Hoda Kotb is headed back to work. The Today show host announced her plan to return to Studio 1A at NBC on Tuesday morning as part of a message urging women to take full maternity leave if it's possible. Kotb said she'll be back on the air Tuesday, Sept. 3.
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During a video call-in to Tuesday's episode of Today, she said she'll return the day after Labor Day. She also announced the news via social media. The 55-year-old welcomed her second child, Hope Catherine, via adoption in April.
"I’m not going to lie, this probably has been the best summer of my entire life with these two kids, I’ve loved every second of it. But you know what else I’m going to love? Coming back to you guys," said Kotb, who co-anchors both the 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. hours as well as the 10 a.m. hour.
Kotb and boyfriend Joel Schiffman are also parents to 2-year-old Haley Joy, whom Kotb adopted in February 2017 after her Valentine's Day birth.
Kotb told PEOPLE on Monday that 4-month-old Hope is "following things with her eyes," "grabbing things," smiling, rolling over and grabbing her big sister while Haley gives her kisses. Meanwhile, Haley "is talking nonstop" according to Kotb.
"She's gone from saying a bunch of words to saying complete sentences and cracking me up," Kotb recalled. "I said to her, 'These are car snacks; we don't eat them anywhere else.' And we were getting on the train and I said, 'We'll have train snacks.' She said, 'Can we have them?' She was sitting on a bench and she said, 'Can I have a bench snack?'"
Kotb said the girls have "been at the beach the whole time" this summer, where Schiffman, 61, visits on weekends before heading back to New York City for work.
"This will go down in my life as the best summer I ever had or will ever had," Kotb told PEOPLE.
Kotb's return comes a few weeks after her 10 o'clock co-host Jenna Bush Hager went off on her own maternity leave after welcoming her and husband Henry Hager's third child, son Henry "Hal" Harold, on August 2. Kotb had some major advice from Bush Hager's Today show predecessor, Kathie Lee Gifford.
"[Kathie Lee Gifford] gave me words of wisdom: ‘When you establish a show, it’s been established. It’s a great show and it’s going to be a great show,'" Kotb said. "I told [Jenna], 'Be there, be in the moment. When you step back into work, you will be with us.'"
"We had this weird overlap time where neither of us [has been on the show], but I’m so incredibly confident in how our show is going to grow," Kotb added. "The thing that makes [Jenna] a great host is that she’s like the people watching the show. She’s not like other people on TV.
"Live your life with your kids, and take all that awesomeness and bring that to the show," she continued. "Just be a good mom, a good friend, a good sister, a good person. And she has that. I said, 'I know how good it’s gonna be.'"
Kotb stressed the importance of taking a maternity leave if it's afforded to you.
"I know I come from a place of incredible fortune … and [have taken] a maternity leave that is longer than most people are allowed to take. I’m on-my-knees grateful for that, because it matters to me. It’s not something everybody can do," she said.
"I can’t tell you how excited I am to go back, but at the same time I feel like I didn’t miss this moment. We all need to pay [our] bills and have insurance … we can’t take all the time we want. I get it. But I feel like if you can, and if you’re at a point where you feel like you can do it, you should do it. I’m sure every woman wants to do it and can’t. But if more women are taking the allotted time, then other women aren’t going to look at them funny."
But she warned that maternity leave is "not a vacation."0comments
"I worked harder on maternity leave than I did at work. You're up at the crack of dawn, and you’re up all hours. Stay-at-home moms should be called work-at-home moms. You are up all the time. We post stuff on Instagram from the beach, but it’s work. But it’s the best work. It’s the best work I did in my life. I don’t know if my kids will remember it, but … I will always remember."
Photo credit: Nicholas Hunt / Staff / Getty