Hoda Kotb’s maternity leave ended in September, five months after her second daughter Hope’s arrival, but the journalist wasn’t always sure she’d return to Today.

“There was probably a minute there where I was thinking to myself, ‘I’ve worked for, like, 30-plus years of my life and now I get this. Do I really want to be working while I’m doing this?’” the Emmy winner, 55, admitted to Us Weekly exclusively at the 23rd annual Turn 2 Foundation Dinner on Monday, October 7. “But I think at the end of the day I realized I actually love work, and I want my kids to know that work is an awesome thing.”

The Where We Belong author had to explain this to her eldest daughter, 2. “Haley said to me when I was leaving for work, ‘Don’t go, stay home.’ But I said, ‘Mommy loves work,’” she recalled. “I want her to be a worker.”

That being said, the West Virginia native makes sure that she unplugs when she’s with her daughters, giving them her full attention. “I am not picking up my phone,” she explained to Us. “I am not going to do that. … I try and live that way and I feel that it’s important for me.”

When Kotb is away, Haley watches her mom on TV. The You Are My Happy author clarified, “Not much in the beginning because I don’t want her to be grossed out [by the news] or anything.” Her little one requests that she “wears a solid color that is a Sesame [Street] character” on the show, like red for Elmo or blue for Cookie Monster.

Kotb spoke to Us exclusively in 2018 after adopting her daughter with her partner, Joel Schiffman, saying that motherhood helped her find her purpose. “My whole life, my career has been riding shotgun with me. But now, with Haley, it feels like, for the first time, I can see clearly,” she told Us at the time. “I understand why I’m on this earth. All of a sudden, the most exciting part of the day is after work when I’m holding her. Not when I’m interviewing someone, even if it’s Beyoncé.”

With reporting by Nikaline McCarley

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