Lisa Ling: Blending Motherhood and Investigative Reporting

By Elena Epstein


Lisa Ling, pictured with husband, Paul Song, and daughters Jett and Ray, says that with her busy schedule work-life balance just doesn’t exist. PHOTO COURTESY LISA LING

Lisa Ling loves to tell stories. As a mom, she has a daily ritual of cuddling with her two daughters and reading their favorite books. As an award-winning journalist she has told hard-hitting, investigative stories from around the globe. For years, I have watched and admired Ling, who has been a correspondent for “ABC World News Tonight,” the “Oprah Winfrey Show,” co-host of ABC’s “The View” and is now the executive producer and host of CNN Original Series, “This is Life with Lisa Ling.”

Ling’s new series covers such provocative topics as the lives of traveling strippers, life inside the largest jail in America, heroin addiction, sexual abuse and female MMA fighters. Ling, who lives in Santa Monica, is in many ways a typical working mom. Our chat began just after she dropped off her 3-old daughter, Jett, at summer camp. And we discussed the challenges many of us face as we blend work, motherhood and taking care of aging parents. However, I realized early on that Ling’s work-life blending can’t quite be called “ordinary,” as she casually mentioned the time she was pumping breast milk while riding in the back of a SWAT car.

How do you manage the demands of your CNN show and parenting a 3-year-old and a 5-month-old? 

The idea of work-life balance does not exist. It’s more like we are surviving. For us, it’s all hands on deck. Sometimes I travel eight to 10 days a month. My husband and I tag team and try not to be out of town at the same time. We also have great family support. My mom and my mother-in-law are at our house every day to help with the kids. When I’m not traveling, I’m with the kids—running errands, volunteering at the preschool.

Has your perspective on your family and culture shifted since you became a mom?

Definitely. Both my parents are immigrants and they worked really hard while my sister and I were growing up. I respect my parents more than ever now that I’m a parent. When I was young, I was embarrassed to be Chinese. I didn’t want to be different. But now I truly value my culture and it’s emphasis on taking care of each other.

How has your perspective on your career shifted?

I’ve been a free spirit my whole life. I’m curious and I need to tell stories and learn about how other people live and foster a better understanding of the lives of people different than us. I’m still very curious, but now I have two lives that I’m responsible for. I have more discretion than ever before.

Tell us about some typical family moments and some not so typical.

I was breastfeeding Jett for eight months and there were times that I had to FedEx containers of my milk from where I was reporting back home to feed my daughter. I have had to pump in the back of a SWAT car and some other unusual places. But when I’m not on assignment, life is pretty quiet. On the weekends, we have a family breakfast, go to the Santa Monica Pier or the zoo, take a nap in the afternoon and then go for a long walk in our neighborhood. And, of course, there is usually a birthday party or two to go to.

Do you have a mom mantra?

When I’m feeling frustrated, I always ask myself, “Am I doing the best that I can?” and then I try to let go of the guilt. When I’m happy and proud of the work I’m doing, I’m not bitter or angry. I’m excited to share what I’m doing with my kids.

“This is Life with Lisa Ling” airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on CNN.

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