Jessica Tarlov, Being a Mom in the Spotlight, and Being Pregnant at Work

Jessica Tarlov is the co-host of FOX News Channel’s The Five. She also serves as the Vice President of Research and Consumer Insight for Bustle Digital Group. She is a wife and a mom to her daughter Cleo (9-months).

How would you describe being a working mom in one word? 


What was — or continues to be —the most surprising thing about being a working mom?

That the postpartum period has no real end date. I had Cleo in my late 30s and felt like I’d absorbed plenty of information about what the aftermath of having a baby is like, but nothing actually prepares you for the experience. I lost my father when I was 20 weeks pregnant and the grief combined with postpartum has created an emotional rollercoaster that’s tough to handle at home, let alone at work. I’ve found that spending time with other moms at work has really helped me and there’s great strength – and solace – to be found in numbers. While you look like you’ve got everything together to the outside world, and on TV, there’s an internal struggle going on that needs your time and attention. It sounds cliched, but you must be really kind to yourself.

What’s the biggest lie you think working moms believe? 

That’ll you will be treated differently no matter what. Your motherhood can be as much or as little part of your work life as you want it to be. I’m not saying that there aren’t exceptions to this, but I’ve found – and has been my colleagues’ experience – that a lot of the impact of becoming a mom on your work life is dictated by how much you want to integrate your two orbits. Some things must change because you have more obligations, but it doesn’t have to be your identity if you don’t want it to be.

As a mom in the public eye — what’s some of the biggest (or most common) criticisms you face for being a “working mom”? 

Although it’s improving, there’s still a lot of “mom judgment” out there. From whether you breastfed and for how long, to whether you have a nanny or go to daycare, to when you leave your baby overnight for the first time and how many “date nights” you have with your partner, it feels like everyone has an opinion – and a criticism for how you’ve decided to raise your baby and manage your life. Being a parent is such a special experience and creates an instantaneous connection with other parents (you only know once you know) that it can often leave the door open for more input than is needed. And because I’m in the public eye and have shared so much of my personal life on air, people feel like they know me and can just let it rip with their views.

Do you struggle with mom guilt?

Definitely. And I don’t know any mom who doesn’t. I felt guilty that breastfeeding wasn’t for me – I lasted six weeks and could maybe pump one bottle per day at best – and I went on a business trip for a week to South Korea when my daughter was just four months old. I got a lot of eyebrow raises to both, but I had to do what was best for me and, by extension, my baby. Leaning into the concept that if you’re not in a good place then you aren’t of much use to your baby was difficult, but left me much happier in the end. It helps to have a supportive husband who never questioned my decisions and continues to encourage me to do what I need to in order to stay healthy physically and mentally. 

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to a mom who is career-minded, but wants a family — but is nervous that pregnancy/maternity leave is going to stunt her career?

Like so many other women, I was petrified that getting pregnant and having a baby would set me back professionally. On top of the usual concerns about doing your job well, being pregnant on TV is difficult. You’re getting bigger, feel sluggish, and just don’t feel you look your best even if you are “glowing.” That said, I was also 37 and at “geriatric pregnancy” age. There wasn’t necessarily more time to wait. It’s true that there isn’t ever a good time to get pregnant – you can always find something to delay. But my experience professionally speaking was all positive. My co-workers were hugely excited for me – so much so that one of them revealed I was pregnant live on TV! – and I got a new contract at 36 weeks and was promoted while on maternity leave. I know that I’m lucky to work at a family-oriented company and for women who consistently prioritize “mom life” in their own lives and for those that report into them, but society is shifting in how it treats and values mothers. Benefits packages are getting better and companies are recognizing that moms bring valuable perspective and input to the table. Becoming a mother has opened up doors for me and though I have had an exceptionally good experience, I see the same to be true for my friends who work in a diverse set of organizations. Sure, you’re going to be strapped for time and run ragged, but that’s just the reality of being a working mom. It’s worth it!

What’s one thing you hope your daughter gains from seeing you be a pioneer in the TV industry?

I hope that my daughter sees my TV career as less about being on TV and more about advocating for causes and policies that will improve the lives of people with less and who have been traditionally underserved to as wide an audience as possible. I hope she will be bold in her convictions, too. And makes it a priority to mix with people she wouldn’t traditionally spend time.

What’s the one thing you can’t live without? 

My phone. It’s a total cliché, but the fact that we can work from anywhere makes being a working, hands on mom possible.

If you could switch careers with one person, who would it be? 

Bill Russell. I’m an NBA fanatic and his passing was very impactful. To be such a great champion and a trailblazing civil rights icon is such a special, and important, combination. And Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the same reasons. 

Working moms get — on average — 14-free minutes a day. When you find those, what are you doing with them? 

I watch TV. Way too much if you ask my husband. It’s the only way I can decompress.

Who’s a mom you admire and why? 

My mom. She has always been unconditionally supportive of me and my sister and set a great example for how to prioritize both your kids and your marriage. 

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Time travel. Would love to be able to take my daughter back to spend time with my Dad.

Last show you binged or watched? 

The Offer. It’s about the making of the Godfather on Paramount+. Absolutely incredible!

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