When I got the offer to interview Megyn Kelly, I jumped at it.
Though quite liberal in my political pursuits, I watch a fair amount
of FOX. I won't digress into a diatribe about whether or not it is
indeed “fair and balanced” or if it's blurring the line between news
and entertainment. All I will say is that the non-cable networks lost
me during the presidential election (even though I supported their candidate) and despite what any highfalutin news organization would have you think, all news today is a Jackson Pollock of news and entertainment. Period.
Oh, I suppose I diatribed a bit. Sorry.
Okay, back to Megyn: This tall blond stunner always stuck out to me—and not only because she looks like she could be a Rod Stewart wife, either. You can see that Megyn Kelly has something, that she's really made of something. Whether or not you agree with her point of view, she's got convictions and, unlike so many, smarts to back them up. (In fact, Ms. Kelly practiced law as a corporate litigator prior to her anchor incarnation.) Confident, poised, ambitious, intelligent, informed, successful, driven and good-looking—that's just plain old impressive. Oftentimes, women have to downplay their looks in order to get ahead in certain, otherwise male-dominated, industries, and I think it's a real sign that feminism is working to see not just Megyn but a whole roster of women who think as good as they look.
Here, I chat with Megyn, whose son, Yates (Edward Yates Brunt), was born in September, about another sign that feminism is working: the freedom for women to be any kind of mother they want to be and the freedom to not—I repeat: not—be perfect at it. Discussing everything from her fears of being inadequate in her latest and greatest role to midnight moments of desperation to the little victories, big hopes and the occasional date night out, Megyn reports to us, candidly, from the trenches of motherhood.
Jillian Swartz: You are on the front lines of every major issue, from H1NI to staggering unemployment rates to terrorism to war. And, on top of all of that, you're a new mom with the regular new-mom issues. Is that much knowledge power for you, in terms of your role as a parent, or do you ever wish for the bliss of ignorance? How do you handle it?
Megyn Kelly: I think both. I've thought about this before. Even before I became a mother, that issue would come up: Do I know too much about any given subject? Is it affecting the way I behave in my personal life and the way I socialize with friends? And the answer is yes, it definitely does affect all of that and it manages to continue to be true now that I am a mother. For example, before Yates was born, I was completely paranoid about a switched-at-birth situation in the hospital. Now, this does not happen very often, as you know, but because of my work on the air, when it does happen, I am aware of it. And, of course, when I was pregnant, I paid particular attention to anything having to do with such stories. The statistics, according to one publication I read, turned out to be that there's a 1 in 1,000 chance that your baby will be switched at birth. I thought that the number was much too large.
JS: I agree!
MK: So I had joked that as soon as my child was born, I was going to put him in a leopard onesie to distinguish him. One of my friends at FOX, Jamie Colby, actually gave me a—well, she couldn't find leopard, so she gave me a tiger onesie.
JS: Well, any kind of distinctive animal print seems like it would do the trick. It could be a hot new business geared to nervous moms—which would be all of us.
MK: And, honestly, Jillian, the truth is that, before he was born, I had found organic, nontoxic nail polish, and after he was born, I put it on his big toe!
JS: I think that's a good idea—and even though I'm not as inundated as you are, I had that panic, too, with my first child. We kept her in the room with us, even though everybody told us to let the nurses take her overnight in the nursery so we could sleep—but I said no.
MK: I did the same. I did not let him go into the nursery except for when he had to, for measurements and weight and things like that. Although I will say that, in retrospect, I was surprised at how recognizable your baby is to you.
JS: True. And I was surprised—well, not surprised, but, I guess, pleased—that the hospital staff were really thorough, bordering on obsessive, about the checking and the double-checking that my daughter was ours. I mean, they have to be that way, but I found it actually interesting to watch their protocol in action.
MK: I appreciated that, too, but for me, the No. 1 check was always, “Is that one nail still blue?”
JS: He's your punk rock son.
MK: Funny—when I brought him home and it eventually came off, it was kind of sad.
JS: So, now that you are a mother, how has motherhood, so far, fueled your passion for your job? And how has it, perhaps, tempered it?
MK: Wow! It's really made me appreciate, first of all, how hard it must be for single moms. I am in the fortunate position where I am not one. I have a loving, caring husband who is absolutely co-parenting with me—and even with that, I see how hard this job is. And honestly, before I had Yates, I heard people say—and I would repeat—“motherhood is the hardest job in the world; parenthood is the hardest job in the world,” but I think it was just lip service. You don't know until you've done it, and now, now I get it. It truly is the hardest job in the world, and it's the biggest responsibility that I've ever had in my life. So, it's funny because I think that my hardest day at FOX has never been as hard as a difficult day with Yates. Normally, he's a good baby, but, you know, he's still a baby—and when babies have bad days, it's very trying. It's hard. It's hard to know how to soothe him, and I feel upset when he's upset. It brings on major feelings of inadequacy.
JS: It does and I think it challenges you to your core but at the same time inspires you to be a better version of yourself. I don't think that anybody, before having kids, realizes that. You think: “I'm an adult; I am accomplished; I know who I am.” And then all of a sudden you have a baby and you have one of those days and you're just done. You are completely annihilated. It's almost like you are forced to reinvent yourself.
MK: Right. You think, “I am sure that I can handle this. I am a reasonably competent person; I should be able to figure this out.” Flash-forward to six hours later when your baby is still crying and you've done everything—you've changed him, you've burped him, you've bounced him—and he's still crying, and you think, “All right, actually, I don't know how they've been doing this since the beginning of time.” It has made me appreciate the job that other mothers have been doing. It hasn't made me consider staying home because I really do love my job, but I am dreading that kiss goodbye on the first morning that I go back to work.
JS: It will be, obviously, hard, but once you are there, it will be fine.
MK: You think?
JS: Yeah. I work from home now, but when my daughter was a baby, I had an office and—it's just that initial pull, and then once you are there, you can actually cordon yourself off and become Megyn the anchor or Megyn the worker or whatever kind of business mode you go into, and you'll be able to separate that mode from mommy mode and just tap into it.
MK: I hope so. I've told other friends this—it depends on the person, if this advice is accurate or not, but for me, I do believe I will be a better mother to him if my life is as full as it is when I am working. I am a happier person when I am doing my job, and I think that hopefully I will bring that home to him and those experiences home and pretty much my life out there in the world will translate into his life in a positive way. I hope. I am hoping for that.
JS: Oh, it absolutely will. Being a positive role model and being someone who is fulfilled on many levels—it doesn't mean that there aren't many challenges that come with all of that, but you wouldn't want it the other way, so it's a good thing.
Speaking of the world outside, there's a lot of tumult, uncertainty and chaos—and as we said before, it's examined in your line of work. What will you tell your son about the world he lives in?
MK: I really think that as far as violence and war and ugliness and cruelty, I'd like to shield him from all of those realities for as long as possible. Having said that, I want to have an honest WORD MISSING HERE with my son, and when he gets to the age when he starts asking questions about those things, I will handle it honestly but gingerly. On another front, I've thought a lot about how you have such a strong impulse as a parent to protect your child from everything bad—from illness to having his heart broken. You think that you would take all of those bullets for him, if you could. But then the more I thought about it, I realized that not only can't you do that, but you really shouldn't do that. You shouldn't even want it. I want him to become a full, emotionally developed human being, and having your heart broken and having to learn to have empathy for people—that's all part of it.
JS: It's true. What you were saying initially is what we all think beforehand and it definitely is an instinct and an impulse, but the reality is that these little people are their own people—and they have the right to be fully formed and not just sheltered versions of your best intentions. Before I had kids, I thought that motherhood was going to be a benevolent dictatorship. I decree edicts and they follow suit and become, in essence, these mini-me's. But once I had children, I found out immediately that it's so not the case. They are actually their own people and so they deserve to live life to its fullest. They need well-rounded, real experiences to reach their full potential—because what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. We're all better human beings for having our hearts broken and our knees scraped.
MK: Picking up on what you said, the thing that I feel most strongly about, in terms of raising him—and thought even before he was born—is that parenthood is not a chance at a do-over. I had my childhood. I am living my life. I am doing what I want with it. I don't see Yates as an opportunity to go back and try to heal old wounds or accomplish things that I didn't accomplish or pigeonhole him into some “societal norm” that I think exists. I really just want to enhance his life and hopefully he'll enhance mine and my husband's. I want to support him and love him as much as humanly possible along the way.
JS: Sounds good to me.
MK: I think you get in trouble when you look for the do-over. I do think that there are folks out there who didn't become NFL football players and so they push their kids into football when, really, their child might not be that interested in football. I think you have to be very careful of that.
JS: I think you have to have ego boundaries and that's hard for a lot of people, especially when it's your child and everything gets blurred, but if you are aware of it from the onset, as you are, then you're on the right track.
MK: You have all these ideals at the beginning and you certainly hope that you don't mess your child up. I think that all parents worry about that and think, “Oh no, am I screwing my child up?”
JS: But that's part of the beauty of scraped knees and broken hearts. We are going to mess our kids up a little bit. We could be the best parents on the planet and it's just how it goes. I think that, too, is about letting go and just doing your best and always aiming to do better.
MK: You're not going to be the perfect parent, no matter how hard you try.
MK: It's a cruel reality.
JS: And speaking of a cruel reality, let's go back for a minute to being pregnant and being on TV—which would be a lot of women's worst nightmare. Do you have any tips on how you managed to look good and feel good during your pregnancy?
MK: Early on in my pregnancy, I read “don't cut your hair.” I agree with that—there was a strong urge to do it, which was unexpected. Everyone told me that I'd be very sorry if I did it and I am very glad that I did not cut my hair. Women are so attached to their hair and your identity feels like it's changing so much during pregnancy as it is, so that's one thing that you can hold on to. The other thing is that I actually liked going to the set—of course, I have a lot of clothes that FOX lets me wear—and putting on high heels and makeup. You can find a saucy dress to wear when you're pregnant. I liked the way getting dressed made me feel. I know that there are a lot of women who say that when they were pregnant, they had never felt sexier in their lives, but I was not that girl. So, I felt that looking good and putting on some fun shoes just made me feel womanly and sexier than I would have if I were just at home in my sweatpants, which is what I did after work.
JS: That's a good point. I think that a lot of women, even before they give birth, kind of start to neglect themselves, and it's good to remember to be proactive in connecting to your once and former self.
MK: You can still be sexy when you're pregnant, even if you don't feel sexy. Some women have the blessing of just feeling that way—and good for them—but for those of us who didn't have that, you can get there. You just have to bring it once in a while and remember how you got in this condition.
JS: Well, about that condition, what are you doing to get back to yourself, mind, body and soul?
MK: Well, they clear you for exercise after your six-week visit, so as of seven weeks, I started working out again, which was very hard because I didn't really work out much during the pregnancy at all, so it had been several months since I had been on the StairMaster. But I am exercising and I am finally dieting. I almost never diet. I just don't believe in it as a general rule; I generally just watch what I eat. The key is not putting on the pounds to begin with, but this is an unusual occasion (having a baby), so I am actually dieting—just calorie control, basically, which I hate and it's such an incentive not to gain weight. So, physically, I am doing that. In terms of me and the woman I am, we have a woman who comes a couple times a week to watch Yates, which allows me to meet with girlfriends, just get out, even to just go shopping—the little things that you used to do that make you feel like yourself. I am amazed at how just meeting a friend for lunch or meeting for a drink can really renew you.
JS: Even an hour, an hour outside of your environment with baby, is huge.
MK: Right. And last night, for example, my husband, Doug, and I went to the opera—it was great. We got dressed up, we went to Lincoln Center, we felt like adults. It's those little things here and there that have been very restorative for me.
JS: What has surprised you most about yourself since you had your son?
MK: Let me go back to something I said earlier: the enormous feelings of inadequacy of motherhood. It's not that I accomplish everything I set out to do in my life, but I am a hard worker and my general rule is that if I am not good at something and I need to be, I will double down and make sure that I can do an okay job. If I am not good at something that I don't need to be good at, then that's the end of it for me. So, this is not something I can or want to abandon, but when I have those feelings of “I don't know what to do/I want him to stop crying/I want him to be okay,” and you realize that you don't have enough tricks in your arsenal, you realize that you need your mother, your grandmother and other people to help you. There was one night very early on when he was crying—my husband had been up with him the night before, so I was trying to let him sleep—and I had tried every trick that my mother had shown me and I had read about and none of them worked. I was inches away from going next door to my neighbor's who I know and who happens to have young children and knocking on the door and saying, “Be my village.”
JS: You know what? I think if you had done it, she would have completely understood.
MK: She would have—that's the funny thing. Of course, it was the middle of the night, so I am not sure if her husband would have appreciated it. The thing about having a job in which you do feel so inadequate—each day that goes by when he's okay and you're okay, you gain a little bit more confidence.
JS: You learn to claim little victories. I remember—more so with my daughter, who was my first—that if there were a day when I could shower and maybe fold a basket of laundry, that was a huge accomplishment.
MK: That is such a good point, because there is another thing that has really surprised me: how much you are tethered to your home when you are breast-feeding. In my mind, my maternity leave was going to be me sitting with Yates in sort of a sun-kissed glow and a white flowy dress, in complete bliss, and I'd be able to see all of my friends and catch up on all of my errands with my baby. Wrong. Let me put it this way: My husband and I have made it through the first four seasons of Lost in about a month. We've been on that couch a lot.
JS: I know. You almost cannot wrap your head around how physically demanding it is.
MK: It really is so far. As soon as you've fed him and burped him and put him down for a little snooze, it's almost time to feed him again. It's really tough to get out of your apartment. We've been calling it the cabin.
JS: Finish this sentence: I want my son to know…
MK: There are so many lessons, but one that comes to mind is that happiness is a choice and he should make it. I want him to know that it's important to root for and support other people. And I want him to know that it's important to be strong and also to help those who are not. I also want him to know that I love him and that I support him no matter what he wants to do or be. I want him to look at me and know that I am here for him 100 percent and that I am not trying to force choices on him—values are one thing; I want to teach him values—but in terms of what he wants his life to be, I will be supportive.
JS: Lawyer, TV anchor, mother. What's next for you—besides sleeping through the night?
MK: Being a mother to Yates and nurturing that relationship as well as my career and the job I love is plenty right now. I have him and I have what preceded him, which is true love in my life with a husband whom I adore, and that would have been enough for any girl, so to have a career I value and children is just the icing on the cake.
Catch Megyn on FOX News Channel's America Live from 1 to 3 p.m. EST Monday through Friday.