Lee Woodruff on Being "Perfectly Imperfect" [Be Inkandescent Magazine, March 2011]
By Hope Katz Gibbs
Be Inkandescent Magazine
Lee Woodruff is no stranger to the limelight. The wife of well-known ABC News correspondent Bob Woodruff — the reporter who in 2006 suffered a traumatic brain injury while covering the War in Iraq — is a contributor to “Good Morning America,” a former senior vice president of the PR firm Porter Novelli, a contributor to Health, Redbook, Country Living and Prevention magazines, and a spokesperson for “Family Fun” on TV and radio, where she discusses parenting and family life.
When Bob began recovering from his injury, they penned “In An Instant: A Family’s Journey of Love and Healing,” an eloquent, candid description of what happened in Iraq, and the struggles the couple and their children faced as Bob recovered.
In 2009, the mother of four published her second book, “Perfectly Imperfect: A Life in Progress,” where she shares deeply personal and uproariously funny stories highlighting topics such as family, marriage, friends, and how life never seems to go as planned.
While most women reserve such discussions for girls-night-out with their gal pals, Woodruff bravely shares it in print. Her friends, in turn, took a turn to review the book. Actress Jamie Lee Curtis called Lee, “a modern-day truth teller.” Journalist Liz Smith likened Lee’s writing to “Nora Ephron + Erma Bombeck.”
In An Instant
Be Inkandescent Magazine recently sat down with Lee Woodruff to talk about her life today—as a working woman juggling book tours and speaking engagements, a family of teenagers, and a husband who is still healing. Would she change anything, and what advice does she have for women facing challenges?
Be Inkandescent: The definition of what it means to be powerful has changed over the years. Whereas women once had the goal of being “Superwoman,” I think most of us now simply strive to have a super day. Talk about what it means to you to be a powerful woman in today’s workforce.
Lee Woodruff: I think women wear so many different hats today that we never quite feel powerful in all areas—at least, not at the same time. When we are doing great at work, we know we are dropping the ball at home, and visa versa. The challenge for me is one of acceptance.
Like so many women, I’m trying to have a successful career as a writer and public speaker, be a great mom and wife, be actively involved with the Bob Woodruff Family Foundation’s Remind.org, be a good friend, and find my own sense of joy. It’s a lot. And if I am doing so many things, how do I do them all well? The truth is that I don’t do them all well all of the time, and I need to make peace with that.
Be Inkandescent: So instead of always feeling that we are falling short, we should forgive ourselves that we can’t be good at everything at all times. I honestly think that if more of us did that, we’d be happier—and so would our families, employees, and the world at large.
Lee Woodruff: I agree. To me, being powerful is having a sense of inner peace. When I’m speaking at engagements around the country, this topic comes up and sometimes I say something that is not always what women want to hear. It is that I don’t think you can have two people with two big fabulous careers, ones that take time and travel, if you want to be involved in raising your kids day to day. Let’s be honest—if you and your spouse both travel to Singapore every month to close deals, someone needs to be home to make sure the homework is done, grades are kept up, and they have a parent in the audience at the school play, football game, or orchestra concert. But that’s just my opinion.
Be Inkandescent: So you don’t think women can “have it all?” That will likely come as a relief to a lot of women juggling careers and families.
Lee Woodruff: I guess it comes down to how you define having it all. I always wanted to be a mom, so I was happy to take the back seat to Bob’s career. I have always had my own work, of course. And in the early years when he was getting started, I brought home the bacon. But the beauty of being a writer is that I can do it anytime, from anywhere.
Truth be told, I love picking up the kids at 3, and being there for the special moments when I can. And you never know when they’ll come to you—when your teenager will finally open up, or your 10-year-old will get the highest grade in the class on a test, or score a goal on the soccer field. Those moments are the stuff of life. If Bob and I had both had successful TV careers where we were dispatched at a moment’s notice to cover breaking events all around the world, one or both of us would have missed a lot of precious milestones. To me, that’s too big of a price to pay for a successful career.
But, again, that’s me. I think it’s up to every woman to make those choices for themselves, and then be happy with their decisions. But you have to recognize that you’ll have moments when you feel guilty, or you feel that you have fallen short. That’s just the reality of this juggling act.
Be Inkandescent: Your wonderful honesty comes through in your latest book, “Perfectly Imperfect,” which was just released in paperback. The same is true of “In An Instant,” the book you wrote with Bob when he was recovering from the accident.
But in this new book you seem so willing to be vulnerable—describing everything from your aging body, and coping with the depression and anxiety that comes with grief, to dealing with infertility, teenagers, and your deep love for your Lanz of Salzburg pajamas. Are you ever concerned about speaking so candidly?
Lee Woodruff: I figured why write a book if I was going to give them pablum. I believe that when you show your vulnerability, you also show your strength.
No one wants to see a perfect example of what it means to have it all together. Not only is there is no such thing—it puts a wall up between you and the audience. I’d rather be honest, because it’s a privilege to write and speak about things that we all are experiencing. It makes me feel better to know that we are all just like one another, and I think that’s true for most people.