As the co-host of the 3rd hour of "TODAY" and a former anchor of "Weekend TODAY," Sheinelle Jones is no stranger to juggling many responsibilities at once. But the mom of three learned a painful lesson early on in motherhood that she says taught her the importance of slowing down and being mindful.
“I was nearing the end of my maternity leave with my twins,” Jones told Know Your Value’s Mika Brzezinski about her time at home with two infants and a three-year-old. “I was kind of stressed. I was tired.” Home alone, with her newborn daughter in her arms and socks on her feet, Jones started making her way down the spiral staircase to her basement.
“I just wasn't really paying attention,” Jones said. “All of a sudden, I slipped — boom-boom-boom — down the spiral [stairs] and fell at the bottom of the steps.”
Jones’ daughter — Clara Josephine — was fine. But Jones herself was in pain, with a big, dark bruise forming on her backside.
“I sat there for a second and I'm like, ‘Oh, my goodness, that could have been much worse,’” Jones remembered. The story came to her mind after discovering that both she and Brzezinski had suffered falls as new moms with their babies in their arms. In her book “All Things At Once,” Brzezinski recounts a serious accident that sent her four-month-old daughter into shock with a broken femur.
“It was a wake-up call to me to slow down and to be mindful,” Jones said of her own fall. “And I remember staring at Clara and I started crying, and she has no clue. She's totally fine because I took the brunt of it. And I'm like, ‘Oh my gosh, I must be mindful. I must slow down.’”
For Brzezinski, the burnout that led to her fall 22 years ago was the result of going back to work too soon after her daughter’s birth. She tells her story in the opening scene of her 2010 memoir, and writes about the panic she felt awaiting the doctors’ diagnosis in the emergency room while watching her daughter undergo a battery of tests.
“I wrote that, and I wanted it to be as searing as it was, because I wanted someone to read it and to realize that they could take that break before the break happened to them,” Brzezinski said. “I want women to know their value and to know they can take more time if they need it.”
Both women are outspoken about their focus on family and raising children, and both are candid about managing the pressures of working in network TV news while raising kids. Jones, a Wichita, Kansas, native who worked for nearly a decade at the Fox affiliate in Philadelphia before joining NBC News in 2014, was working the morning shift there when her kids were born.
“You know, you feel pressure to get back to work,” Jones said, “and I had a toddler, so I was out with him, and then with the twins. Everybody's ready for you to get back to work … but it's a lot to deal with, you know, three little ones under the age of three.”
Brzezinski called the end of maternity leave, when new moms are preparing to go back to work “the scariest time.” Jones carried the accident with her physically in the form of a bruise that she said lasted forever.
“I would hold up the mirror and go, ‘Oh my gosh, and it hurt,’” Jones recalled. “But I felt like in the grand scheme of things, I wasn't in the ER like you were,” she said to Brzezinski. “It was a physical reminder to slow down.”
These days, both women make time to rest and reset during the workday by practicing mindfulness, a therapeutic technique whereby a person focuses only on the present moment. Jones uses the Calm app to practice a daily, 10-minute meditation either when she wakes up in the morning or before she goes to bed.
“I noticed that it changes me physically,” Jones said. “Like there are mornings where I wake up and I feel frazzled. And I'll look at the clock, and there's [a driver waiting] outside. It's like, ‘You gotta go to work.’ And I'm like, ‘Just give me a second.’ [And] that 11 minutes will change my day.”
Moreover, Jones says the practice has changed the way she interacts with her family.
Now that her kids are all in elementary school, Jones says she’s working on being mindful of the moments they have together, even if they’re just shared while doing errands or getting tasks done. She remembered making last-minute Valentines with her kids in February, running out to get paper, a hole-puncher, and ribbon and thinking, “let's just take this moment.”
“We weren't really talking about mindfulness back [when my kids were born] 10 years ago, seven years ago,” Jones said, “and it's changed who I am. It's changed how we function.”