I’ve long been a fan of Shonda Rhimes. An African-American woman completely dominating primetime TV: what’s not to love? As soon as I saw she would be sitting down with Oprah and Scandal star Kerry Washington, I knew I had to watch to get some pointers on how Shonda manages it all. In addition to her three shows, she is also a single mom of two (Harper, 10 and Emerson, 10 months). Shonda did not disappoint in this interview. Here’s what I learned about mixing success and motherhood:
1. Do not limit yourself to what’s already been done. She is the first African-American woman to create and produce a primetime network show. Now she has three shows (a fourth, Off The Map, was canceled last year). Who could have imagined that? Shonda did.
2. Motherhood doesn’t push you to the sidelines. Shonda talked about how she got the idea to move into television when she was home with her newborn daughter and watched endless hours of TV. It was then that she thought she could break through and make a name for herself. She told friends, “I’m going to rule the world through television.” It was at that point that she could have tried to make her career smaller by focusing on short-term projects or maybe even moving to a different field altogether. But instead she focused on her calling.
3. Include your children on your way to the top. Shonda showed Oprah her office at the studio, which was complete with her kids’ office right next to hers. She even had her kids’ names on the door to show everyone else she was serious about them having their space. I admire that. She wanted to show her children what she does all day and she even said that she brings her youngest into the writers’ room. There is a way to include your children in the work you do, even if you’re not the boss like Shonda.
4. Step out of your comfort zone to find success. “It was terrifying,” Shonda said of her early days with Grey’s Anatomy. “I was a writer and suddenly I was in the limelight. All I wanted to do was hide. Now I feel like I’m enjoying it.” It’s easy for us to sit back and let our dreams go because they feel too big or we don’t know how we’ll combine what we want to do with what we need to do. But Shonda shows us that we simply need to give ourselves time to grow into our dreams and they will expand and fit us comfortably.
Did you catch Shonda on Oprah’s Next Chapter? Missed it? Watch a clip below! What do you think?
Words: Tara Pringle Jefferson
Tara Pringle Jefferson is the founder of TheYoungMommyLife.com and the author of Make It Happen: The Young Mommy Guide To Creating The Career You Crave. Follow her on Twitter or check out her blog for her insights on what it means to be a mom, wife, student, writer, and about three other labels she’s too tired to remember.