The CNN anchor — who is raising sons Wyatt, 3, and 19-month-old Sebastian with his friend and former partner Benjamin Maisani — tells PEOPLE in this week's cover story that he has too much on his plate for a romantic relationship at the moment.
“I have not been dating,” says Cooper, 56. “I don't know. I love spending time with the kids so much that the idea of taking any time away seems impossible to me.”
Asked if dating is a priority at all, he acknowledges, “It’s really not.”
He does, however, hope to meet someone eventually: “Certainly, I guess, but just things are lovely as they are. Before I had kids, that was so important.”
“Either I'm working or I'm with the kids,” he continues, “and I'm exhausted by the time I get home.”
Cooper, who celebrated two decades as host of the primetime news show Anderson Cooper 360 this month, is too drained to even Netflix and chill solo.
“I used to stay up until midnight or 1 a.m. every night, not doing anything particularly exciting," he says. "But even just watching stuff on Netflix or on Max or whatever — now I get home at 9:30 p.m. and I'm ready to go to bed.”
With two young children, sleeping in is also a thing of the past. “I never used to wake up before 11:00 a.m., and I wake up now at six in the morning,” he says.
Having Maisani, 50, as a co-parent certainly helps. The two were in a relationship for many years before splitting in 2018. After they parted ways, Cooper became a father via surrogate, and Maisani has since adopted both boys. The four live together at their homes in New York City and Connecticut.
Cooper says he’s also become more emotional since welcoming his boys. “As anybody who’s become a parent finds out, all the clichés are true. It changes the way you see yourself in the world. I find myself reacting in ways I hadn’t before. I find myself suddenly crying at very human moments,” he says.
“It opens you up to the frailty of these little creatures in your life. And you want to protect them," he says. "You want to be a better person.”
The journalist, who is known for reporting from war zones and sites of natural disasters like the Haiti earthquake in 2010, is now choosier about where and when he goes on location.
“Certainly I would think twice about being away for two months," he reflects. "When I was doing Hurricane Katrina [coverage in 2005], I didn’t want to come back. Now there’s a lot of important things happening — my kids and their lives, and I want to see that.”