Two hours and a few bags packed with toddler essentials later, WFAA anchor Shelly Slater and the rest of her family manage to make their way to her “office” (aka TV station in downtown Dallas) for our photo shoot. With an ample supply of Cheez-Its at her disposal, the mom of two successfully persuades sons Hutcheson (3 1/2 years) and Hawkins (15 months) not to get their shirts dirty or dive into other sorts of mischief that all tots seem to be adept at. “Bribery is not out of the question,” Slater jokes.
Happy to be a hands-on mom and successful news anchor (appearing on the 4 and 6pm news), Slater proves that with a lot of multitasking and bit of humor, it is possible to get the best of both worlds.
Recalling her days as a broadcast journalism major back at the University of Missouri-Columbia, the Dallas resident (Slater grew up in Plano) humbly admits that she’s had her share of rookie maneuvers. “I had amazing blooper reels back in the day, and I’m just thankful YouTube wasn’t around at the time,” she quips. “Anything you do wrong these days … it sticks. And when you’re starting out, you do make mistakes.”
The now-seasoned journalist and Lone Star EMMY award winner has come a long way from those flub-filled TV-station sessions during her time at Mizzou. Since 2006, Slater has been delivering the news on Channel 8 like a pro.
But behind the scenes, when the cameras aren’t rolling, she shifts gears to her other full-time job: motherhood. Fulfilled in a completely different way, Slater is all smiles when it comes to sharing tidbits about her dynamic duo.
“Boys love their moms,” Slater opines. “There’s just something about that. I don’t know what it is — the gravitational pull to the mother for little boys. Hutcheson just wants to be with me and I want to be with him. He is very mommy-esque and he mimics my every move … Hawkins is the complete polar opposite!”
Slater’s mid-morning to early evening work schedule is an enviable one. “I go to work at 11am, so I’ll take Hutcheson to school and we’ll play in the morning beforehand; then I’ll have my alone time with Hawkins [after Hutcheson has been dropped off],” she shares. “I come home at 6:45pm”
Home just in time to join her family for dinner, Slater cherishes these moments around the table. It’s also during this time that she and Hutcheson can pull a fast one on dad Clay Huffstutter — a recent grad of the Executive MBA program at SMU who also works for a commercial real estate advisory firm — with their bilingual skills.
Hutcheson is a student at a Spanish immersion preschool, while Slater has long been able to communicate almost fluently, having studied the language for eight years.
Unfortunately for Dad, he’s out of the loop in a conversation or two since he’s not proficient in the language. “It’s really funny,” Slater explains, “Clay will say, ‘Is he talking trash about me? What’s he saying?’” All in good fun, it’s a great way to practice speaking outside of the classroom. Hawkins will follow on the same path as his big brother when he goes to school in the summer.
On most days this schedule is typical for Slater. Most days. Between bombings, wild weather, presidential visits and everything else, the news doesn’t adhere to normal business hours and, naturally, Slater has to follow suit.
Take the string of extraordinary events from last year, for instance. “In the first two months after being back from maternity leave after Hawkins was born, so many large things happened,” Slater recalls. “There was the West [fertilizer] explosion, so I was on air until 3 a.m., and then the Boston Marathon bombing. Then there was the severe weather. It felt like every day there was something keeping me from taking a breath.”
Because of the erratic nature of Slater’s job, she makes sure that her children understand where she’s coming from. She shares, “Hutcheson really likes coming to work with me, and I think it’s good for him to see where I go because he does struggle with me working sometimes. There’ll be days when I come home and he’ll say, ‘Where have you been?’ And I’ll say I had to work like always. And he’ll say, ‘Let me see.’ I’ll have to pull myself up on the DVR to show him I was there [at work], that I wasn’t just off getting a manicure.”
Though her job may sound glamorous, Slater admits that’s not always the case — not when all you want to do at the end of the day is see your family. Balancing work and home is definitely a challenge that keeps her on her toes; however, both aspects tend to complement one another. “Going to work sometimes is almost a break, but it’s good because then when I come home, I am just chomping at the bit … and they’re so excited [to see me],” says Slater. “I take off my makeup on the way home, change my clothes immediately and am on the ground playing with them the second I get home.”
This casual state of play continues on the weekends, as well. Ironically enough, Slater, who admits she has obsessive-compulsive tendencies, lets weekends unfold without too much structure or planning. In fact, not planning Saturdays and Sundays was one of her New Year’s resolutions — perhaps the first resolution she’s actually kept. From bike rides to hiking at nearby parks, Slater prefers to keep her family’s agenda simple and carefree.
Like the news Slater reports about at work, the occurrences she comes across as a parent are just as varied and sometimes even more hard-hitting. Slater divulges, “This motherhood thing is multifaceted. It’s exhausting and it’s absolutely wonderful. It’s everything. It’s like on any given day you can feel 20 different emotions.”
Published May 2014