raise children and still be present more often than not, she couldn’t help but compare.

“I thought for some time, ‘I’ve got to duplicate, replicate that, otherwise, I’m dropping the ball,’” she recalls. “And my mom was like, ‘Laura, we didn’t have quite the schedule you had, number one. And number two, we did not have the services that you had, and had we been able to access them, we would likely have loved to use them.’ And so, it made me feel better.”

She continues, “I’ve been incorporating my kids in things, but like anyone else, on any given day, the laundry may have been washed and dried, it might not be folded, it might not be in the drawer, but the clothes are clean and they fit. And sometimes, on some days, that’s the best I can do. But on every day, I use technology to make sure, if I’m not present at dinner, we’re FaceTiming the meal together. If I’m not able to tuck them in, I’m reading the bedtime story on my phone to my kids. I’m setting aside time to use the technology. If I’m traveling, I just try to make that happen.”

She also is honest with her children about feeling bad when she can’t do things like have lunch with them at school or for missing out on conversations about the small things that can matter to a kid. Doing so allows them to know her desire to be there and fills her in on the simple ways in which they say she can show up for them, whether it’s just watching her son shoot hoops in the backyard, or checking out her daughter’s boards on Pinterest. Sometimes it’s taking them with her to film CNN.

“I’m like, ‘All right. We’re going on a field trip. Bedtime’s going to be a little bit later tonight. Get in the car.’”

Being there for her kids while also tending to her career aspirations means a lot to Coates. She shared that in addition to almost dying in childbirth when having her son (she hemorrhaged), she also found herself dealing with early onset menopause soon after having her daughter. Facing these realities put things into perspective for her, both in terms of how she parents and the value she places in her work.

“Somebody once told me, when it comes to work and life, you’ll learn to juggle your whole life, but then somehow there’s a moment when you realize some of those balls are rubber and others are glass and you can’t drop the glass. And, for me, between menopause and almost dying in childbirth, it became clear that they’re my glass, and they won’t drop.”

But mama is glass, too. Coates knows how important it is to also cater to her own needs in order to be able to properly love on her children and juggle a show here, a documentary there, a book in between. So she enjoys naps, going to the actual movie theater to see films with Oscar buzz, avoiding exposing herself to unhealthy things (that can be a lot of sugar as well as toxic people), taking bubble baths and doing yoga. Somewhere, in the midst of her day, is time in her calendar for these moments of “me time” when her kids are at school.

“I will schedule it. I will actually block off my calendar. I don’t give people access to my calendar for that reason. This is the time I have, and I will block off the time I’m done,” she says. “I have to be very unapologetic about that, because people will deplete you. They will deplete you to plan their schedule, and I just can’t have that happen.”

So how does Coates power through the complex feelings and realities that follow a working mom? As mentioned, by leaning on loved ones; Learning to delegate, even if that’s just ordering food for dinner; Ensuring she carves out time to reboot alone, whether in the bath or by playing Wordle once cameras cut off; and most importantly, it’s by giving herself grace and being grateful.

“I try to have a grateful memory. That’s a survival skill to have, to not think of everything that you’ve done or will do or have done in the past with the second-guessing gene. Instead, think about what was the lesson? What was the gift? What was the moment? And have that grateful memory, because then I think I’m able to use that to build onto what to be grateful for in the future,” says Coates. “And for me, as a parent, if you think about it that way, you won’t sweat the small stuff as much.”

You can check out The Laura Coates Show Monday through Friday on SiriuxXM from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. EST (channel 124) and Laura Coates Live at 11 p.m. EST on CNN.

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