It’s a busy day in the studio for Kathy Hart. Actor Tim Robbins calls in for a chat, musician James Blunt walks into the studio for a performance that steals her breath away and work pals Eric and Melissa are trying to find her a new best friend.
But she also has other things on her mind. Hart, famous in Chicagoland for her no-holds-barred on-air banter weekday mornings on 101.9 The Mix for the past 10 years, is thinking about life and motherhood.
Her kids, 8-year-old Xander and 5-year-old Annika, are home getting ready for school, probably listening. So far, she hasn’t said anything this morning she’ll have to explain later. Sure she laughs now, but it wasn’t so funny when, after singing Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” at the station’s Christmas party, she had to go home and explain “what a virgin was and why mommy was like a virgin.”
The man of her life, Bert, doesn’t listen to the show. Sometimes things get back to him, with a few untrue twists. “So a lot of times I have to explain myself and tell him the real story,” Hart says with a smirk, “but most times he just shrugs it off. He gets it.”
He has to.
By the time he met Hart, a self-admitted scrapper, she’d already learned tough lessons about staying true to herself as others sought to change her.
The pair met in a karate class in late 1995. As Hart begins the love story, she starts to laugh and says she has to be careful in its retelling “because it tends to be a little obnoxious.”
“We were actually in the mount position in karate class,” she says with a huge laugh. Bert was the teacher, Hart the student learning the proper technique for dismount. “When he was going through all these instructions on what to do, I wasn’t listening. All of a sudden it’s wow, he’s sitting on top of me … I think I kind of like him.”
Bert was balding, a little pudgy. “He didn’t look like my perfect man, but once I got to know him I realized he was all about my perfect man.”
Kids came pretty quickly. They figured on three, but got caught up in the first two, her skyrocketing career and then Bert, a stay-at-home dad to Hart’s crazy hours, bought a karate school.
“Life got a little crazy,” she says.
Hart’s job has her up at 3:30 a.m. She checks on the kids to make sure they are still covered and little Annika usually gets up too, sitting on her yellow ducky stool in the bathroom watching mom get ready, waiting to pick out her jewelry for the day. (Hart confides she’s learned to have some backup jewelry in the car, just in case.)
At work by 4:45 a.m. and on air at 5:30 a.m. for more than 375,000 listeners, she yaks it up with Eric Ferguson, Melissa McGurren, with a little Barry Keefe thrown in, for the next four and a half hours. With meetings, movie screenings and other production responsibilities, she doesn’t make it home before Bert leaves for the karate school. And he won’t be home until well past bedtime.
“Kathy turned into Mommy Dearest a little bit at night. It got to be like 7 p.m. and I have to watch The Bachelor,” Hart says with a little bit of drama. “[I was] making dinner, picking out clothes, reading them a story, taking care of the dogs. … For the benefit of the kids, mostly to have Happy Kathy around, we finally broke down and got some help.”
She and Bert mostly see each other just on weekends-and they’ve decided that’s OK.
When they realized life wasn’t about them anymore, she says they had a serious talk. ” ‘Are you comfortable with this?’ ” she remembers asking him. ” ‘The kids pretty much need us right now, you just opened a business, I have a pretty demanding job. Are we OK with not being number one in each other’s lives right now?’ It took so much pressure off of us, individually and as a couple dealing with day-to-day challenges of a marriage.”
Waiting for a baby
The mom in Hart, 42, wants more.
With room in her heart for another child, she began thinking about adoption. But would Bert go for it? As soon as she brought up the idea, she says, he admitted he’d always wanted to adopt too, “which made him even more my perfect man.”
They decided to adopt an African-American baby after seeing so many children in Chicago needing loving families. Working through The Cradle, they hope their dream baby finds them soon.
Still, they have taken their time with the process. “I truly believe it’s for that baby that was meant to be with us,” she says.
Annika wants a girl. Xander wants a boy. Hart just wants another someone to love.
“I have one friend who thinks I’m the perfect mom. Oh good lord no,” she says. “I live through the guilt of not being at ice cream social night because I’m with Sister Hazel at After 5 Live and there are times where I can’t be there as a mom and of course, have guilt. There are times I make the wrong decision and live with the guilt of that.
“We all have challenges in our day-to-day life to keep us from being a perfect parent. In my opinion, it’s impossible. As long as your kids are happy, that to me is being a perfect parent.”
Kathy Hart on …
“I immediately think about how the marriage I’m in right now is the best. While I think there are things that could make it better, there are certainly things that could make it worse and
not successful. I’m blessed with the best husband ever.
I got so lucky.”
The first time around, though, she admits she wasn’t so lucky. “Marriage, it meant something entirely different to me when I was younger and after I filed one off, then I realized how finding that right person means everything.”
“It’s the best thing that ever happened to me … It’s a love so amazing and powerful and unconditional. I love it.”
“What?” with a huge laugh. “That would be my answer. If I had to do it in one word, it would be ‘quickie.’ “
Being in the spotlight
“It’s fun. My mom always said I was the one in the family that needed the attention and she was right.”
Life "Lucky, if I had to say it in one word. Taking full advantage of it, without a doubt."
Tamara L. O’Shaughnessy is the editor of Chicago Parent.