She was a kid who dreamed of fairy tales, and while she didn't specifically imagine a wedding in a “pretty white dress,” Savannah Guthrie always knew she wanted to be married and have children.
For a long time, life didn't turn out that way.
“The older I got, when that kept not happening for me, I was heartbroken for a lot of years,” Guthrie said.
But this year, at age 46, Guthrie’s heart is only full. She’ll celebrate Mother’s Day with her husband Mike Feldman, 3-year-old daughter Vale and 1-year-old son Charley. “And I just feel so lucky about it,” the TODAY anchor said in an intimate interview about motherhood and parenting with co-anchor Hoda Kotb at New York City’s Central Park Boathouse.
While thankful for her successful broadcasting career, Guthrie says it was always hard to hear people confuse it for the sum total of her life dream.
“You work in a job like ours and it's so public, people think, ‘Oh, my gosh, that must have been the thing that you focused on your whole life. That must have been your dream. That must have been the only thing you worked for,'” Guthrie says. “In the end, all I ever wanted was just to have a family."
It was on Guthrie and Feldman’s wedding day that Kotb, along with other guests, heard the couple was expecting a baby.
“I remember at your wedding… when you said, ‘God blessed me with this beautiful little family. And I'm so grateful.’ And I remember, it just hit me,” said Kotb. “I thought sometimes all we need is our little corner of the world with our people.”
Guthrie's father died when she was a teenager, and she has had a special relationship with her mother, Nancy. Their closeness only deepened once Guthrie became a mom, too.
“I feel like watching my mom now with my kids is so profound. Because I'm seeing the mom that she must have been with me, just the everyday joys.”
“She's so good at playing with them,” said Guthrie. “I appreciate her even more than I thought possible because I see her spunkiness and her quirks.”
As a college student in Arizona, Guthrie lived at home with her mom and sister. She couldn’t really afford to live in the dorm, she said, but she also wanted to stay home to support her family. After college, Guthrie got her first TV job in Montana.
“I remember having a hard time with it and being sad and really weepy and not sure if I should go. And I remember my mom saying to me, ‘Savannah, if you can't leave me, then I didn't do my job right.’ And to me that's motherhood because it was a totally selfless act.”
Guthrie always knew that if she had a son, she’d name him Charles, after her late father.
“My dad died when I was 16 years old... And the fact that I held onto his name all of these years, I always knew. I think my dad would have been blown away by that."
While Vale and Charley don’t know about their maternal grandfather yet (“Because I don't know how to explain where he is,” Guthrie admits), their parents, like most parents of toddlers, are just figuring out how to do their best.
“I think the best thing I can do for Vale and Charley is to try to be a better person so that I can just show that person. You know, when you're home, there's nowhere to hide. You just are who you are. So you better get it straight and spend that time looking inward and doing your best.”
Guthrie, however, says she has no illusions of a perfect life, a perfect home and perfect parenting.
“You can't always live in that moment of Zen perfection… we all get tired and we all get frustrated…we have to accept the messiness too, you know?”
Guthrie describes a recent night with Charley and Vale when the bedtime routine became a little hectic.
“It's just like everything's flying everywhere. And Vale is, like, so full of life. And it just was crazy,” she said.
But it’s a crazy she wouldn’t change. “It felt not like chaos, but abundance. Like, everything overflowing but in the most beautiful way.”
She tries to keep that perspective, especially on what she calls double-meltdown days. “Someday, we're going to sit on our couch and be like, 'Remember that? It was so sweet. Even the tantrums were sweet.”