SAVANNAH GUTHRIE GRACES THE MAY COVER OF HEALTH MAGAZINE
Savannah Guthrie has been hard at work for the past six hours—and it’s only 10 a.m. Up before dawn as part of her normal routine, she heads to the set of the Today show, where she has served as co-anchor since 2012. Now Savannah, 47, is finally back in her dressing room, ready to remove the day’s wardrobe and makeup before she departs for her second, and most favorite, job: mom to daughter Vale, nearly 5, and son Charley, 2. It’s a gig that’s been a bit messier than usual lately. “This week, we all had the stomach flu,” she groans. “All of us. Four people in the same house with the stomach flu is not a pretty sight.”
It’s the least of what Savannah handles on a daily basis. After landing the co-anchor job at Today at age 40, she wed communications consultant Michael Feldman at age 42. They welcomed Vale that same year. It was a remarkable second act for a woman who at one point feared she’d primarily be married to her career. Then came Charley; for the first time, Savannah is opening up about going through in vitro fertilization to have him shortly before she turned 45, and the emotional debate that went into the decision.
If two kids and a job that involves a 4 a.m. wake-up call seem like a lot for one person to handle, know that Savannah wouldn’t change a thing (well, maybe just the stomach flu part). “I was playing with the kids last night after bath time, and they were rolling around and twisting all over the place. And I couldn’t get a diaper on one and the lotion on the other, and I was thinking, ‘Oh, it’s so crazy,’ ” she recalls. “But then I thought to myself, ‘What if instead of just seeing this as overwhelming and insane, I thought, This is abundance. I am abundantly blessed with this gaggle of crazy kids, running around naked, and trying to wrangle them.’ Ten years ago, I would have dreamed of that moment.” Many of Savannah’s dreams have come true. Here, she shares her thoughts on what “having it all” really means to her.
Motherhood didn’t happen for you until you were in your 40s. What do you see as the advantages or disadvantages to that?
I think one great thing about being an older mom is that you are at a different place in your career where, in many cases, you have a little more say over your schedule and the choices you make. In your 40s, and now my mid-to-late 40s, you have the difference in attitude where you can figure out what matters and what doesn’t. And guess what? What matters is your family. Full stop. Sometimes I feel tired, but I’m tired because I get up in the middle of the night for my job and I have two little kids. So I think to the extent I’m exhausted, it’s because of that, not because of my age. Having kids later in life wasn’t so much a choice—it was just the way life happened for me—but when I think about being in my 30s and what I was doing and trying to build a career, it would have been incredibly difficult for me to have kids back then.
When you were pregnant with your daughter, you spoke about being amazed that it had been possible. What were your feelings when you learned you were pregnant with your son, Charley?
I knew it was the winning lottery ticket to have one child—I was 42 when I had her. So I never dreamed that I would have two. But with Charley, I did do IVF. So I would say Vale was a miracle, and Charley was a medical miracle. When making that decision about whether to go through IVF, my husband and I talked about it a lot. I didn’t want to start a process where we spent all of our present searching after some future...when our present was so lovely and beautiful and enough. But I also knew I would love for Vale to have a sibling—especially because we are older, it was important to me for her to have a sibling, somebody to do life with.
There’s definitely a growing misconception that getting pregnant in your mid-40s is no big deal.
Absolutely. My husband and I, we decided, “OK, let’s give it a shot,” you know? But it ended up taking more than one attempt. It took a few. But we were lucky. I always say, Charley was, like, the last egg out. He really was. And we’re so blessed. Going through what we did, it makes you realize that everything has to go just right to have a healthy baby. I really feel for so many women who are struggling and wishing and wondering, “When’s it gonna be my turn?” I know. And I understand.
Given your crazy schedule, how do you make time for yourself?I don’t know. You tell me! Mom guilt is very real. And I’m the luckiest mom there is, because I get home most days midday. Which means I can pick up my little one from his Montessori day care, we can have lunch together, he goes down for a nap, I go down for a nap, we pick up my daughter from school, and we have the whole afternoon together. My husband’s home early, so we eat dinner together. I put them to bed most nights. But I do feel guilty if I even go do an exercise class. So I actually try to schedule it while my daughter’s in school and my son is napping. But that means a shorter nap for me...and when your job starts at 4 a.m., a nap feels pretty important.
Everyone’s day would probably improve if we had nap time.
I feel so much better if I just take a nap. And then I have a big cup of coffee, which is also probably a no-no. This should be a column for Un-Health magazine: I have a big cup of coffee at like 2:00; then I feel great. It gets me through dinner and bedtime and all that stuff.
Do you feel anxious if you can’t get in some form of physical exercise in your day?
Not really! I’m not one of those people who loves to exercise. I used to love to run, but I don’t anymore. I feel like my body can’t hack it. Six months ago, I tried to run on the Brooklyn Bridge, and I was like, “Here I am, running! I’m doing it!” The next day, it was cut to: me bent over clutching my back it hurt so bad. Jenna Bush Hager is my neighbor and good friend, and our kids are practically the same age. So a lot of times we’ll do a playdate, and she and I will take cardio-dance classes together, and that’s fun ’cause then it feels like you had fun with your friend and you exercised. That’s a good combo platter. Especially if we can follow it up with cocktails. I want to exercise because I know it’s good for my mind and for my body. I’m not really berating myself into having some perfect figure because, frankly, I know it’s unattainable for me.
For most women, it’s an accomplishment to reach that sort of self-acceptance.
It’s a lifelong struggle for me. I’ve never once felt good about how I looked on the outside. I think all of us women spend so much time not feeling like we measure up. And what a waste of energy. I’m not there yet, but that’s my goal. A lot of us have that mental dialogue where we look in the mirror and we’re like, “Ugh.” And that’s just not healthy. I really think about it with my daughter, because I just don’t want to pass that on to her. It holds us back from joy. We should be happy and proud of our bodies, and proud to be 47 years old and still kickin’! That’s great! Also, I never looked good in a bikini. So I’m not even sad or mourning some past glory. It never existed!
Are there any dietary rules you try to follow?
I basically avoid carbs, and I try to eat a lot of greens. I’m really good during the week, and then on the weekend I go hog wild. I feel like you have to let yourself have fun. And to me, food is fun. And I like pizza on Friday night. But during the week, I can stay on the straight and narrow. I try to eat dinner around 6:30 p.m. or so, and I try not to eat breakfast until after the show at 9 a.m. So I’m trying my own little version of intermittent fasting, but I’m probably not doing it long enough, and I do have coffee with cream in the morning, so I’m probably not really doing it right. I should really weigh a lot less than I do, so I must be doing something wrong. What could it be? Probably everything I do all weekend long. The pizza. And I eat dessert. And I drink. Again, these are all great tips for Un-Health magazine.
How important, or even possible, is it for you to disconnect from the news cycle once you’re home?
It’s not feasible. But I don’t have cable news on all day long. And as for my phone, I’ll check it, and it’s there, but it doesn’t buzz, it makes no sounds, I don’t have any alerts like that, and I try to keep it up on the counter. Because especially now, if my kids see my phone, they want to play with it.
Given the headlines in the world today, and the often very divisive climate that we’re living in, how do you maintain a sense of well-being when you are required to be immersed in news that can sometimes be downright depressing
You definitely put your finger on a big issue. I can’t tune it out, and I shouldn’t tune it out, but there’s a lot of difficult news that we cover all the time, and I do have to find ways to detach. There have been stories that I have privately cried over, that have broken my heart, that I still think about to this day. One thing I do is I pray. I pray for them, and I turn what I can over to God and my faith, and that really does help me. And beyond that, I look for those little pockets of peace, those moments where I can ask myself, “Do I need to read this right now, or can I catch up on this later?” If I’m not at work, the answer probably is: “It can wait.”