The prolific television producer discusses her career, family, and writing characters that better reflect the women she knows.

By Blake Bakkila
Updated September 06, 2017
Shonda Rhimes with her daughter
Credit: Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images

This interview is part of TIME Firsts, a multimedia project featuring 46 groundbreaking women. Watch the rest of the videos at Buy the book at the TIME Shop.

Shonda Rhimes is raising her three daughters to understand the importance of being your best self. For her, that’s becoming the first woman to create three hit shows with more than 100 episodes each.

“I can’t imagine my life without my work, and I want my children to know me as somebody who works because that woman is way happier,” the Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal creator told Time about her three daughters. “And now my kids, they come to work, they play there, they know who I am, and they know that they expect themselves to be somebody like that.”

Balancing life as a mom and acclaimed television producer comes with what Rhimes calls a “trade-off.”

“I don’t think I ever go to work and feel like, ‘This is great that I’m missing my daughter’s science fair’ or I go to my daughter’s back to school night and think ‘It’s great that I’m missing a scene that they’re filming at work,’” she explained. “It’s a trade-off. Every single time, there’s a trade-off. There’s a sense of failure on either side. And I’ve accepted that.”

But that acceptance does not come with an apology. Rhimes, much like her unapologetic main characters, explained that there isn’t a set rule of guidelines for being a woman.

“I think that women have been raised to believe that they’re supposed to want certain things and so you feel like you’re supposed to apologize when you don’t want those things,” she said when talking about writing characters who are career-oriented.

For Rhimes, her headstrong personality comes from her “very, very powerful” mother.

“My mother would have never allowed me to be the nice girl,” she said. “I really did enter college and enter life walking into a room absolutely thinking I belonged in any room I entered.”