"I've gotten lots of letters saying, 'We hope you'll change industry's attitude toward new mothers,' " says Lunden, 30, who introduced Jamie to Good Morning America's six million viewers the first day her maternity leave ended in August. "I think a lot of women could arrange for child care on the job," she says. "They just don't think about it." When she was hired as a regular on the show last January after four years as a reporter on a local New York station, Joan was expecting, so on being named Sandy Hill's replacement, she had her lawyers write a child-care clause into her GMA contract. The novel arrangement certainly touched network star Barbara Walters. "Barbara came by to see Jamie," Joan reports. "She said, 'All the time I could have spent with my daughter. I could have done it, but I never asked.' "
Watched by a nurse, Jamie snoozes until Mom is off the air at 9 a.m. "I'm too modest to nurse her in public," says Joan, "but I do it in the office, with staffers coming in, while I phone and write." Joan leaves for her Westchester County home in the early afternoon. She prepares supper for producer-husband Michael Krauss, 41, who later bathes the baby. Joan often stays up for Jamie's 10 p.m. feeding, and the day starts again at 3:40 a.m.
Joan's mother was her role model, supporting Joan and her older brother by selling real estate after their father, a Sacramento, Calif. surgeon, died in a plane crash when Joan was 13. After high school Joan spent a semester with the shipbound school, World Campus Afloat, visiting 18 countries in four months, then studied Spanish and anthropology at the University of the Americas in Mexico City for three years. She broke into TV in 1972 as a weatherwoman-trainee with KCRA-TV in Sacramento. When she stepped up to New York's WABC in 1975, however, she decided to change her name from Blunden to Lunden. "It wasn't easy to explain to my mother," says Joan, whose father was occasionally paged as "Dr. Blunder."
For Joan, such a misnomer might have stuck. In the beginning her inexperience sparked criticism that she was just a pretty face. The attacks sometimes reduced her to tears, but now even her most acid critics, like Newsday columnist Marvin Kitman, may be softening. "She's getting better," says Kitman. "You can't cite her as the perfect Barbie Doll now."
Husband Krauss, a GMA producer when they met five years ago, later jumped to NBC's rival Today and now has his own production company. He sometimes offers a professional critique but has only praise for Joan's role-juggling act, which includes interviewing GMA's medical expert, Dr. Timothy Johnson. "Every time I have a question for my own pediatrician, I put it on my list for Dr. Johnson," Lunden says. One question is when to have another baby. She hopes the answer isn't "soon." Says Joan, "I'm not sure our audience is ready for nine more months of pregnancy."
Like many other early morning TV personalities, Jamie gets up early. The chauffeured limo arrives at 4:30 a.m., and she manages breakfast as it whisks her to Manhattan. Then, at the ABC studios, near Lincoln Center, Jamie is lifted out of the limo for another day in the concrete jungle. Lifted? Well, Jamie is the Fourth of July daughter of Good Morning America hostess Joan Lunden—and a veteran at spending the working day with Mom. Jamie may be New York's youngest commuter. She also is a symbol of ways that mothers are trying to fit babes into business.