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EXCLUSIVE: Allison Langdon reveals how hosting Parental Guidance impacted her home life: "It made me question my own parenting"

''It kind of made me think 'am I a bad parent?'''

By Laura Masia
As a journalist of over 20 years, Allison Langdon has had plenty of experience asking the hard questions to celebrities and politicians alike, but this time, hosting Nine's latest reality show Parental Guidance, she knew she was in for a bumpy ride.
Chatting to a group of all different kinds of parents, if she didn't strike a delicate balance between objectivity, authenticity and kindness, things could go awry. And sometimes, she admits, they did.
"There are very dramatic moments," Allison, 42, reveals to TV WEEK.
"Everyone just wants to be the best parent they can." (Image: TV WEEK)
"I think that's because we're dealing with issues like discipline and smacking, or whether your child would go off with a stranger. They're pretty emotive subjects and the room did get heated."
As a mum of two young children, Mack, four, and Scout, three, Allison understood the vulnerability the other parents felt in the room. Although she learnt all sorts of new things from the parents on the show, their dedication to their parenting choices made her question her own.
"I was amazed by how much thought and care all the parents had put into their particular approach. It kind of made me think "am I a bad parent?" Allison shares.
"I thought about how my husband and I parent. We've had conversations here and there but we kind of just wing it."
Throughout the show, Allison took on board bits and pieces from every parent as well as her co-host, parenting expert Dr. Justin Coulson. Inspired, she made a few hours in the afternoon completely technology free, let her kids take more risks in the playground and started to schedule parenting check-ins with her husband, Michael Willesse Jr, every few months to make sure they're on the same page. They're changes that she's very grateful for.
When COVID lockdowns hit Sydney, Allison still went into the office in the morning, and her kids were too young to do schooling at home. (Image: TV WEEK)
"Often when you hold a mirror up to some of the stuff you do, you start to look at it perhaps a little differently," she says.
"Everyone just wants to be the best parent they can."
Reflecting back to her own idyllic childhood exploring bushland in regional Wauchope, NSW, the Today host would love to take on the same free-range approach with her kids. But living in the bustling city of Sydney, Allison and Michael have to be more like helicopter parents to keep them safe.
"My parents were free range. They understood that we'd use our own influence to stay alive and be okay. I loved it and had a desire to raise my kids in the same way but I'm raising them in the city," she says.
"When it comes to things like busy roads, and the kids running around, I'm a helicopter parent."
When the COVID lockdowns hit Sydney for a second time, not a whole lot changed for the journalist; she still went into the office in the morning, and her kids were (thankfully) too young to do schooling at home.
"We've been very lucky and blessed getting through lockdowns as we have. We're very mindful of that.
"Don't get me wrong, you do have moments where you're like 'I'm not sure that we're all meant to spend this much time together," she laughs.
Before the strict restrictions in Sydney, Allison did her best to give her kids a taste of the positive free-range experience she had growing up by taking them to her parents' farm, four hours outside of Sydney each month.
"There are very dramatic moments," Allison revealed of her time hosting Parental Guidance. (Image: Nine)
"I'd drive them up after a show on Friday, have a weekend up there enjoying time with their grandparents collecting eggs, riding lawn mowers and tractors, all sorts of things," she says warmly. "They really missed that connection with their grandparents."
These days, Allison is known best as the host of breakfast news program Today alongside her co-host Karl Stefanovic. Although the transition from a decade perfecting long-form interviews on 60 Minutes to the short and sharp demands of breakfast television was difficult at times, it was a challenge that the journalist welcomed with open arms.
"I spent 10 years with that program. It was the best 10 years and I loved it, but it did start to get tricky with little kids and after spending a decade on the program, it was nice to have a new start."
Allison shares Mack, four, and Scout, three, with her husband Michael Willesse Jr. (Image: Instagram)
While initially there was speculation about whether the duo would make a good pair, the booming ratings for the program have been proving their nay-sayers wrong.
"You know, it feels nice that what we're doing is resonating. Karl and I are pretty close and that really helps," she reflects.
"I think we both trust our instincts as journalists about what big news stories are, and the rest is just remembering that with morning television, you're invited into people's homes – it's about getting the balance right."
But the heavy weight of COVID on news television isn't lost on the pair.
"I think more than ever, we all need a laugh," she asserts.
These days, Allison is known best as the host of breakfast news program Today alongside her co-host Karl Stefanovic. (Image: TV WEEK)
"There's some serious stuff we have to talk about but we need to be able to shift the heavy to the light," she says.
However, sadly for Allison, there is one attempt to bring a smile to audiences faces that hasn't always been a hit – her singing.
"God, I've had a lot of people writing in telling me to stop singing, including my mother," she giggles.
"But it brings me so much joy! I think some people think that I believe I'm a good singer, I'm very well aware of how tone deaf I am but it doesn't matter – I'm having fun."
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