Maria Shriver raises work-life balance to a new level of difficulty. First she was a television journalist raising four children with her action movie star husband. Then, Arnold Schwarzenegger won the race for governor of California and Maria Shriver had to give up her journalism career.
As first lady of California, Maria Shriver helped keep work-life balance in the national spotlight by expanding the Women's Conference into a national event on all the issues facing women. And she ventured into entrepreneurship, teaming with her brother Tim and two partners to start the premium ice cream company Lovin' Scoopful, which donates 25 percent of its proceeds to the Special Olympics and other causes.
In a telephone interview, Maria Shriver discussed work-life balance, the lessons of her career decisions and how the working world may be different for our children.
What is your best parenting advice for working moms?
Be more patient with yourself. When I left my job to become First Lady, my kids told me how much they missed it, how much they liked my job. Very often your kids are proud of you.
Everybody is trying to do the best they can and some mothers seem to make it look effortless, but I don't know anyone who in truth, in their really honest moments, will say it's easy.
What is your personal story behind the Special Olympics?
My mother started Special Olympics in our backyard when I was a little kid and grew it into the largest sports program for the intellectually disabled in the world. So I've seen the power of one woman's idea, one woman's perseverance and her fighting to make education accessible to people with intellectual disabilities.
It's a way for me to stay in conversation with my mother, who I lost about eight months ago, and see that she's alive in all of these families and that her work is alive.
She was always my biggest booster, my biggest cheerleader and my biggest fan. I wrote a book called What's Wrong with Timmy? about families and kids with intellectual disabilities. My mom had a sister with an intellectual disability, so it's always been a part of my life.
What could women do to make a difference in the world?
Many of these issues that affect women, the more we bring men into it the better we will do. We try to bring men into the conversation at our (Women's Conference) web site, at our conference. ... Why exclude men? The more we can bring them into the process, the better.
Mothers shouldn't criticize other mothers: working mothers against non-working mothers. All of that is old and doesn't help anybody.
What inspires you?
My children, my mother's voice in my own head, to see people out there that can use the information and are empowered by information you may give them and assistance you may give them.
If you can bring a smile to someone's face, that's a great way to spend your time. The people you touch are really the measure of your life and what makes your life matter.
If people feel loved, on a day to day basis, the world would be a much kinder and compassionate place.
What do you miss about your previous career and what don't you miss?
I miss the people. … When you have a job, you have a place you belong. … When you lose your job, you not only lose your paycheck, you lose your identity, you lose what you thought was your family.
I miss the ability to tell great stories. I don't miss covering a lot of the stories that are out there today. ... I miss the way television was.
How big a role does your husband play in your career decisions, and vice versa?
People ask me all the time, "What's Arnold going to do?" He's very good at figuring out what he wants to do and doing it. He's much more of a solitary figure.
I come from a family that talks everything to death. He decides what he likes to do on his own.
What lessons would you like your children to take from your career choices? Do you think the message is different for girls versus boys?
Yes and no. I'm trying to teach my boys to be sensitive to the decisions that affect women and to be supportive of them and to understand that women, whoever they end up with will be a full partner, and what does that mean.
My daughters look a lot at women my age and say, "I don't want to do that, I want to have a little bit more control." ... When I started having children, I anchored two shows and when my daughter was born I had to give it up. ... I wanted to work part-time from home and that wasn't an option.
The technology has afforded women an opportunity to balance careers or perhaps invent careers that didn't exist before.
It's much easier to say follow your dreams than to do it. Many people struggle with the financial aspects of following their dream.
It's an important thing for society to encourage people to keep dreaming. Sometimes it's even harder to follow your dream in your 40s and 50s than in your 20s.
There will be adversity; that is part of it.