WINCHESTER -- Kim Khazei is appreciating her last days of summer at home with her family.
She helps her three children get ready to go swimming. She wipes down the kitchen counter, then slices some fresh muffins for her husband, Scott Huff, while he washes the dishes. Their black poodle mix Ralphie looks on.
"It will be tough not being here when they come home from school," Khazei says of her children, Hayden, 13; Walker, 9; and Tatum, 7. "I will miss that. But it will be back like it was in the old days, when the minute I was in the door, it was all about them."
Tonight, Khazei returns to her professional home at WHDH-TV (Channel 7) anchoring the 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. newscasts and reporting for the 10 p.m. news on WLVI-TV (Channel 56) and the 11 p.m. news on WHDH. Her return is a homecoming. She began working at WHDH in 1994 as a reporter/anchor and then walked away in 2001 to focus on rearing her three children.
Her return to broadcast TV is newsworthy, given the number of high-profile departures by female anchors in recent years. On the national scene, a pregnant Elizabeth Vargas stepped down from the anchor desk at ABC's "World News Tonight" several months after her co-anchor, Bob Woodruff, was injured in Iraq. While Vargas continues part-time on "20/20," her decision to leave such a plum assignment sent shockwaves through the news industry. Jane Clayson, one-time cohost of CBS's "The Early Show," also left TV news to be at home. (She's now doing some radio work for WBUR.)
Locally, Caterina Bandini resigned last year from her WHDH anchor job to be a full-time mom to twins. Liz Walker left the anchor chair at WBZ in 2005 to spend more time with her teenage son. And back in 2001, Channel 5's Heather Kahn also stepped down to spend more time with family.
Khazei will now be back at work full-time. And while that's no easy task for any parent, news anchoring brings its own set of challenges. It's especially difficult for parents of young children because it requires constant availability for breaking news. Balancing a full-time on-air schedule and a home life with young children is a delicate juggling act.
WHDH embraced Khazei's return even though she has been better known as "mom" in recent years than as a former Boston news anchor. "I'm a mom and I've told my children that being a mom is the most important job and I've shown them that by being home for six years," says Khazei. "But I also want to be a mentor for them and a role model for them as a career person because that is a part of me and I hope that they have that experience in their lifetime, that they have a passion for something the way I have a passion for news. It's nice when you can come back to your career."
Khazei began her TV career in Columbia, Mo., and became an evening news anchor in Champaign, Ill., before landing in Sacramento, Calif., as an anchor and reporter.
She arrived at Channel 7 in 1994 just as Sunbeam Television Corp. took over the station and introduced a fast-paced, graphics-driven, and aggressive brand of local news to the Boston market.
Khazei ushered in the station's morning show and co-anchored the debut of WHDH's first 4 p.m. show.
On the air, she stood out to viewers because she was both personable and credible. She mostly delivered the afternoon and early evening news, covering some of the biggest stories, such as the fatal plane crash of John F. Kennedy Jr. in 1999.
"She's extremely confident and intelligent," says Linda Miele, news director for WHDH and Khazei's producer in the 1990s. "She has this real ability to connect with whoever she is talking to and really get to the essence of the story. That is something you just can't teach."
But the pressure of having three young children, who were 7, 2, and 1, and her demanding role at WHDH began to weigh on Khazei. In 2001, she walked away from her career for a more stable home life with her kids and husband.
"I acted on that maternal tugging. I felt I really needed to be home with them when they were so young at the time," Khazei says. "We have to make those choices. People say women can't have it all and I think we can. I may be home right now doing what I need to be doing with my children but it doesn't have to be over."
The transition to full-time motherhood from full-time anchoring was difficult. She resigned just two weeks before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"I'm sitting at home, thinking what is for dinner, and who needs to do math homework," recalls Khazei, whose glamorous life of business suits and stylists was replaced with mornings spent preparing lunches, doing loads of laundry, and dropping her kids off at school or at lessons. "Watching my friends put on and provide great news was tough."
Over the years, Khazei's husband noticed she wasn't completely satisfied.
"It's been great having her home for six years but I could tell that something was missing. She wanted to do something more," says Huff, a division manager for a medical technology company. The couple, who have been married 16 years, met in Sacramento.
With their children now older and active in after-school activities, Khazei's inner news junkie yearned to come out.
She says the opportunity to come back to her job happened by chance. She was visiting WHDH in June to lunch with a former colleague, and she felt like she was back at home. Talks about a possible return began that month. New WHDH vice president and general manager Randi Goldklank embraced the idea because of Khazei's history with WHDH.
"Kim Khazei was there at the beginning, launching the early morning news, and she rejoins us as we continue to be the contemporary news leader in the market," Goldklank says. "She gets what we do. It was a perfect fit."
This time around, her children can watch and support her return to the airwaves. Khazei says that her husband will bring the kids to Boston for family dinners when she's on break from her anchoring duties.
"I'm excited for her," says Khazei's daughter Hayden. "She always told us that she stayed home because she didn't want a baby sitter raising us. We can take care of ourselves now."
Fellow anchors are delighted that Khazei's back.
"She is experienced from our early days of what we do here," said Randy Price, who co-anchors the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts at WHDH. "She took time off for her personal and family life and is coming back from that. That's a nice perspective that adds to the texture of what we do."
Johnny Diaz can be reached at email@example.com.