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Wit, wisdom and warmth: Meredith Vieira uncensored

Balancing work & home

Getting ready for her new assignment on the Today show, Meredith Vieira shares her private side - from the crisis that made her marriage stronger to why her kids think she's a mess.

Off camera, Vieira is busy raising three teenagers — Ben, 17, Gabe, 15, and Lily, 13. They are one big reason she has enjoyed her tenure on The View — there has been virtually no travel, and the hours have allowed her to get home in time to drive them to various after-school commitments. Without their blessing, she would never have considered taking the Today show job, as plum an assignment as it is. The prospect of being beloved by early-morning millions is certainly not a bad feeling — nor is the reported $40 million she'll earn over four years. But, she insists, "my decisions have always been connected to my family, because if it doesn't work with the family, it's not going to work. Maybe you've gotten more pay at another job...but if you're miserable at home every night, it's not worth it."

So when it came time to decide whether to leave The View for the Today show, "I didn't do it lightly," she says. "I didn't do it lightly at all." She mulled over the offer for six months — though she knows some may find that baffling. "A lot of people said to me, 'Why would you think twice?' The salary, the reputation... I'm not saying those things don't matter — certainly, I'm a breadwinner in my family," she says. "But that's never been why I do something."

Yet Vieira admits she was flattered by the idea of following Couric — "I thought, Do they know how old I am?" — and impressed with Matt Lauer, her future cohost. Invited to dinner at his apartment last December so the two of them could take each other's measure, she debated about what to wear before opting for comfort: jeans, a white T-shirt, and a black jacket. On the subject of clothes, she jokes, "I don't own any." Vieira never goes shopping and has, she says, absolutely no interest in keeping up appearances. "I'm kind of a tomboy," she says, "and I was never a girly girl in my life." To Vieira's relief, Lauer answered the door in jeans and a sweater and immediately offered her a glass of wine. Vieira recalls, "I thought, I love him already."

Still, as she weighed her options, "I spent a lot of time in the fetal position, crying," Vieira says. She was daunted by the job's early-morning and early-to-bed hours, as well as by the breaking-news intensity and globe-trotting assignments. But one of the main reasons for tears was "a real fear of change," she says. "Fear of failure. Fear of success." At The View, she had "nice hours and an easy life. There's a real camaraderie and a comfort factor when you know one another," she says, sounding wistful.

"Meredith does not like change, to say the least," says her husband. "It does not sit well with her. She had warm feelings for all the people she worked with. But I felt, and the kids felt, that it was a wonderful opportunity for her. It was time for her to spread her wings — which is something she preaches to the kids on a regular basis," he says. "Let me give you a list of the people who doubt that she'll do a great job: Meredith. That's the end of the list. Everyone else thinks that she was born to take this job. She has so hit her stride that she could do it backward and left-handed. I wish she had half the confidence in herself that other people have in her."

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