Hoda Kotb on Joy of Raising Haley and Hope, Co-Parenting with Her Ex — and Why She'd Adopt Again

As a co-host for the TODAY show, Hoda Kotb has kept odd hours for long. But now that she's a mom to two little girls, Haley Joy, 5, and Hope Catherine, 3, she finds the schedule oddly perfect.
"Every morning I leave them a note and a map to help them find the note. I draw cartoons and then hide them for them to see before they go to school," she says. “Then I'm usually done with work and can pick them up in the afternoon. We have dinner at 5, go to the bath at 6, dry off at 6:30 and sing in the room all their songs.. It's over, lights out, click, at 7, and I'm usually at 7: 30 outside because I have to get up at 3am. I don't know what I'll do when they're teenagers, but I dug up that weird time for us. I have a kids plan!"
For Kotb, building her life around her children has brought more joy than she could have imagined.
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"Family is everything to me — and I never thought I'd have one of my own," says the 58-year-old, who became a mother through adoption in 2017 at the age of 52 after a battle with breast cancer. A subsequent divorce led her to assume that motherhood was not in sight.
"I've always thought of family as my mother, my father, my brother, my sister," she explains. "I imagined it like this until I was 50. Imagine someone saying, 'Hey, you know what? You will indeed have a very different family.' "It still surprises me! Glad to know I have Haley and Hope. They fell asleep on top of me yesterday after having a breakdown and I sang to them and at that moment I was just like, 'Me get these feeling things. We need to have this together. I'm blown away that I have this adorable little family that's just right for me."
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Introducing Hoda Kotb
Jake Chessum
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After a challenging year — (she ended her two-year engagement to financier Joel Schiffman, 64, in January) — Kotb and her girls are "doing really well, and I'm feeling very peaceful," she says.
The couple weathered the pandemic together, changing plans for a destination wedding three times before it was called off, and Schiffman continues to help raise the girls.
Watch the full episode of People Cover Story: Hoda Kotb below or on the PeopleTV app.
“Sometimes relationships develop. Sometimes perfectly nice people can go their separate ways. Sometimes a relationship ends with your last breath, and sometimes it ends before that, and that's okay," she says, adding that there's no ill will between them. "I don't regret a day, not a minute, not a second of our time together because it brought me here. I have two incredible children that I share with him. And because of Joel, without question, I have Haley and Hope. I think maybe I was too scared to go it alone. I don't like to admit that, but it's true.”
With Haley starting kindergarten and Hope soon enrolling in preschool in Manhattan, the family enjoys the summer on the beach at their upstate New York home.
"The beach is our happy place," says Kotb. “They are into bubbles and swimming. They like sand crabs and snails. They pick them up and put them in buckets. They're into ice cream, sprinkles - all that summer stuff."
Kotb also recognizes the importance of the little things.
Introducing Hoda Kotb
Jake Chessum
"One of my favorite feelings in the world is walking on the beach and wordlessly putting my hand back and feeling a little hand in mine," she says. "I want to hold her hands forever."
She'll settle for the sense of calm she gets knowing that one day they'll be holding hands when she's not around. "They will have each other forever, and that really fills me up," she explains. "Because every older parent knows one of our secret fears that we won't be there for milestones. The other day they were playing on their scooters and they were like, 'Super Sisters save the day!' I was like, 'Yeah, great sisters - forever, you have each other.' Nothing makes me feel more peaceful."
When it comes to co-parenting, she and Schiffman "have it all together," she says. "He has a Saturday and I have a Sunday. We change every week. He takes the girls and does some fun things and I take some rest. It's a healthy mix and the kids love it. He's a great dad."
They navigate ever-changing schedules and changing demands on their time with the support of two nannies and open communication. "'Does this work for you?' "Do I need to change that?" We're very open to fixing things in a way that meets everyone's needs," says Kotb, adding, "He's a great dad — but I also know I'm on the right track am."
Introducing Hoda Kotb
Jake Chessum
Though Kotb revealed last year that her plans to adopt a third child have been delayed by the pandemic, she says she's still open to expanding her family.
"It's definitely in-universe for me," she says. “I have the feeling that everything that should be should be. But I know a few things. I have love and time and we have an open space. Every time I see a child who needs something or read about a child, my heart breaks. I think I know if we could invite her into our house what it would mean. Not just for the child, but for us.
As for her romantic future, Kotb hasn't given up on that either — and she knows her past prepared her to embrace the possibility.
"I've had loves in the past and I have a feeling I'll have loves in the future," she explains. “Once you know who you are, love can come. You know how people say the older you get, the more you know who you are? I think someone who meets me now will really meet me."
To find out more about Hoda Kotb, get the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, or subscribe here.

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