Natalie Morales is a co-anchor on NBC's TODAY Show and is a student of the world. From her international living experiences as a child to the global exposure her career provides her, Natalie has witnessed and reported on things that very few people are privy to. As such, she has developed an appreciation for life, her career, family, two beautiful boys, Josh and Luke, and the fact that it's OK to be imperfect. Natalie Morales recently talked to contributor Jeana Lee Tahnk on how she juggles her busy work schedule for TODAY, involvement with important charities, being a mom, oh, and somehow manages to run marathons in her free time.
You are clearly a woman of the world, not only from your experiences as a TODAY Show anchor, but from your upbringing. You were born in Taiwan and spent your entire childhood living overseas. How did that shape your childhood?
I am who I am because of the wonderful childhood which I spent much of overseas. I lived in Panama, Brazil, Spain and on a few military bases in the U.S. too, but being exposed to so many cultures and languages early on opened my eyes to the world. It made me a more curious person and shaped my points of view. It is the reason I chose to go into Journalism, to continue to see the world, report on major events and experience cultures outside our own.
This exposure at such an early age must have had such an incredible effect on your understanding of the world. How do you try to impart that world view onto your children?
We have so much in this country we take for granted, to be able to have just about anything you could want or need available. I try to teach my kids not to take it for granted. From the freedoms we enjoy to the food we eat, we are so blessed to live in this country where everything is in abundance. We also have traveled a lot with the kids because I feel it's important they see the rest of the world and are exposed to other cultures, as I did at a young age.
Being an anchor on the TODAY Show obviously requires a constant awareness of current news and events. Since the news never stops, how do you make the mental shift to separate work from family life when you are at home with your kids?
It's a difficult juggling act for sure, and sometimes my kids have to remind me to put the Blackberry away, but I try to carve out an hour during the afternoon where I answer work emails and calls, but once I'm home, I try to give my time to my family. Once the kids are asleep and before I go to bed, I do have to check in one last time to make sure nothing has changed and to prepare for the next day, (my homework) but I do all the things working moms have to do - food shop, cook, clean, etc. - around my work life too.
What are biggest challenges for you as a mom and working woman?
Never having enough time in the day to do everything I want and need to do. Plus, my job involves plenty of travel, so often I have to really place my trust in my support network, my kids' babysitter, my husband, my friends, etc. to help me. I think we all have to learn how to accept help better and also offer help too when we can. Moms are way too overextended and we shoulder so much of the burden of raising our kids. And unfortunately, we also shoulder a lot of guilt if we feel like we are not doing enough, so we need to learn how to let go a bit and let others help us too. Perfection is absolutely not necessary.
Do you seek mom advice from your co-anchors, Meredith Vieira and Ann Curry, who have children that are older? What's the best mom-related advice you've ever gotten from anyone?
Of course. And Meredith and Ann are perfect examples of mothers who are so hands-on when it comes to their kids, but who also have incredible careers. I think what I've learned most from them is it is OK to say no, that you can't always be there for everyone, but you should be there for your family. Also, Meredith and Ann have said the same thing: that they don't try to be perfect. They accept their limitations and work around them, but their families come first.
Your job exposes you to so much - so many different people, stories, places, both good and bad. What kinds of stories have the biggest effect on you as a mom?
Whenever I report on children who are sick or dealing with tragedy, I'm most affected. It makes you appreciate the little things... and thank God I have beautiful, healthy and confident children.
You're a supporter of several charities including Baby Buggy (started by Jessica Seinfeld), Alzheimer's Association and Operation Smile. How are you involved and why is your work with these organizations important to you?
I'm a spokesperson and supporter of all those organizations, as well as Augie's Quest (Muscular Dystrophy Association). Whether speaking at or emceeing events or spreading awareness by speaking out, doing walks to raise money, etc. are ways I'm involved. These organizations are amazing in what they do. My mother-in-law has early onset Alzheimer's (diagnosed in her early 50's) so I have been very engaged in helping spread the word that Alzheimer's is not just an older persons disease.
Baby Buggy here in the NY area, helps give new moms the support they need, emotional as well as physical, after having the baby. They provide a variety of services including helping equip moms with food, clothing, diapers, all things necessary for the care of infants.
Operation Smile puts a smile back on so many kids' faces around the world who are born with mouth deformities or Cleft Palates. There is nothing like a child's smile to light up a room or to make you feel special.
And Augie's Quest is raising millions for research of Lou Gehrig's disease or ALS. Augie Nieto's story is one I have followed for many years now. He's a fitness pioneer (started Life Fitness... you know the machines you either pedal or run on at the gym) who had everything in life until he was diagnosed with ALS. Rather than give up, Augie is more motivated than ever to finding a cure of this cruel disease. He reminds me that we all have a role in this life of ours and we have a choice whether or not we chose to fulfill it and how we do it. He is one of the most inspirational people I have ever met.
It's well-documented that you're an avid and accomplished runner, having completed a handful of marathons. Between waking up at the crack of dawn to get to the studio, constantly researching for the show and spending time with your family, how and when do you find the time to put those sneakers on?
I make time, you have to. Whether it's squeezing an hour here or there, after work or when I get home. I do it because the best thing you can give your family is being a healthy parent. I have to have energy too, chasing after two young boys, so if I don't stay healthy I wouldn't be able to keep up. My husband and I also trade off on the weekends when we get to go to the gym. We make fitness and health a part of our everyday living.
TODAY Show co-anchor and working mother Natalie Morales was interviewed by Jeana Lee Tahnk.  As a writer and professional photographer, Jeana's work and personal essays on parenting have appeared in high profile outlets as The Boston Globe, NPR's This I Believe and Woman's Day. She is also a public relations consultant with an agency in San Francisco. She currently splits her time between her dual careers of PR and writing from her home on the North Shore in Massachusetts.
If you enjoyed this Mommy Tracked interview with TODAY Show co-anchor Natalie Morales, check out our interviews with TODAY Show financial editor Jean Chatsky , Fox Business News anchor Alexis Glick , Extra's Dayna Devon  and Inside Edition's Deborah Norville .