Chatting with Danita Harris seems a bit like catching up with that old high school friend, the one who’s always got your back and doesn’t put on pretenses. You come away from the conversation feeling like you’ve just gotten a pep talk, all while laughing your way through the gabfest. Harris’ approachable vibe is no doubt a big reason why she’s become a favorite among local news anchors.
At 5, 6 and 11 p.m. on News 5 Cleveland-WEWS, viewers can listen in as Harris shares the news of the day — both national headlines and local happenings — Monday through Friday.
Harris often doesn’t make it home until midnight at the earliest. Still, her alarm is set for 7:30 a.m. for her favorite part of the day: “Chase time.”
“For me, it’s the only time of the day during the week where I get to see my son, Chase, so I cherish that time,” Harris says about her adopted son, who recently turned 8.
With a busy schedule that includes the newscasts, speaking engagements, community events, her own ministry (S.H.I.N.E.) and being a mom, Harris often is asked how she manages it all. She shares how she fills all her roles, including her favorite one: Mom.
She sets aside quality time with her son.
Mornings are all about Chase, according to Harris, because during the week that’s the only time she has to spend with him — so she makes the most of it.
“I look forward to that every day, the time we have together,” says Harris, who maintains a playful ritual she’s had with Chase since he was a baby — when she’d distract him to wipe his nose by showering him with kisses.
“We call it our sugar, booger and hug time. I’m always asking him questions, too, like ‘How was your day yesterday?’ and ‘What happened at school?’ Since I don’t see him after school, that’s my first chance to check in with him. We play, I tickle him. It’s our special time — that one hour and 15 minutes before he gets on the bus.”
Harris makes the most of those times, even if she’s only had four hours of sleep — or less. “Sometimes it takes a while to unwind when I get home from work, so it could be 2 a.m. before I can get to sleep — but once 7:30 hits, I’m there for him.”
She admits it can be tough not to be there when Chase gets home from school, so sometimes they Facetime when she’s at work.
She finds strength in her mom’s example.
“My mom is a very strong woman,” Harris says. “Strong and driven. She was that story of the woman who worked her way from the mailroom into the boardroom.”
Her mother, Mattie Harris, a businesswoman and CEO in Cleveland, taught Danita the importance of hard work. “She always instilled in me that you can do anything you want with hard work and determination. I’ve seen it in her life.”
But she also divulges that her mom had a soft side, too. “I could always go to her and tell her stuff. Things I didn’t always tell my dad — she’d bail me out.”
Today her parents, who live in Strongsville, are very involved in her life and Chase’s. As an only child, and with Chase as their first grandchild, Harris says her mom simply told her, “‘We’re going to spend time with him every other weekend. So let it be written.’ They’d just show up on Fridays and stay for the weekend. That became our tradition.”
GiGi (her mom) and P-Pop (her dad) are now extremely close with their grandson and pitch in whenever Harris needs extra help. “Anything that pops up with school or with my crazy work schedule and they’re always right there. They’re really close. Chase just adores them.”
She has daily affirmations.
Each morning, Harris recites with her son his “affirmations.” Harris says she has some that she repeats to herself, as well.
Even though she seems at home in front of the camera — and has numerous accolades to show for it — Harris hasn’t always been so confident. Growing up, she struggled with her self esteem — one reason she originally intended to produce the news, not report it. But as her confidence in her capabilities grew, she decided to try her hand at going in front of the lens. “It’s something I had to work at,” reveals Harris.
One affirmation she often repeats is, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am beautiful from the inside out.”
“That is something I tell myself daily, throughout the day,” Harris says. “I like to tell people we look for other people to validate us, but you need to have confidence in yourself. You need to be your biggest cheerleader.”
She notes that’s especially true for her job, where she’s constantly criticized by people who comment about her on social media. “It can be very negative emotionally. You’ve got to have enough positive in your own account to make up for all the negative that people are taking out.”
She doesn’t believe in a perfect balance.
“One thing I’ve finally realized is there’s never going to be a perfect balance,” Harris says. “I have realized that I need to make conscious decisions about what I say ‘yes’ to and what I say ‘no’ to.” More often than not, that means saying “no” to certain activities so she can focus on what matters most to her — time with Chase and giving back to the community.
Sometimes, she’ll bring Chase when she’s speaking in the community, or even to work — sometimes it goes well, and sometimes … it doesn’t. “He loves to meet people when I bring him to events or to work. I think it’s important for him to learn to help and serve others. Those are lessons I try to teach him every day, like when he’s got toys he doesn’t play with anymore, I tell him we can give them to children in need and there are kids who don’t have what you have.”
In the end, she says all the challenges of motherhood don’t compare to the overwhelming joys. “Being a mom, for me, gives my whole life meaning and perspective. It’s one of the toughest jobs, but one of the most rewarding. When your child gives you a hug, it just feels like all is right in the world. It’s a wonderful privilege and blessing to be a mom.”
Helping other women feel empowered: in November of 2016, Danita Harris started S.H.I.N.E. In her words: “S.H.I.N.E. was created to give women the tools they need to discover their purpose and to shine in every area of their life.” The group holds monthly meetings in Beachwood. Learn more at shine-now.org.
For more of Danita Harris’ perspective on motherhood, listen to Episode #1 of our aParently Speaking podcast. Find it online at northeastohioparent.com/category/podcast