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Maria Shriver Opens Up About Love and Loss

In an AARP exclusive, she discusses motherhood, living alone and "the power of the pause"

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05 Jan 2007; Sacramento, CA, USA; California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, with wife Maria Shriver, is sworn in for his second term during an inaguration ceremony in Sacramento. (Photo Credit: Krista Kennell/Sipa Press/AP Images)

2007: Maria Shriver and husband Arnold Schwarzenegger, then the governor of California. — AP Images

There’s an obvious connection to your upcoming “Shriver Report.” 

MS: Seventy million women and the children who depend on them are living in or on the brink of poverty in America.

At The Women’s Conference we had these power women discussing “Can I have it all?” I started to think about the women who are left out of that discussion. They’re immersed, doing it all and looking around, saying, “Where’s the help? How are we supposed to make it?” They’re not invited to the power conferences. They barely have time to wash their hair! I wanted to find out what those women need, what we could do differently.

So much of your work seems to be aimed at bringing about positive change in people’s lives. 

MS: I’m really big on elevating people. I always say to my kids, “Our job here is to elevate each other. The world knocks you down.” I like that to be my work. That’s what I feel I’m good at.

Not too long ago you spoke at Katherine’s college graduation about “the power of the pause,” the importance of stopping and evaluating where you are in life. Have you always been able to do that?

MS: No, no. I’ve had to work hard at that. Sometimes people will say to me, “Remember that?” And I’ll think, “I don’t.” I was going so fast that I don’t remember that at all. My path was so focused on journalism. I’ve worked to understand that I’m not my job, that things change beyond your control, that I am not worthy because of what I do. I tell my children that your worth comes from esteeming yourself.

It’s tough to change those long-held patterns.

MS: But you can. My kids go, “This is hard.” I’m like, “Well, did somebody give you an easy card?” And “Hard,” as I say to my kids, “builds esteem.”

So just how do you build your esteem?

MS: First, you have to slow your life down to find out if you’re actually living the life you are meant to live. Are you just gliding? Are you a dead woman or dead man walking? I know a lot of people who talk about being that. They hate their jobs, their lives. It’s such a sad commentary on our society. I was not brought up to put myself first, but you have to — because if you’re not whole, you’re not going to be a good mother, a good partner, you’re not going to be good at your job. 

It’s your job to know who you are. What do you value? What’s your mission? What makes you happy? It’s your job to figure that out today, because that’s really what you’re supposed to be doing here.

How did you learn to do these things yourself?

MS: [Rolls her eyes.] A lot of reading, talking, listening. And pain teaches you a lot of this stuff, too.

How much does faith play a role in your life?

MS: It's critical. But it's a faith in God, in a higher power, and a faith in yourself, that you will survive.

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