LOS ANGELES — Former California first lady Maria Shriver on Tuesday called "heartbreaking" husband Arnold Schwarzenegger's admission that he had fathered a child with a former household staff member more than a decade ago.
"This is a painful and heartbreaking time," Shriver said in a statement, her first since former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger admitted paternity of the child Monday night in response to questions from the Los Angeles Times. "As a mother my concern is for the children. I ask for compassion, respect and privacy as my children and I try to rebuild our lives and heal."
Shriver and Schwarzenegger, who have been married for 25 years, separated weeks ago, after she learned of the child. Shriver, the parent with Schwarzenegger of four children, ages 13 to 21, has moved out of the couple's home in Los Angeles.
The staff member worked for the family for 20 years, retiring in January. The Los Angeles Times did not reveal the staffer's name or that of her child. Schwarzenegger said the child was born "over a decade ago" — before he began his seven-year stint as governor.
Shriver stood by her husband during his 2003 campaign after the Los Angeles Times reported accusations that he had a history of groping women. Schwarzenegger later said he "behaved badly sometimes."
Schwarzenegger's acknowledgement came as the former governor, who left office in January, has been trying to rebuild his movie career and craft a new public-policy role. In recent months, he has maintained a high public profile, meeting with world dignitaries, attending a White House summit on immigration and working on assorted entertainment deals.
"After leaving the governor's office I told my wife about this event, which occurred over a decade ago," Schwarzenegger said in a statement. "I understand and deserve the feelings of anger and disappointment among my friends and family. There are no excuses and I take full responsibility for the hurt I have caused. I have apologized to Maria, my children and my family. I am truly sorry.''
In an interview Monday with the Los Angeles Times before Schwarzenegger issued his statement, the former staffer said another man — her then-husband — was the child's father.
She said she voluntarily left her position with the couple earlier this year after reaching a long-standing goal of working for them for two decades. She also left on good terms, the newspaper quoted her as saying.
Later Monday, the newspaper informed the woman of the governor's statement, and she declined to comment further.
Schwarzenegger took financial responsibility for the child from the start and continued to provide support, the newspaper reported.
In keeping with their very public — and political — lives, two distinctly different portraits of the marriage and its status have emerged in the days since the breakup became public.
Schwarzenegger, 63, suggested that the split was temporary and the couple were working toward reconciliation.
"We both love each other very much," the former governor said at an appearance last week in Los Angeles.
"We are very fortunate that we have four extraordinary children, and we're taking one day at a time," he said.
Friends of Shriver, 55, offered a grimmer assessment, according to the Los Angeles Times, saying she had been unhappy for years but made no move until after her parents died and Schwarzenegger finished his term as governor.
Her father, Sargent Shriver, died Jan. 18, nearly a year and a half after the death of her mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who was the sister of President John F. Kennedy and Sens. Robert F. and Edward Kennedy.