Real Life: Val Warner

Val Warner wears her heart on her sleeve and those who tune into Windy City Live, Chicago’s No. 1 talk show, take a journey of her highs and her lows as a single mom right along with her as she raises her two children in Chicago.

“The balancing act is the toughest part,” she says. “You have to be the disciplinarian and the shoulder for them to cry on, you’ve got to be the fun parent, you’ve got to be the involved parent and try to be the co-face of a television talk show. There are some days I am overwhelmed and try to hide that and there are some days when I do let it show. I’ve cried on the Windy City Live set I don’t know how many times.”

She credits the team behind her at both Windy City Live and ABC7 — including co-host Ryan Chiaverini, whom she describes as the brother she never had — for supporting family and letting her be the mother she wants to be to Zoe, 18, and Max, 13.

The result is a fellow mom the rest of us can relate to.

Warner says her parenting style leans more toward having fun and being very involved – maybe, she says, too involved. She also has kept her promise to her kids of an open-door policy – no topic off limits. Now that Zoe is in college, a freshman at Howard University, she’s gets more info than she wished for, she says with a laugh.

“Every phase of your kids’ life has its ups and its downs. … The beauty of it is you get through it all. There are lessons to be learned and beautiful moments and memories to have for the rest of your life,” she says. It’s advice she says she likes to share with young moms.

Big things are happening this year for Warner. She’s in love and getting married. She was 25 at her first marriage, but now at 46, she says she is more sure of herself and what she wants in a relationship.

“At the end of the day, it’s a big day period,” she says about the wedding she is planning. “After that comes the work and that’s the marriage. … I know now as an older bride, we have talked about the work that needs to be put in and we show up for work every day. Does that mean it’s perfect? No, nothing’s perfect.” But they are taking the steps, she says, to make sure this love lasts a lifetime. 

Val Warner - Chicago Parent

The biggest challenge raising kids in Chicago:

The kids like to play in the snow – and she doesn’t like the cold or the snow, she laughs. “It’s been a real joy and a blessing to raise my kids in Chicago. I love this city, I love my job, I feel truly, truly blessed to be in this city this diverse, even though Chicago still has its issues. Still, at the end of the day, it still is a beautiful, beautiful city with a lot to offer.”

The impact of Vice President Kamala Harris on families of color:

The kids know the magnitude of seeing a female person of color in that position, she says. “When I hear my kids talk about me as a role model, I can turn around and say ‘look at this as a role model.’ It makes you smile, it makes your heart swell to think about, ‘wow, the possibilities are endless.’ That’s the message that I ultimately want them to get out of it. Never shoot low, always shoot high. The sky is the limit. Whatever it is you want to do, you can do it. When you see Kamala Harris put her hand on that Bible and take that oath, it’s like see, didn’t mommy tell you, nothing is out of your reach and here’s proof.”

Advice to other moms:

“I love talking to other moms about our experiences as mothers. I think a lot of times we don’t, and so we go through things that we think is only us going through something. I just feel like as moms if we can get out of our heads and our own way and start talking to each other more about the tough times, not necessarily all the cute little stuff you see on Instagram, but when life really gets tough, I believe we have more in common than not. I feel like the resources and support is out there, but as moms, we just don’t want to let everybody know we may not have it going on all the time.”

What are you most looking forward to this summer:

“Some sense of what we used to call normalcy. I’m looking forward to going back to the movies, I’m looking forward to rooftops and getting together. I’m looking forward to human connection again. Of course, who doesn’t love summers in Chicago? Living a true, authentic Chicago summer, that’s what I’m looking forward to the most.” 

Fast Talk

  • Secret weapons for doing it all? Naps.
  • Your most hated household chore? Cleaning the bathroom.
  • Your guilty pleasure: Snacking on the couch at night. My go-to is salt and vinegar chips.
  • The three things you won’t leave the house without: Lipstick, cellphone and Peepers reading glasses.

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This article was featured in Chicago Parent’s March/April 2021 magazine

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