The juggling act known as the Working Mom is hard enough for most of us. When you have a curious, energetic toddler, it's a challenge. When you have to wake up at 3:30 a.m. for work — an hour when you should be enjoying REM sleep — it starts to get a bit crazy. And when that job is cohost of Fox29's Good Day Philadelphia, a job under klieg lights that demands smart lifestyle reports, and perkiness, witty banter, and perkiness, and every strand of hair just so (did we mention perkiness?), well, that's pretty insane.
Sheinelle Jones lives that life now. But what really will make the 34-year-old's world a twin-size doozy is on the horizon — she's six months pregnant, with, yes, twins (a boy and a girl) due officially on Aug. 12, but expected sooner.
"That's the big challenge," Jones says on this Monday, "juggling everything, being a mommy and being awake. Moms do it every day. We're all going a mile a minute."
At 4-foot-11 plus twins, she can't help but look very pregnant — "I'm bigger now then when I was nine months," she says, referring to her 2½-year-old son, Kayin Ojeh. She's got the waddle going these days, as she moves around the newsroom and sips from a cup of water.
Jones has just wrapped her four hours on air and has 30 minutes of downtime — "a lunch break" at 10 a.m. — before a story meeting to go over the next day's hot topics and then touch up her makeup and tame the "random hairs" before a promo shoot for a new Fox29 show.
Her day ends about 11:30 a.m. Correction: Her paid workday ends about 11:30 a.m. "I'm exhausted," she says, noting that an anchor's job continues well after she steps away from the desk. She has to book guests, write her own copy, brainstorm ideas. It's tiring just hearing her tick off her responsibilities. But the next shift starts as she heads home to assume mommy duties. True, she has a nanny who helps out from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and the plan is to extend those hours until 4 p.m. once the twins arrive. Still, Jones has a full load to manage, by most estimates.
"It's crazy," agrees Karen Hepp, a colleague and coanchor who has two young children herself. "Because you're working the morning, it's always crazy getting up in the middle of the night. You're always tired."
Everyone keeps telling Jones she's going to need extra hands. Hepp is no exception. "It's going to be busy — and so much fun."
Jones naps a couple of hours these days, while Kayin takes his own rest, to make up for her interrupted sleep, what with the frequent trips to the facilities. "I lie down at noon and my heart is going boom-boom-boom," she says. Her OB's advice: "You need to act more like a princess."
That's not Jones, amiable and chatty both on and off the air, the kind of person who gets comfortable enough with a first-time visitor to offer a bear hug when she leaves.
Her afternoon whirls around Kayin. This day, the two are at a small park across from the Philadelphia Art Museum. Sometimes Jones and Kayin go to the Please Touch Museum or play with his blocks or read books, even as she squeezes in the usual household chores, the calls to set up appointments, the grocery run, dinner, bath, all before 8 p.m., when she collapses into bed. "I go to bed with my toddler," she says, laughing.
Jones doesn't normally like to ask for help or decline requests on her time, skills she is mastering as her due date approaches. "I'm learning to say 'no' and not feel guilty about it," she says.
But she isn't complaining, only acknowledging that parenting a toddler and, soon, twins while working the job she does takes a certain amount of energy and resolve.
She's always wanted children — three, actually (she just expected a bit more space between them, she says). "I think the good Lord said, here's three," she says.
And she's been waiting to work as an anchor since she was a fifth grader growing up in Wichita, Kan. Her mother still has the proof — a picture she drew of herself sitting behind a desk "with the hoop earrings and helmet hair and my hands folded in front."
After graduating from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, she did a couple of gigs in smaller, Midwestern markets, then came to Philadelphia in 2005 as a general-assignment reporter for Good Day. She was born in the city and family live here, including her father, U.S. District Judge C. Darnell Jones. Six years ago, she got the coanchor spot on Good Day.
Now, Jones wakes up before the birds (after hitting the snooze button twice) and leaves for the Fox29 studio at Third and Market Streets by 4:20 a.m. — a feat she manages by driving to work in her PJs some days, carrying her work clothes in tow. Her husband, Uche Ojeh, who works as a consultant, and Kayin are both sound asleep when she leaves.
At the studio, Jones puts on her face, dreamy false eyelashes included, and combs her soft curls into a more natural version of an anchor helmet, all by herself. No glam squad to powder her nose or tease her locks. "It's me and my curling iron," she says.
By 5:15 a.m., she's dressed — today it's a bargain blue denim piece with sparkly flats — and prepared to take her seat behind the Good Day desk at 5:42 a.m. She loves that one day she's talking about Hilary Clinton, the next about Kim Kardashian. "The only thing that stinks is waking up to the moon," she says.
On air, one of the segments is about Mother's Day this weekend and why it's such a big fuss. Jones has strong opinions about that.
"Moms do so much every day," she says.