Willie Geist and his wife Christina both have full plates. He co-anchors MSNBC’s Morning Joe and is the anchor of Sunday Today with Willie Geist. Christina founded True Geist, a branding and package design firm with clients all over the world. She also launched Boombox, a line of personalized memory boxes, and is releasing her second children’s book in July. The Local Moms Network spoke to this power couple about family (they have son George, 10, and daughter Lucie, 12), career and more.
Willie, you’ve interviewed countless celebrities, politicians and athletes, and you recently talked about being star struck after meeting Mick Jagger. Have your kids been super impressed by anyone Dad has interviewed?
They have their own lives and like all kids, they’re not overly impressed by their parents. But when I started on the Today Show, [the band] One Direction was playing on the plaza at the height of their mania. We brought the kids. George had just been in my sister’s wedding and he had a tuxedo, and had been told if there is a big moment in life, you wear a tuxedo. He was 2 ½ and he put on his full tux for rocking out to One Direction.
Hilarious! Christina, can you please tell me about your new book, out July 16?
The new book is called Sorry Grownups You Can’t Go To School. The summer my kids were 3 and 1, I was spending time at my in-laws’ beach house close to a little day camp that my daughter could go to a few mornings a week. As part of the process to get her excited about it, I’d casually explain to her grandfather Sorry Bumpa, camp is not for you! And he’d pretend to cry and be sad. And when my mother-in-law came into the room I’d say so sorry Jo Jo but camp is not for you. Even to Daphne the dog…You cannot come to camp; that would be so silly! Lucie thought it was hilarious to reject all of us, and off she went to camp. A lot of the stories that are written to ease that transition feature characters that are shy or scared or sad and are about overcoming those emotions. I wanted a story that turned it all upside down and was really about empowerment and fun and being excited about going off to school.
Wonderful! How would you describe Willie as a dad?
My nickname for him when the kids were young (and still now) is “Fun Dad/Fun Daddy”. He’s tons of fun! He’s a big guy, 6 feet 4 inches, so he’s a presence in any room he enters. When you’re a little kid that presence is felt even more. He’s really playful but also very loving and emphatic and considerate of both of our kids feelings and emotions. He’s in touch with them as kids and people, and celebrating what they’re best at. My son has an incredibly advanced sense of humor and my daughter has an adult appreciation of music and those come from Willie—andI’d like to think me too.
So lovely. And Willie, same question—how would you describe Christina as a mom?
Christina always knows what to do. From the moment Lucie was born—and she’s 12 now—she knew what to do. It’s a cliche but there is no guidebook when you walk out of the hospital. She always knew or seemed like she knew what to do with a confidence that made me feel confident. Everyone, especially our children, turn to her when they need to know what do I do now?
Christina, what do you like to do on the weekend as a family?
Willie works Sundays so we always wake up and watch him on Sunday Today and then when he gets off the air, we meet up as a family. Our best Sundays are when the four of us can just hit the diner. Lately we’ve been doing a lot of baseball and softball games. So a perfect Sunday for us is having two games that aren’t at the same time and sitting in the sun with other parents we love and cheering on the kids.
How about you Willie—ideal weekend?
We’re lucky to be close to our families—Christina’s parents are in New Jersey and my parents are in Connecticut. My sister and Christina’s three siblings are all close by. We usually don’t plan too much, and sometimes just go to Central Park or get together with family.
Willie, what do you like to do on the rare occasion you have free day without kids?
We don’t have many of those to be honest! We’re all so busy that the week can feel like a whirlwhind. If we can, we sneak away and have dinner or lunch on a weekday. It’s nice to look across a table at each other and actually catch up. Living in New York City, it’s nice to get out of the neighborhood and shake yourself out of your routine to grab dinner or just walk around.
What do you think every new dad, or dad of little kids, should know?
There is talk about quality time but…just time. Let your kids have memories of you being there. Not every time you see them has to be to scoop them up to go to ice cream. But you’re around for homework, to hear the story about the playground, or have an impromptu game of catch, which I did with my daughter after I got home from an event last night. People always ask me how crazy it is to get up so early for work, but I’ve been home for bath time and reading time and bed time. Just to be there and have their little brains develop memories of you invested and interested and there for them the whole time. Be there as much as you humanly can be. For me it’s do your job, prepare, do it well, then get home.
And did you get any advice you’d like to share from your dad [longtime television journalist Bill Geist]?
He never sat down and said you should get into media, or now that you’re in it you should know this…All I got was a great example of someone who liked his job and was good at it and went to interesting places and spoke to interesting people. My dad didn’t brag about the thing he did today but I’d see the show and say that looks like a cool job—you get to put your stamp on something.
Last question—Willie, Father’s Day is in a few days. What are you hoping for as a gift?
(Laughing) A restored 1974 Ford Bronco. If you know anyone with that kind of dough, or maybe the kids can start a lemonade stand? On the off chance that they don’t find that kind of cash in the couch cushions…I like an adventure. Christina is big on a production and the kids have inherited that quality, too.