Photo by David Uhrin
If you watched the morning show on WAVY-TV 10 any time between 2004 and 2014, you probably recognize Cheryl Tan. For 10 years, Tan woke up at 2 a.m. and began her work day at the television station at 4 a.m. And for a long time, it was a good fit.
“All I’d ever done up till that point was TV news. My career has always been reporting and anchoring, and the crazy schedules that come with that industry,” says Tan.
When the mother of three young boys landed a spot on the morning show at WAVY, it was a blessing. Her kids were young, so the early bed times and wake ups made things manageable. Tan’s husband would put the kids to bed at night and get them ready in the morning, but Tan was able to be home with them from afternoon to evening.
But things changed when Tan’s sons got a bit older. Suddenly there were after-school activities, sports games, swim meets—practices and performances that sometimes began after Tan had to be in bed. Clocking out at 8 p.m. and starting her day at 2 a.m. stopped making sense. That’s when Tan began looking for ways to take her 20 years of TV experience and build a business. She announced her departure from WAVY-TV in May 2014.
That was three years ago. Tan now is the successful owner of a video marketing and media strategy company that bears her name. Cheryl Tan Media began as a public relations company, but Tan has since refined her focus to hone in on a segment of the market she is truly passionate about: business owners and entrepreneurs. Her growing company helps businesses determine their messaging, provides training for their digital media strategy, and helps them create videos to market their organizations.
The transition from anchoring an early morning television program to running a business has been both a blessing and a challenge for Tan.
“I didn’t have balance before. I worked overnight, I slept when I could. That’s the nature of the beast. Anything that isn’t that—is balance to me,” Tan says with a chuckle. “Having balance is so important. For me, it’s still not necessarily typical. Do I work nights and weekends? Sometimes. But now I can schedule my work around my family. If my child has an event, I get my work done so I can be there.”
Still, a typical day for Tan is pretty regimented, and her schedule is very much tied to her children’s school day. Her boys are now 14, 12 and 9, and busier than ever. So Tan does the bulk of her work, especially meetings, during school hours.
“I try to be very clear with the people I meet that there are times that work and times that don’t. I try to be at home when the kids are, whenever possible. It doesn’t happen all the time, but I do my best,” says Tan. “I know a lot of people who feel like they have to drop everything for work. In my experience, that just leads to burnout.”
Tan has been a working mom for 14 years, and she’s no stranger to the challenges of the balancing act. She remembers one point in time when two of her boys were in diapers at once. Coming home from work was like starting a second job.
“I think a lot of women feel that way, no matter what time they go to work. When is the hamster wheel going to end? They can end up feeling isolated, feeling like everything falls on them,” says Tan.
“I would just encourage moms to seek support from one another. And know that you’re not alone. And this time when your kids are little? It does end. It’s the craziest thing. And then you wonder how it went by so quickly.”