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O'Brien: The best of both worlds

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Sofia, left and Cecilia, right hold their twin younger brothers, Jackson and Charlie.

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Parenting

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Soledad O'Brien has her hands full at home with four young children and at work as a CNN anchor and special correspondent.

For CNN.com's in-depth look at modern mothers, O'Brien discussed how she balances life at home and at work, and how her family is adjusting to life with its newest members, twins Jackson and Charlie.

CNN: How would you like to spend Mother's Day this year?

O'BRIEN: Usually what we do is we just hang out with the kids all day, then we go to a little restaurant in the neighborhood, for dinner. Very low-key, very simple.

CNN: Do you have any favorite Mother's Day memories?

O'BRIEN: Last year the girls each made me a present, and they gave me a little basket of presents. So I got flip-flops, a night light, handmade cards, jewelry with lots of big beads. Very nice.

CNN: What's the most important lesson your mother taught you?

O'BRIEN: My mom is black and my dad is white, and they were dating and got married when interracial dating was illegal in the state they were living in at the time, and I think from that, her personal life experience has taught me that you really have to live the life you want to, and you can't sit around and have your life dictated to you by other people who probably don't care. That was a very helpful lesson to me, in my work, in my life, at all levels.

CNN: How old are the twins and the girls now? How are they doing?

O'BRIEN: The boys are almost 20 months, and they're doing great. Sofia is 5 and Cecilia is 4. And they're doing great, the girls just love their brothers. Love, love, love, it's very sweet.

CNN: What's it like to balance a high-profile career with raising young children?

O'BRIEN: Honestly, it's hectic and at times just really, really difficult, but it's also wonderful because you get to enjoy the best of both worlds. I love my job, I really enjoy being a journalist, but I also love having a family, and I get to have time with both of them, a lot of time, and I feel really good about that. So on some days it's completely nightmarish, but most of the time it's wonderful. And I've just given up trying to get anything done at home, which means you really free yourself to sit on the floor and read books and play with people -- you're not trying to squeeze it in.

CNN: What's the most challenging aspect of being a working mom?

O'BRIEN: I think it's sort of feeling pulled in all directions and feeling, frankly, very stressed all the time. And that does not feel good, but I think the upsides are also the same. It creates a lot of problems and distracts you from a lot of problems. But you know, it's hard. It's physically hard, it's emotionally hard. Some days you feel like you're giving everybody a C minus on all fronts, and that doesn't feel very good.

CNN: What's your favorite part of the day with your children?

O'BRIEN: With the boys, I love when I come home from work and they're there, playing, the sisters aren't home from school yet, and they're so much fun. Literally they just love to roll around and hug, and it's just so great to have twins, because you'll say, "Can I get a kiss?" and two people come up and snuggle and hug you and kiss. They're just at that real cuddly, sweet, cute age, it's so great. And then, when the girls come home from school, either I pick them up or the babysitter will pick them up, and at night we sit around and read books and if we have time we get to read a bunch of books. It's just such a special time; it's a nice way to end the day

CNN: Do you have a "secret weapon" for the "terrible 2s"? Are they really that bad?

O'BRIEN: I don't know the secret weapon, but yes, the terrible 2s truly are terrible and the terrible 2s start at about 18 months and go till about 3 1/2. And it's a secret -- I don't know if there's a secret weapon but it certainly is a secret.

CNN: What's the best parenting advice you've gotten, for any age?

O'BRIEN: One thing I've learned now that I have four children is that you just have to be patient. When I had one child, and she would melt down, I just felt like, "What am I doing wrong?" Now I just realize that you're going to be late, and that's OK. And there's something very nice about being able to do that.

CNN: How is raising boys different from raising girls?

O'BRIEN: I don't really know yet, because so far it's just been the same. The boys are definitely heavier and maybe it's just that I'm carrying two, so it feels a lot heavier. The boys seem the same, they like to play with all the same things my girls liked to play with.

CNN: Do the twins have distinct personalities?

O'BRIEN: They have distinct personalities but those personalities change. So, Charlie likes to be on his own, he can sit and concentrate, he can do a lot of quiet time by himself. And Jackson wants to be held, wants to be talked to, he always likes to be in the center of what's going on. It's funny because Charlie is very much like Cecilia on that front, and Jackson is so much like Sofia. It's fun to see the same thing over again.

CNN: How do the children's personalities work together?

O'BRIEN: I have been so lucky; you know it comes and goes, but they get along so nicely. They really love each other. At first [the boys] thought they were the same person, and when they discovered they were two different people, they were actually sort of funny. And then they started biting, which was really sort of stressful, one would lean over and bite the other one on the cheek, and you couldn't sprint across the room fast enough to stop it. And now they don't really bite anymore, they hold hands and they've learned to hug. And if any of the four is crying, one of the boys will toddle across the room and give them a hug. So my daughters, who are big huggers, are just loving that stage, they love the hugging.

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