By Lia Beck
Updated Mar 08, 2019 @ 4:54 pm
NBC/Getty Images

You might know Hoda Kotb best for drinking wine in the morning with Kathie Lee Gifford, but the evening is the Today show anchor’s favorite time of the day. That’s when she gets to spend the most quality time with her two-year-old daughter, Haley Joy.

“I work early mornings,” Kotb tells InStyle, “So I don’t get the breakfast and I don’t get the wakeup, but I get a beautiful moment nevertheless at night.”

And when Kotb and her daughter are together in the evenings, it’s all about creating an environment of calm. “There’s something about the lights being dim, the lullaby music that’s playing in the background, Haley on the changing table, and just that peaceful quiet moment, where in that moment of the day, everything is exactly as it should be,” she explains.

In fact, it’s Kotb’s evening routine with her daughter that inspired her second children’s book, You Are My Happy, which hit shelves March 5.

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Kotb continues, “[Haley’]s belly is filled up with milk, her eyes are closing, I’m putting lotion on her, and putting her pajamas on. And as this is all happening it feels like the most beautiful part of the day. I think the book is kind of like the period on that. It’s just a nice way to close it.”

Kotb likes to think back on her day while she’s getting Haley ready for bed, and the book is all about just that: gratitude. It’s something she feels a lot of already, and for her, part of practicing gratitude is being present, whether that’s in the evenings with her daughter or when she’s away from her at work.

“The only thing that works for me — and I’m trying, I’m not succeeding all the way, but I’m trying this — is to really take the phrase ‘be here now’ and use it,” Kotb says. “When you’re home, be there. Don’t grab your phone and say, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ll be right with you.’ Just live in that ‘be there now’ moment. And when you’re at work, be at work. Don’t sweat the fact that you’re not at home in that moment.”

And while the evening is important to Kotb, she admits that, for now, her schedule does match up pretty well with her daughter’s. It helps that she starts her mornings at 3 a.m., meaning she can be back home pretty early in the day.

“The mornings I am on the go,” Kotb says, “but who gets to come home some days around noon or 2? I mean, that’s like a gift. Sometimes [I get] lunch and afternoon, and dinner, and to put her down.” There’s another perk to her early-bird schedule, which Kotb shares with a laugh: “We both go to sleep at the same time … I put her down, and I go downstairs and eat with Joel [Schiffman, her boyfriend], and then it’s like, ‘good night, everybody,’ lights out by 8.”

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Kotb adopted Haley two years ago now, at 52, years after breast cancer treatment left her unable to conceive on her own. To this day, she still can’t believe she gets to be a parent. “I feel like I still have a sense of disbelief that this is really me and you’re interviewing me about being a mom. If you’re in the middle of asking me something, I’m smiling because I’m thinking to myself, Oh my god. This is really happening. I’m really being interviewed about her and the fact that I get to be a mom.”

Part of the reason for that disbelief is that Kotb didn’t expect to experience the “brand new unheard of feelings” that come with loving a child at this point in her life. “Picture that you’re 54 years old and you’re doing something you’ve never done before,” she explains. “And for your whole life you’ve never done that thing or you’ve never had that feeling and then you have it. It’s so foreign. It’s almost like you’ve won the lottery and you don’t even want to admit it cause then it will go away. But it’s a thrill. It’s a real thrill.”