"I’ve always worked hard, but I know what matters most," Hoda Kotb tells PEOPLE

By Charlotte Triggs and Natalie Stone
January 03, 2018 08:00 AM

When it comes to both professional and personal success, Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb understand firsthand that prioritizing is key.

“I’ve always worked hard, but I know what matters most,” Kotb, 53, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue.

On Tuesday, Kotb was officially named the Today show’s new co-anchor, filling the open position next to Guthrie after Matt Lauer was fired for alleged inappropriate sexual behavior. (Multiple sources describe the cause for termination as an affair that violated NBC’s terms of employment, but in the wake of the news, allegations that included lewd behavior and sexual assault also surfaced.)

Although the women are together leading the popular morning program, their most important responsibilities are at home, where family comes first for the dynamic duo.

“The beauty of getting up in the middle of the night [to go to work] is, on most days you’re home in the middle of the afternoon,” says Guthrie, 46, who is mom to daughter Vale, 3, and son Charlie, who just turned 1, with husband Michael Feldman. “We both get to spend so much time with our babies, and I know I can speak for both of us: That’s where out hearts are.”

Credit: Savannah Guthrie/Instagram

“I think Savannah and I are both late bloomers in the mom department,” shares new mom Kotb, who brought home her newborn daughter, Haley Joy, in February 2017.

“And I think it makes us appreciate it so much more. I think there’s something about waiting for something and having our children and realizing what our priorities are, and you’re right — we have our loves in order. I feel the same way Savannah does, like I race home. And you can’t believe that someone is so excited that you just opened the door. I’m like, ‘Oh my God!’ ”

Credit: Hota Kotb/Instagram

For Kotb, who is raising Haley with her 59-year-old financier beau Joel Schiffman, the past year has been both life-changing and full of blessing after she adopted her baby girl.

“So much of life is unexpected, and it just comes and you take it and you go to the next, you move on. Haley was an unexpected blessing. I wanted her, but who knew [if it was ever going to happen]. That changed my life. Now this happened, and it was also obviously unexpected for not great reasons,” she says, referencing Lauer’s abrupt dismissal.

“But I have to tell you, I feel like this is so normal that I don’t feel different,” Kotb says. “I know it sounds crazy, but it just feels like we will sit together out there and then go home to our kids.”

WATCH: Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie Are Today’s New Anchor Team

  • For more on Hoda and Savannah, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on stands Friday

Not only is the pair — who Kotb says is “sort of like sisters” — beginning a new era at the network, but the co-anchors are also in similar stages in their personal lives.

“We are in a similar season of life with strangely having little babies when lots of women our age have teenagers or might even be having their first grandkids,” Guthrie explains. “And I think that we both are astonished that we’re sitting where we’re sitting today, but also we try to hold it loosely and lightly and not grip it too hard, knowing that this is wonderful and fun but fleeting.”

“What really matters is our families,” Guthrie adds.