MARITAL STATUS: Married
RESIDENCE: Greenwich, CT
HUSBAND’S NAME: Jeff Konigsberg
CHILDREN’S NAMES/AGES: Jamie – 31, Lindsay – 29, Sarah – 25, Kate and Max – 9, Jack and Kimberly – 7
Joan Lunden exemplifies today’s modern working woman. Since hosting ABC’s Good Morning America for nearly two decades, making her the longest running host on early morning TV, Lunden has dedicated her career to health, wellness, family, and parenting, keeping Americans up to date on how to care for their homes, families and themselves.
With 7 children from two marriages (including two sets of twins) Lunden understands the challenges families face today, and her brand is dedicated to helping them live easier, happier and healthier. Her newest venture is Twiztt by Joan Lunden, which recently launched nationwide in Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Twiztt is line of non-stick cookware made with no harmful chemicals, and every piece has an innovative, convenient “twist.”
For over 30 years, Lunden has been one of the most visible women in America and a reassuring voice providing vital family-friendly information. She has authored 6 best-selling books including Healthy Cooking, Healthy Living, and Growing Up Healthy. Lunden recently hosted Lifetime TV’s Health Corner and is currently the host of Taking Care with Joan Lunden on RLTV, a show about family caregiving.
Robin, founder, MotherhoodLater .com was pleased to have the opportunity to speak with Lunden to get her take on life, love, parenting, and everything in between.
How did you meet your husband Jeff? You sent me your book How to Marry a Mensch, and I’ve been reading it and relating and laughing about some of the points you make that hit home. (After my divorce), a lot of my high-powered girlfriends set me up with incredibly successful businessmen who were about as boring as you can imagine. And, I thought, it’s just not what I want. I don’t want a detached guy whose mind is always focused on the next deal. I want someone who is going to really be present in my life…embrace my kids and someone I can have fun with. I want to wake up in the morning, and say “Damn, I’m so happy I’m waking up next to him.” And, just when you think it’s not gonna happen cause you’ve dated a couple of “band-aide guys,” as you so aptly describe (in your book),….it happens.
I was having lunch at a deli near my house with a girlfriend and my daughter who was 10 at the time. This guy walks in, and he was kind-of surveying the restaurant…he was meeting his parents for brunch who live around the corner from me. I looked up and said, “Now why can’t I meet a guy like that?” And, my daughter responded, “How do you know he’s nice?” “I said, “Well…he has that great smile that can light up the Empire State Building…confident not cocky smile. And, he’s tall and athletic, and he looks like someone you could have a lot of fun with.” She replied, “So go say hi.” I said, “Well, It just doesn’t work that way.” “Why not?” she answered. “It’s just always been that the guy comes over to the woman,” I explained. She said, “Then you’re not gonna meet him.” I said, “I guess not.” She answered, “Then how are you ever gonna go out with someone you like?” Fortunately, he saw me, and he came over to the table and said, “Oh hi. Obviously I know you, but you don’t know me. I almost had dinner at your house in the Hampton’s last summer. I was invited through a friend, but couldn’t go. I own children’s camps in Maine, and I’m there all summer, but maybe we can have dinner together another time?” Afterwards, when I asked about him approaching me, he said, “I take the belief that you might get a no, but if you think you might want something, go up and ask!” When you are in your 40s and dating, it’s like you’re in your 20s again. You just feel awkward about it. And, you add to that that I was on television and people know me. Thank G-d, I gave him my number…the “safe” number…my office number.
We met 17 years ago. I was 45 at the time, and I was dating a guy who was 37…an airplane pilot…met him on a flight going to the Caribbean. Jeff was 35 when we met. He was 10 years younger. But, I always say, when I was 29, I got married to a guy who was 39. We had three kids, but it didn’t work out. I wanted to go climb mountains, and we were totally mismatched. We got divorced. Twenty years later I got married again….and again the man was 39. Jeff and I are really on the same page in terms of how we want to live our lives. He’s incredibly supportive of me…he’s that mensch. I knew everything I didn’t want, which helps you define what you do want. You’re way more discerning the second time around, as well you should be.
When you married Jeff, was becoming a mom again part of the plan? Absolutely, we discussed it. He was younger and had never been married and came from a family where family was very important. He ran summer camps for children…took care of over 3oo kids at each camp every summer. I was right in the midst of family life….my girls were 12, 15 and 18, and I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel. I love the sound of little feet. A lot of my friends would ask, “How’s it going with those two sets of twins?” And, I would say, “I’m at the park at the top of the slide, where are you?” I have a great life!
You used a surrogate. How did that decision come about? I tried Invitro four times and was going through the cycle to try a fifth time. I was convinced it would be so simple. My husband said, “It’s not a challenge to see if you can get pregnant. It’s about starting a family. Let’s use a surrogate.” It’s amazing we have such a fabulous, viable option available to us…..as surrogacy. These women who are completely altruistic and believe in family to the point they will actually give the gift of life to another couple. But, you have to make sure you do it wisely. We went through the Center for Surrogate Parenting in LA. Beware of trying to do it on your own over the internet. There are a lot of laws, and these agencies meticulously screen these women, and kinda hold your hand through the process so all involved have a positive experience. Our surrogate, who was wonderful, carried both our sets of twins, and she had done it for another couple. She has three girls herself who are teenagers.
How did your first three daughters react to your having more children? They wanted me to be happy. They ‘re great big sisters to the little ones, and Jeff’s been able to make us all come together without stepping on the toes of their biological dad. It was important for them, as emerging young women, to be part of in a family where they saw a very healthy, loving, supportive mom and dad/husband and wife. You want to be a good role model for your children.
How did it feel to this time ’round to become a mom later in life? Interestingly, men have been doing it for decades, and nobody blinks. But, when we, as women, do it, it makes the front cover of People magazine. You’re so much more secure, not just financially, but emotionally….and in your career. I’m way less daunted, more patient and less quick to react. When you’re younger, you don’t have that ability quite as much. You’re not as self-confident. At this age, it’s kinda like, been there, done that…I know that game.
Those people around me say I’m pretty much parenting the way I did first time around. Though it’s a little more challenging with all the electronic devices. I think it’s hard for women today who choose to work out of the home, whether you’re a later or younger mom. You need to disconnect from work and be completely present with your children. You can’t be answering emails or taking calls during dinner. Kids model what you do more than what you tell them to do.
Do you see any challenges as a later mom? I’m incredibly active. My friends call me the energizer bunny. But, if you’re not the kind of person who’s gonna want to still bike ride with your kids or play basketball in the driveway, then maybe you shouldn’t make the decision to have kids.
Has motherhood has influenced your choice of projects? Absolutely. In a very ironic way…when I first started at Good Morning America….at a time when women really weren’t equal at all…I didn’t get the big politicians or world leaders or celebrities. I got all the women’s stories. How to cook and feed your family. Parenting. Education. All those things that people really cared about in their daily lives. I’ve always been a self-help junkie, and because I was relegated to those stories, it made me more relatable and endeared me to the audience, and probably greatly contributed to my longevity. It helped create the platform I have now. I had the amazing opportunity to cook with some of the greatest chefs of our time, whether Julia Child, Emeril, Wolfgang Puck or Bobby Flay….they were in our studio, and I learned so much from them. I learned not to be afraid of food or making a mistake.
What do you most want to teach your children? I had to learn as an adult how to be healthy and fit. My mom was a Mid-Westerner. She didn’t know any better. She thought, if you put sauce or butter on it, it’s good. She never owned a pair of sneakers in her life. I never saw her exercise. It was a different generation. If I can instill in my kids the importance of making healthy choices in what you eat, and that as a family, you’re gonna do things that are active…and to read labels…to care if products are safe, even for the environment, then I’ve sent a productive person out into the world.
Was all of this your motivation for the new line of cookware, Twiztt by Joan Lunden? Being a mom has definitely influenced me, but it probably goes back way further. I’m a doctor’s child who always wanted to grow up to be a physician. My dad, being an oncologist, would take us out to plant a garden of fresh vegetables and explain this is how you’re gonna protect your health for the rest of your life. I went to work in a hospital, and found out sutures and scalpels were not gonna be part of my grown-up life. I ended up in broadcasting, where you’re disseminating information on a daily basis on how people can make better choices. All of that sent me down this path. For the last twenty years, I’m been writing books about health and talking to women’s groups always trying to motivate and inspire them. And, now, that I’m making a transformation from broadcasting to entrepreneurship, being able to associate myself with a product line that can help Americans be healthier is icing on the cake.
We have been cooking on highly toxic non-stick cookware for decades. As a journalist, I’ve reported on this more than once. But, the cookware brought tremendous convenience to people…and we’d not been given an alternative. It is made with PTFE and a very toxic chemical PFOA that destroys the environment. Most of us have it in our bodies and don’t know it, and it can lead to diseases including cancer and Alzheimer’s. Cooking a healthy recipe is great, but you need to be cooking with healthy pans. Get rid of your old melted down, scraped up pans. I wanted to be part of a movement that is akin to educating people about smoking and then a few years ago about the toxic plastics we were using. The EPA has struggled for years to get toxic cookware off the market.
Every piece in the Twiztt line has a new, smarter twist to cooking. There are other high end companies using ceramic, but they are extremely expensive. Plus, our line, sold exclusively at Bed, Bath and Beyond, has some innovations. You can take ours off the stove top and put it safely in the oven to finish off a dish. The inside of the pots have measurement markers. The lids have a patented locking lid, so you can pick it up from the stove with one hand and drain it without everything falling into the sink. The one thing that separates us from every other line of cookware is that we sell our pots, casseroles and sauce pans with these beautiful melamine bowls that come in red and white. You can take a pot hot off the stove and put it in a bowl that keeps it hot…and you can place it on the table….and use it to serve the food without transferring it to serving dish. It’s one less step and one less dish to wash. The bowls are multipurpose, and it shaves time off the time we spend in the kitchen.
How do you make time to practice self care and create couple time? It’s always challenging, particularly if you’re a working mom. You have to plan it out and organize it and take that time for yourself. A lot of women feel it’s being selfish, but it’s not. I come to work feeling more energized when I work out in the morning. I return to my family happier and more upbeat about life. You’re gonna be a better mom and bring back a certain energy. You do the same with your marriage. Gotta have date night. And, if you can get your husband involved…for example playing tennis with you…..putting some competition back into a marriage gives it a certain kind of spunk, and it makes you feel like you were back when.
In closing, any advice you’d like to offer those contemplating motherhood? Anticipate everything you’re gonna have to do, and be prepared ahead of time. Planning helps eliminate those stress moments.