Mothers, Real Talk: A Conversation with Angela Burt-Murray
For more than 35 years, Essence magazine has brought black
women the latest in beauty, fashion, lifestyle and personal
finance. In its storied history, only four people have held
the title of editor-in-chief. Its newest editor is Angela
Burt-Murray, former executive editor of Teen People. The
wife and mother of two is also an author, having written
a couple books with friends Denene Millner and Mitzi Miller,
the latest of which is “The Vow.” Read on as
Ms. Burt-Murray shares her views on making it work.
Mahogany Baby: You
have two sons. Does being a mom influence your work at Essence?
Angela Burt-Murray: I think the idea of
what we want to put together at Essence is a magazine that
reflects the breadth of our community. Something that shows
us in a positive and beautiful light. So I hope that is
the content we’re creating. That not only feeds the
soul of our 7.7 million readers, but also it impacts my
children by seeing these beautiful and positive images.
When they’re ready to read Essence, they’ll
get information that’s accurate and fairly portrays
our community and covers the issues that the mainstream
media doesn’t necessarily find is newsworthy.
MB: How have you
changed since you’ve had children?
ABM: Having children definitely changes
you. You definitely become less selfish. It’s less
about you and more about them, making sure that they’re
happy, healthy and safe. Even though I’m editor in
chief of Essence, I’m very clear about what the priority
is and that’s the well-being of my family. I’m
fortunate to work at a company that supports that. The president
of Essence, Michele Ebanks, also has two small children.
As mothers with very busy careers, we both know the priority
is the children.
MB: How do you manage
to find time for your side projects, like your books?
ABM: It can be challenging. With the book
projects, luckily our deadlines were prior to me taking
this position so I had time to write the book. This job
can be very demanding. I work about 60 hours a week. I try
not to work on the weekends and have that be totally family
time. But you know, if you’re passionate about something,
you’ll find time to do it. When I wrote my last novel
with Mitzi Miller and Denene Millner, we had a very tight
schedule that we put together so that we could get the project
done in time. We basically had the summer to do it so I
would write mostly on the weekends to get it done. It’s
all about putting together a schedule together that works
MB: Do you have any
special routines with your children or husband?
ABM: We try to make sure that the time
that we have together we make it count. We go to church
together on Sunday. On Saturdays, it’s mostly spent
at their activities because they’re involved –
they have sports and birthday parties. On the weekends,
its full-on “mommy mode.”
MB: So what do you
do, aside from the kids and the husband, to try to relax
and take a moment for yourself?
ABM: It’s hard to carve out time
for yourself. Because obviously, when you spend so much
time at work, any down time you do have, you feel like you
should be focused on your family and your spouse. I try
to plan little trips with my girlfriends when I can. I try
to get an hour on the weekends to get my nails done and
flip through magazines and completely zone out. But other
than that, it’s difficult to find those pockets of
time. But it’s important that women try to do that.
MB: Sometimes when
you talk to women about balancing everything, it seems like
their role as a mother overshadows their role as a wife.
How do you make sure you still have time for your husband
while you’re trying to give 100 percent to your kids?
ABM: I think it’s important that
you focus on your spouse and make sure the two of you still
have a relationship beyond the children. Whether it’s
having a date night every week or if that’s planning
trips away or quiet time after the children go to bed. I
think it’s important that you plan to have that time
MB: How do you make
time for your friends? I know you mentioned in a previous
issue of Essence in your editor’s letter that you
plan trips with your girlfriends.
ABM: We try to plan a trip at least twice
a year. But we’re constantly on email with each other,
which is fun, because it gives you a break in the day. It’s
good to have those connections with people. Most of my friends
also have children so we’ll get the kids together
for birthday parties and play dates.
MB: Do you have any
advice for new mothers who are nervous about working?
ABM: My only advice would be, if you don’t
take care of yourself, you can’t take care of any
one else. So, as difficult as it may seem to find the time
to relax and reflect and schedule that annual doctor’s
appointment, you have to take care of yourself before you
can run 100 miles an hour, trying to manage your career
and keep the family going. It’s just really important
to take time for yourself.