Counting Her Blessings
In general, she says, it's been harder for her than for Richard to give the
kids freedom since they've become teenagers. "Especially with driving,"
she says, "which is the first big step in going away. In a way, having him
leave for college was easier than having him learn to drive." Now she's
giving lessons to Gabriel, who's just turned 16. "We're still in the
parking lot stage," Vieira says. "Maybe we could stay there."
Her relationship with 14-year-old Lily is "really lovely," she says.
"She's serious about stuff, on the shy side, and she has a head on her
shoulders. She has Richard's gift for writing and she's interested in theater.
She has a beautiful voice — we don't know how that happened." Vieira
worries about whether her daughter will grow away from her — "because I
went through that stage with my mom." The two of them talk openly and
candidly. "She knows everything about me. My mom was part of an older
generation. When I was at the age when I would get my first period, a Kotex box
appeared in the mail with a pamphlet she'd written away for. So Lil and I have
always talked. I'm hoping, as she gets older, we stay close."
A fierce nurturing instinct and a healthy competitive drive seem to coexist
comfortably in Vieira. Her consistent, rock-steady commitment to family has
always, it seems, defined, if not trumped, her impressive accomplishments as a
journalist. Illustrating the paradox that strength can be soft and softness
strong, this is a woman at once stiff of spine and marshmallow of heart.
"I'm a mother first," she says. "I didn't always know that, but
when I was put to the test, I figured it out about myself."
In 1989, already a successful television journalist, Vieira was offered a
job as a correspondent on 60 Minutes. Having mourned three
miscarriages, she took then-4-month-old Ben to lunch with Don Hewitt, the
show's creator and executive producer, and left with an agreement that she'd
work part-time at home and part-time in the office, sometimes with Ben. That
flexibility wouldn't last. When Vieira turned down an assignment that required
flying (she was pregnant with Gabe), the chill at 60 Minutes grew
frostier, and a line was drawn. In 1991, Vieira left, choosing family over fame
until The View tapped her for its on-air ensemble in 1997.
Perhaps because she has lived through public dissections of her own career
choices, she's quick to defend Katie Couric, the subject of negative media
scrutiny since taking over the CBS Evening News and failing to lift
the show out of third place. "I think it's unfair to be put under the
microscope the way she has, and I feel bad for her," Vieira says.
"Things don't turn around overnight." Vieira says she knows how hard it
is to move to a new job and get your feet planted. "There's a learning
curve, and an acceptance curve, with everything. They hype and hype, then at
the first sign of slippage, people start to write stories."