For those of us that have been MTV fans since the 1980's, Liz Gately may just be the coolest mom we have featured thus far. Liz is Senior Vice President of Series Development at MTV and the woman behind the insanely addicative and tremendously popular Laguna Beach and The Hills, among a number of other high profile shows. As Liz thoughtfully points out in our interview, the grass always seems greener in your neighbor's yard. But we have to say Liz's grass seems awfully green. We might just want to be her.
Liz Gately lives in Manhattan with her husband and her three kids: Isabella, age 5, Gabby age 3, and Finn, age 1.
Tell us a little about your job developing shows at MTV.
My job is incredibly exciting and fulfilling but also difficult because it’s full-time and, therefore, takes me away from my kids. My title is Senior Vice President of Series Development at MTV. What that means is I get to create ideas for shows as well as hear people pitch me ideas for TV shows. I’ve worked on a wide array of shows, from Laguna Beach and The Hills to Run’s House and Human Giant. Once we hear the idea, it’s about putting the right bodies on it.
Do you work exclusively in the office, exclusively from home or some combination? What are the pros and cons of your schedule?
I work in an office. I’ve tried to work at home, but since most of my job involves watching TV and my kids aren’t allowed to watch TV during the day, it doesn’t really work. I have a very supportive boss and a great group of people I work with who cover me when I need to go to a school function or doctor’s appointment.
What are the best and worst parts of your job?
The most difficult part of my job is you can spend a year or two of your life developing and then producing a great show but when it hits air, the viewers don’t embrace it. Or it gets scheduled up against a huge hit on another network and never really gets a shot. But it happens. The best part of my job is I laugh every day, get to be creative, and get to meet very interesting, fun people.
Would you still work if you could afford to stay home full time with your kids? If so, why?
On a bad day, I would say stay home, in a heartbeat. On a good day, I’d say I’d work anyway. My kids are young and their questions and issues are easier to answer. As they get older, I may need to be around more. So I’ll keep my options open.
Describe your childcare setup.
I have 2 people that help make our family work. Merna, who has been with me since my first child was born, is the most incredible caretaker. She is patient and loving, hooks my kids up with playdates and moms trust her to do so on my behalf (so my kids don’t suffer from having a working mom) and she is flexible time-wise as her kids are grown and her husband is very understanding. I recently hired a second full-time person, Magda, who is great with the kids too. Once I had 3 kids, it was too much for one person.
How do you and your husband divide the domestic workload?
We all know men can’t multitask. I do have a great husband who is amazing with my kids, but I do most everything. He pays most bills and is great with computers, keeping things working. But I organize everything at home from what classes the kids are signed up for to what kind of toothpaste we have, to paying our cleaning lady every week and taking dry cleaning in.
How often do you get to sit down for meals with your kids?
I have dinner with my kids only 2 days a week but I try to sit and have breakfast with them even though getting ready for school is crazy. I work entertainment hours which is 10-7 so my time is in the am with them, but I can’t catch dinner. When their stomachs can hang on a little later, we can dine together.
Do you have a formal or informal support group of friends that you rely on for support?
YES! I have one working mom in my eldest daughter’s class that is a huge support. Our meetings and confidences take place impromptu and by e-mail when we really need to connect on something. But I find the non-working moms to be just as supportive because I don’t think anyone is 100% happy with their choice to work or to stay home. Everyone longs for what the other has. I respect moms tremendously who stay at home. And they respect my decision. I think that is the beauty of NYC—you wouldn’t find that everywhere.
In your workplace, do you feel comfortable talking to your supervisors about your kids and family life, or do you try to keep those spheres of existence separate? If so, why?
My first year at MTV I had a baby and I think I shocked everyone when I mentioned I had to pump. I work with mostly guys and single girls at the senior level. But I feel comfortable talking about my kids. I do know people who work on Wall Street who cannot mention anything about their families for fear they’ll be perceived as less focused than their younger, single co-workers.
What types of activies do your kids participate in? How do you manage the carpooling?
Soccer, ballet, music are main things now. My babysitters take them in taxis.
What is the one thing you vowed you would never do when you had kids that you find yourself doing?
Talking about them so much. Boooring for people who don’t have kids.
Do you have a date night?
We don’t have a date night. We talk about a date night, but we are usually too exhausted to make it happen.
What do you do when you feel totally overwhelmed?
Hug my kids. They always make me feel better.
Do you feel that you have made parental sacrifices to be a better parent or parental sacrifices to be a better professional?
In individual instances, I’ve missed out on an opportunity to schmooze with a senior manager because I had to go home, but on a macro level, I feel like I’m respected for trying to do it all and am lucky to work in an environment that values family. Viacom does own Nickelodeon after all! So far, I have yet to miss anything that ripped my heart out because I wasn’t there. But on a macro-level, I am missing out on nuances, like the excitement on my 3-year-old’s face at pickup from pre-school. I missed first steps and other important moments for every one of my children.
Describe your worst working mom moment.
The first time your child has the words to say “Mommy, please don’t go to work.”
What is your favorite thing to do with your kids?
Lay in bed with them. We have a giant, king size bed that sleeps all 5 of us comfortably.
Do you ever take your kids to work? Do you think they realize what a cool job their mom has? Do you think they are proud?
I take them every few months. There are 2-3 great floors at Viacom that are all Nickelodeon, so they think it’s so cool that I work where Dora the Explorer “lives.” They’ve had the chance to sit in the real Blues Clues chair and get to see all the latest gadgets. So yes, absolutely they think it’s cool and are proud. Their teachers watch a couple of my shows, so that’s always funny for me.
Describe a typical morning and evening in your house.
Morning is total chaos. Evening is about quality time—cuddling, reading a book, and kids get a story from me every night from my youth, usually about me and my sister—it has to be a NEW story every night.
What websites do you visit everyday and why?
Gawker.com and YouTube because I need to know what’s going on.
Do you exercise? If so, how often
Only in summer—Tennis every weekend with a group of moms.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received about balancing work and family?
You have to do what works for your family.
Need another reality TV fix after reading our interview with MTV's Liz Gately? Check out our interviews with Extreme Makeover Home Edition's Tracy Hutson  and Home Sweet Hollywood's Tori Spelling .