Katie Couric's job as managing editor and anchor of CBS Evening News requires world travel, an understanding of current events and the ability to connect with all different types of people.

Katie Couric's job as managing editor and anchor of CBS Evening News requires world travel, an understanding of current events and the ability to connect with all different types of people.

Couric's husband, Jay Monahan, died in 1998 from colorectal cancer. And as a single of mother of two girls, Couric has another challenge -- providing a stable and loving home life for her daughters, Ellie, 16, and Caroline, 9.

Columbus Parent Magazine caught up with Couric, 51, in March when she came to town to cover Ohio's primary election. Couric spoke of the challenges of being a working mom, her parenting strategies and her efforts to mesh her work schedule with the needs of her daughters.

Couric, who became a national celebrity as host of NBC's Today show, has covered many national and international events, including the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the Columbine tragedy in Colorado and the funeral of Princess Diana.

We were curious about how she balances her work and family and, in the end, how she survives each day as a busy mom.

What is your strategy for balancing your kids and your work?
I think that is the eternal question. I was laughing because today I was on my way to interview some factory workers at the Honda plant in Marysville. As I was driving there, my daughter, Ellie, who is 16, called me to help her fill out her college questionnaire. I was thinking this is sort of my life in a nutshell. I'm talking to my daughter about her college questionnaire. I'm on way to interview some factory workers at the Honda plant.
Luckily, I've just gotten very good at compartmentalization. When I'm at the office, I give it 150 percent. When I'm at home, I try to give it 150 percent and then I try to straddle the two worlds when I have to.

Is it difficult to shift roles from news anchor to mom?
My years on the Today show helped me shift gears pretty quickly. I would have to go from someone who lost their daughters in a train wreck to interviewing a movie star or doing a cooking segment. So I learned how to shift gears at warp speed. When I get home, the news isn't the focal point. My kids are the focal point.

How hard is it to go from reporting the news, especially tragic events, to being supportive and a cheerleader for your kids?
When there are tragic events, we talk about tragic events. They're 12 and 16 now so it's not like I have to shield them from everything. So we talk about things. We talk about what happened at Virginia Tech or we talk about what happened at Columbine.

How do you handle covering these events?
Within my job itself, I have had to learn how to compartmentalize. I would have fallen apart covering Sept. 11 if I would have allowed myself to. But I also realize how important it is for someone to stay calm and to be a conduit for people who need information.

How do you handle it when your job forces you to miss an important event in your children's lives?
That happens sometimes, but I really try to put an important event in their lives as a top priority and build my work schedule around it. There have been instances when I haven't been able to go to something that was school-related, or I've had to schedule a parent/teacher conference on a different day than the rest of the parents. I do have some control over my life -- obviously news events happen and I have to go in full bore for those -- but generally I think I am able to work around their schedules when I need to.

Does your level of compensation give you advantages other working moms don't have?
Oh, of course. When people ask me how I do it, I say, talk to somebody who's working overtime at a factory, or talk to somebody who's a teacher and not paid as much money as he or she should be paid, or talk to somebody who can't afford live-in help, which I can. It's a very, very different set of circumstances. Yes, I've been able to accommodate my home life to fit my work life, thankfully, because of my compensation. I'm very aware of that. That's why I almost feel uncomfortable when people ask me how I do it because there are many working moms who are struggling so much more than I am. It's really, really difficult for a lot of folks and I never forget that.

Give us an example of how you fit your schedule to meet your daughters'.
My daughter would have volleyball games starting at 4 in the afternoon and on several occasions I just rushed off and stayed for 45 minutes and came back and finished writing the broadcast.

Did that mean a lot to her?
She was so happy to see me. I brought some friends from work and we became the cheerleaders for her school's team. I embarrassed her because I live to embarrass my children. I think it meant a lot to her. I try to do things like that as often as I can.

Can you give us some examples of situations you've had to miss?
They called and said I had to do safety patrol from 3 to 4:30 one afternoon and I was lucky that I have a nanny that was willing -- not that happily -- to do safety patrol for me.
There was a father-daughter event at my daughters' dance school. I felt bad that I couldn't go to that. But she's at the age where she doesn't really want me to go either, so I guess adolescence and a 12-year-old just finding her mother completely revolting has its bonuses in that I feel less guilt because she doesn't really want me around very much. Her favorite thing to say to me is 'What is your problem?' I could offer her a cookie and she would say, 'What is your problem?' Everything I do bugs her -- even breathing.

Does that bother you?
I think it's their way of separating. They have to find you completely repugnant in order to separate. It's just a rite of passage and kind of a journey to independence that makes me laugh, although it occasionally does hurt my feelings.

You've achieved things in your career that no woman had done before. Does that put pressure on your daughters to achieve great things as well?
I try to be a quiet but important role model for them. I think it's been an important lesson for them to see me working hard, just my work ethic. No matter what achievements I've had and the fact that I've been resilient. That I've been able to turn a tragedy into a positive for the greater good have been really important life lessons for my kids. They never talk about feeling pressure.

What do you tell them about their futures?
Hopefully, I've communicated to them that they can do whatever they want, and it's most important to me that they be strong, caring individuals and that can manifest itself in so many different ways.

You work in a business that puts a lot of focus on appearance. What do you do to help your daughters develop the appropriate attitudes about body image?
It's something I'm keenly aware of because I think young girls are inundated with pictures of near anorexic women in fashion magazines so the norm isn't the norm. So we all get very unrealistic views of ourselves and the way we look. I just talk to them about the importance of being healthy, eating healthy -- caring about their body on the inside.

What kind of lifestyle do you emphasize?
I just try to emphasize the importance of eating right and exercising and having a healthy lifestyle.

What advice do you give your teenage daughter about dating?
Well, she has a boyfriend who's in college, which terrifies me. But he's really a nice, nice young man. But I tell her that I don't want her to do anything too soon. That there should be a real emotional component to intimacy and that I want her to wait and not do more than she can handle and that if he comes near her I'll bring out my shotgun. I'm kidding.

What other advice have you given her?
I try to emphasize the value of having good judgment in all situations. We've talked about if they feel (they are) in a threatening situation at a party or they feel like kids are getting drunk or doing something they feel uncomfortable with to call me. That I'd rather they be honest with me and call me rather than get into trouble or do something that's dangerous. I do everything most parents do and hope for the best.

What's your parenting strategy?
I think my parents loved all of us unconditionally. My mom used to say everybody needs a cheerleader and why not your mom? I try to just be really supportive and encouraging of my kids and let them know how much I love them all the time.

What is one of the hardest challenges of parenting?
It's a lot harder to say no than it is to say yes, especially if you're a working mom because you're so tired, so guilt ridden at times. You don't want to be the bad cop when you are with them.

Why is saying no important?
I believe that kids really do need limits. My youngest daughter will try every way under the sun to get me to break down and say yes when I've said no. But no means no is what I always tell them.

What kind of things do you say no to?
There have been a number of occasions when my daughters have wanted (something) -- whether it was a very expensive watch that all the other kids were getting or a new, fancier cell phone. I really want them to understand the value of things. So that's been really important. I often quote Mick Jagger when I'm talking to them. I always say, as Mick Jagger says, 'You can't always get what you want.' God bless Mick Jagger.

Katie Couric can be seen on the CBS Evening News on WBNS-10TV, weeknights at 6:30 p.m.


Melissa Kossler Dutton has worked as a reporter for more than a decade. Shes a frequent contributor to a variety of Ohio publications. She lives in Bexley with her husband and two sons.