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Rain or Shine

Our exclusive interview with Amy Sweezey

by Jennifer Hatcher
photography by Elisabeth Nixon Photography
styled by Sophie & Trey

Like many moms, meteorologist Amy Sweezey is an expert multi-tasker. A self-professed type-A, super-organized control freak, Amy wakes at 2 a.m. to juggle her career as a WESH-2 sunrise meteorologist and the big job of homeschooling her three children.

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We recently sat down with Amy to talk about being pregnant on-air, delivering a baby during a hurricane and how she manages a crazy work schedule and motherhood, and throughout our laughter-filled conversation, we learned even more from this down-to-earth mom.

The Moms Magazine: We read that you were pregnant during the big 2004 hurricane season. Anything you want to share with us about that?

Amy: Oh gosh! It was such a stressful time! It was Baby #1 for me, and she was born while Hurricane Jeanne was making landfall. So when Charley, Frances and Ivan all made landfall in the state of Florida, I was 8 – 9 months pregnant. Charley came through August 13, and then they all came through one right after the other over six weeks’ time.

There was a running bet in the newsroom of whether or not the pressure changes with the hurricanes would make me go into labor early. And actually, we had another meteorologist on staff at the same time who was also pregnant, and we were due on the exact same day. Bizarre-O! So we were both working during that time, wondering if anyone would go into labor.

But I didn’t. My baby was born on time, at the end of September. Everything was great. She was born at Arnold Palmer, but Winnie Palmer Hospital was under construction. We sat in the hospital bed looking out the windows watching pieces of plywood blow off the Winnie Palmer building, watching the winds from Hurricane Jeanne as it made landfall. It was crazy!

[After she was born] we were on lockdown. We were in the hospital for four days. The nurses weren’t allowed to leave. So it was a big party for four days. (laughs)

The Moms Magazine: And you did not name your daughter Jeanne?

Amy: (laughs) I did not, though her name does start with a “J.” But I had had enough of Jeanne. I did not need any more hurricane reminders.

The Moms Magazine: What was it like being pregnant on the air during a hurricane?

Amy: You’re on the air every 10 minutes, trying to find time to go to the bathroom, trying to eat, trying to sleep. You’re on these 12-hour shifts – 12 hours on, 12 hours off. And 12 hours on means you’re actually on TV for 12 hours. So you have to get to the station in time to get ready. And when you leave, you have to make sure the next shift is ready to go. So you’re really at work more like 14 to 15 hours, and then maybe you can make it home – if your road isn’t blocked by trees that have fallen down. It was a little stressful.

The Moms Magazine: Do those atmospheric changes really trigger labor, or is that an old wives’ tale?

Amy: Our doctor who was on-staff at the time assured me that it was just an old wives’ tale and that I didn’t need to be worried. However, there are lots of grandmas who disagree with him. So I don’t know.

The Moms Magazine: What special concerns might there be for women who are pregnant or new moms during hurricane season?

Amy Sweezey and three kids

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Amy: I think it’s especially scary when you know your due date is coming up in one or two days, and you have a cone of the hurricane’s path going right across your area. Women end up going to the hospital, and they end up being sent home because they’re not really in labor. And then they have to come back the next day. So that part is scary. I’d say just talk to your doctor and make sure you’re comfortable with the plan the hospital has.

The hospital is the safest place to be. They have food; they have electricity; all the doctors and nurses are on-staff and there. So that’s the safest place to be. It would be more concerning for me to be home with a newborn while a hurricane is making landfall.

The Moms Magazine: What extra precautions would a pregnant mom or new mom need to take during hurricane season? What extra items do they need for a hurricane kit?

Amy: My general rule of thumb is to play the what-if game. What if I didn’t have power for two days? What if, like in ’04, I didn’t have power for 10 days? How much water do I have? How many diapers would I need? Do I have enough cash? Do I have enough formula? Depending on your individual situation, you just have to play the what-if game.

The biggest thing, I think, is the electricity. You don’t realize how dependent you are on it, until you suddenly don’t have it.

The Moms Magazine: Do you have any creative ideas for what families with little children should include in their hurricane kits?

Amy: Favorite games and toys. Comfort things. I think we forget how scary it can be to a child.

In 2004, we boarded up our windows with Charley, and then we kept them boarded up because we knew Frances was coming, and then Jeanne. It was so dark and kind of depressing inside the house. And we were told, “Don’t go outside. They’re trying to clean up.” There were power lines down.

So just having some kind of entertainment would be good. Have games and toys ready, especially favorite, or even new ones.

Amy Sweezey

photography by Elisabeth Nixon Photography, styled by Sophie & Trey

The Moms Magazine: Let’s talk about being pregnant on the air. How was that?

Amy: You know, you have bad hair days and days when you just feel gross. And then when you’re pregnant, you feel just blech! The First time I was pregnant, I was doing mornings. I would go on the air and do the weather, run to the bathroom and throw up, and then come back and do my next hit. I felt great – you know, of course, after I barfed. I was sick for 16 weeks.

The Moms Magazine:  at would have to be challenging.

Amy: Yes, the morning sickness, the clothes, the weight gain. I was fortunate because I didn’t gain as much weight as some people do. But … you just don’t feel good – and then to be on TV in front of people every day. And I can’t hide behind the news-desk, like an anchor. I am shot from the knees up. So everyone sees your expanding belly.

Clothing was tough, and people are critical in general in the emails they send. I mean, some people are so wonderful and some people are just not. The emails people send on a daily basis – “What’s wrong with your hair?” “Those are horrible clothes!”

A couple weeks ago I got an email from a woman who has never seen in all of her years a highlight job as bad as mine. She said, “Please ask your boss for a raise, and please go get your highlights done.” So you sort of develop a tough skin. But you’re emotional when you’re pregnant. And then people say, “You need to stay behind the desk.” Or “You’re blocking the map with your stomach.”

I had one email when I was pregnant the first time from one guy that was just rude. “You need to stay behind the desk with your big, fat belly.” Usually I just delete those, but that day I sent it to my boss, a boss who is no longer here. And he actually responded to that guy. Generally they won’t respond either, but he responded to that guy and said just really nice things – “We are proud of Amy and we’re excited about her baby, and we don’t want her to hide behind the desk.” It was just really nice. That helped.

The Moms Magazine: Do you get recognized out and about? Do people approach you?

Amy: Sometimes. It depends on where you are. Sometimes people will stare at you because you look familiar. They’ll be like, “Do you have kids at Lake Mary Elementary?” (laughs) “You look so familiar. I thought I saw you at a PTA meeting.”

So they know I look familiar but they can’t quite place me. If they’re big WESH watchers, they know exactly who I am. But if they don’t watch our channel, then they have no clue.

The Moms Magazine: I would guess people talk to you because they feel like they know you.

Amy: Yes, sometimes. Or people comment on the weather. “Did you call for this rain?” (laughs)

There are some rude people, but there are so many great people who will say, “Hey, I loved your dress today! Where’d you get it?” Or something like that, and that feels good.

The Moms Magazine: How long did you have off work after your babies were born?

Amy: I took the full 12 weeks I was allowed by the Family Medical Leave Act. It’s not all paid, but I was allowed to take it, so I took the full amount.

With the first one, I thought, “I’m not going to need that much time.” But oh my goodness! I didn’t want to leave the house for the first 10 weeks! I don’t even think I took a shower for five weeks! (laughs) Especially nursing, I needed all 12 weeks!

The Moms Magazine: So you breastfed?

Amy: I did, but only for three months. Because when I came back to work, I knew there was no way I could do it. I am so thrilled I did it, but I couldn’t do it once I came back. I do my hair and makeup at home because as soon as I hit the door, it is all weather. I do the forecast and create the graphics. I don’t have time to do anything else; I barely have time to go to the bathroom. So to think about having to pump! It would have been too di cult. So I chose to stop at three months, and it worked for me.

The Moms Magazine: Did you feel a lot of pressure to lose the weight in that 12-week maternity leave each time?

Amy: I did, but only because I knew if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have a wardrobe. I knew I needed to fit back into my TV clothes. When I first came back, I hadn’t lost it all; but I just wore my bigger suits and some maternity clothes and tried really hard to get the weight off so I could get back in my TV clothes. Because otherwise, yes, it would have been much easier to just not worry about it.

The Moms Magazine: So do you have a stylist here or do you style yourself?

Amy: Back in the day, we used to have a makeup artist. But with the economy, that was one of the first things to go. So we do our own hair; we do our own makeup. We pay for our own haircuts; we pay for our own makeup; we pay for our own clothes.

We do have consultants who will come in and give us advice and say, “These colors look best on you and  x your makeup this way.” And over the years, you kind of learn what looks good and what doesn’t. But we are all on our own.

The Moms Magazine: What time do you come in each day?

Amy: I wake up at 2 a.m. and get here by 3:30 a.m. Now, my kids are little so it works out okay now because they go to bed early too. If they were in high school, it would be a lot harder to go to their games or whatever and do this.

The Moms Magazine: So what is bedtime for you?

Ice cream for Amy Sweezey's kids!

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Amy: For me, my goal is 6 p.m. because I need eight hours of sleep. But it usually ends up being 7 – 8 p.m. by the time I end up falling asleep. And ever since I had three babies, my clock, my hormones, getting older, whatever it is – I don’t sleep well, so I wake up several times each night.

The Moms Magazine: What is your favorite part of your job?

Amy: Not waking up at 2 a.m., I know that much! (smiles)

I love weather. I kind of fell into this by accident. This is not what I planned originally in college. I wanted to do news; I wanted to be a reporter. But once I started working in news, I really didn’t like it.

So I was like, “How am I going to do news, but not be the bad guy and go put a microphone in a mom’s face whose child has just died or been kidnapped, asking, “How do you feel?” (groan) I just could not. That was not me. It didn’t work with my personality. I give kudos to the people who can do it, but I discovered that I couldn’t.

So then I’m like, “Okay, now what am I going to do?”

I actually started training with a meteorologist at a TV station where I was working. And he was like, “You should think about weather. It’s fun; it’s challenging; it’s always changing; there’s not a lot of women in the science field.”

So at that point, I was like, “Okay, you know what, I am going to pursue this.” So I actually went back to college to get my weather training and haven’t looked back since.

I really do love weather. I love that it’s always changing. I love weather in Florida. It’s important here. Things you say do matter because we have tornadoes here and we have hurricanes. It’s not just another sunny and 70 degree day, even though people up North think it is. (laughs)

The Moms Magazine: When you’re at home, do you watch The Weather Channel? Are you all weather, all the time? Or are you sick of it when you leave here?

Amy: No, I used to be because I had time to be. But now, once I leave here, it’s all about my kids and my family. It’s about how to get the math homework done and not about the thunderstorm clouds.

The Moms Magazine: Are your kids aware that Mommy’s on TV?

Amy: They are, but I don’t know if they really get it.

The Moms Magazine: Do they get to watch you in the mornings?

Amy: They do prefer The Disney Channel, so they don’t always watch. But sometimes when I come home, they tell me they saw me on TV.

The Moms Magazine: What are their ages?

Amy: My oldest daughter is in 2nd grade; she’s 7. My son is in kindergarten; he’s 5. And then my youngest daughter is 4, and she’ll go to PreK in the fall. They are each 19 months apart.

The Moms Magazine: Do you have any favorite tools or tips you have found helpful as a working mom that keeps your family routine and your life owing?

Amy: I am super-organized, which helps. I think planning is the key. Even things like planning my meals. By Sunday, I know at least three days’ worth of dinners that we’re having that week, if not five. Because if I come home from work and I’m exhausted and I have three little kids, the last thing I can deal with is starting from scratch, “What are we going to have for dinner?”

On the weekends, I try to plan all the meals, do the grocery shopping, get the meat cooked, get the vegetables cut up, whatever. So on Tuesday, I just throw it in the crock pot or throw it in the oven, so that’s one less thing I have to think about every day. That’s a big one for me.

The Moms Magazine: You come to the TV station by 3:30 a.m. in the morning, is that what you said?

Amy: Yes, I leave home by 3 a.m. And our show is on from 4:30 – 9 a.m. straight. We’re on NBC from 4:30 – 7 a.m. and from 7 – 9 a.m. on The CW.

On a normal day, I work basically 3 a.m. until 11 a.m. And then the dayside guy comes in and takes over. But any time someone is off, I stay to cover the noon show, which is what I’m doing today. So about 50% of the time, my 3 – 11 a.m. schedule ends up being 3 a.m. to 12:30 or 1 p.m.

And, of course, whenever there is severe weather or a hurricane, all bets are off. You come in early and stay late. That means you need a really good support system at home when you have three kids and wake up at 2 a.m. in the morning.

The Moms Magazine: You miss the morning routine with the kids, so does your husband do all that?

Amy: My husband does hair. It’s not always a pretty sight. (laughs)

Thank goodness they wear uniforms to school and we pick out the clothes the night before. We pack lunches the night before.

So, I do miss out on that in the morning. But the great thing is that I’m home in the afternoon. I’m home when they get home.I am home in the evening. I’m home to do schoolwork. I’m home to do dinner. And if I worked 9 to 5, I’d miss out on all that afternoon stuff.

There’s really no good schedule in TV. And it’s hard for any working mom, regardless of whether you wake up at 2 a.m. or 6 a.m.

The Moms Magazine: Your husband adjusts well to your waking up at 2 in the morning?

Amy: He is self-employed, which is the only way we have been able to figure this out. And he has cut his hours back, so he basically works part-time so that he can accommodate my schedule. He can be home in the morning, get the kids to school, then when I get home, he will leave for work or he will try to work on the weekends or only work a few days a week. So that helps a lot. If he worked a normal, Monday through Friday, 9 to 5 job, there is no way we could do this.

The Moms Magazine: Every family has to figure out what works for them.

Amy: Right. And it changes. I have only been back on mornings for two years. Before that, when I had a different schedule, it was different. And so you just continue to adjust as your family life changes and your kids get older. It was different when the kids were babies. Now that they’re at this stage, we just figure it out as we go along.

I also homeschool my kids part-time. Two days a week we homeschool, and two days a week they go to school. I do most of the homeschooling, and my husband does most of the face-time at the school – the drop-offs, pick-ups, field trips, etc. We work together and have figured out a system that works for both of us.

The Moms Magazine: So you really do have flexibility with your schedule!

Amy: On the school days, my husband will take them to school. If they went to school until 3 or 3:30 p.m., by the time they got home and had dinner, I’d be going to bed. So on the homeschool days, even though our time spent together is doing schoolwork, I am with them for all those hours.

It’s a cool concept because they get the best of both worlds. Your homeschool days are essentially homework, and your kids are going to do homework anyways.

Amy Sweezey, meteorologist

Amy Sweezey, meteorologist

And Friday is the free day – you can send them to the organized P.E. – basketball or dance or whatever – or you can do your own thing and be off on Fridays.

A lot of people think homeschooling is weird. I used to think that. But this works great for us, and we love the school. It’s what works for us, for now.

The Moms Magazine: You are Supermom!

Amy:(laughing) Oh, sometimes I just sit and cry. Once in a while. You know how that is.

The Moms Magazine: With multiple things going on at once, do you think your meteorologist job has helped you better handle being a more go-with-the-flow, multi-tasker as a mom? Or do you think being a mom has helped you handle your studio life better?

Amy: Both. Absolutely! I have always been a Type-A control freak, organized, all my ducks in a row. But when you have three kids, you have to let things go. Sometimes, the house gets messy. Everything can’t be perfect all the time. That’s just the way it’s going to be. So you make your priorities, and you have to let some things go.

That has absolutely helped loosen me up here at work, too. So if one particular weather graphic doesn’t get made, it’s okay. Life will go on. Everything will be fine.


Follow Amy Sweezey on Facebook (amy.sweezey) and on Twitter (@amysweezey).


Originally posted May, 2012

1 Comment

  1. Jesse Turner says:

    Amy is an amazing woman and a perfect mom to be featured in your magazine and she really looks beautiful in her Sophie & Trey outfits!

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