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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.

Vieira readily admits to being a chronic worrier. "It makes me want to kill her," her husband says cheerfully. The notion of being ill-prepared is always on her mind. She is a woman who, in her first years at The View, would do research "for hours," she says. "Richard would say, 'Wait a minute. Miss Piggy is the guest tomorrow. What are you studying?' It was just this feeling of: I won't know enough, I won't know enough."

Her children "were much more levelheaded" about her new gig than she was, Vieira says. "They really helped me think it through. I remember sitting with my son Gabe and saying, 'I won't be there in the morning.' And he was like, 'What are you talking about? We're not six years old. All we do is fight in the morning.'" Her oldest, Ben, used the same advice she had given him when he switched to a new school and knew no one. "He said, 'You told me that it would be hard but I'd come out of it better — and I think you will too.' He saw it as something really exciting."

As for her youngest child, Lily, "her attitude was always 'Don't let anybody tell you what to do. You do what makes you happy,'" Vieira says. "And when I was really starting to panic, she sent me a beautiful e-mail." It read: "No matter what, we love you. If you take the job, we love you. If you don't take the job, we love you." When Vieira read the note, she burst into tears. "Lily just said, 'God, you're a mess.'"

When Vieira finally said yes to Today last April, it was agreed that she could be somewhat choosy about when she travels — but she is also excited about bringing her family on some trips. (Ben has been studying Chinese, and the prospect of Vieira's covering the next Olympics, in Beijing, was hugely appealing.) On The View, she talked about her family constantly — which her kids did not always appreciate once they became adolescents. "You know, they're teenagers, and they're very protective of themselves," she explains. The Today show calls for less anecdote sharing, and this seems right to Vieira.

Now that her decision has been made, Vieira has traded in fear for a cheerful fatalism. "People said, 'You don't want to be the one to follow Katie. It's like being Deborah Norville, the one to follow Jane Pauley — it's jinxed.' Well, we'll find out. Maybe it is," she says with a shrug. "That'll be interesting."

Advice from Couric herself has helped. After Vieira officially took the position, the two of them spoke. Vieira reports that Couric asked, "Are you getting tons of people saying, 'Oh my God, the pressure you're going to be under! How are you going to do this job?' Why do people actually take the time to ask things like that? What is that about?"

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