Navigating the unpredictability of parenthood

Screen Shot 2018-07-22 at 2.39.29 PMTroy and I were supposed to go to a wedding in Fort Lauderdale this weekend — our first weekend getaway sans kids in over a year. But our childcare plans fell through, so I cancelled my flight to stay home with the kids. I encouraged Troy to still go, since the wedding is for one of his best friends.

It ended up being a good thing that we aren’t both out of town. Last night, Madelyn came down with a stomach bug that carried over into today. I got about two hours of sleep last night, between comforting Madelyn, bathing her after she threw up, changing two sets of sheets, and bathing myself.

A few minutes after I put Madelyn down for her midday nap today, Tucker woke up crying after an all-too-short nap. I had been planning to do laundry and dishes and make the bed while they both slept, but instead I rocked Tucker until he fell back asleep. I let him sleep on me, and for once told myself that the chores could wait.

As I think about how the weekend has panned out, I keep thinking about something that my Gramz, who helped raise me, used to say: “Your life is not your own when you have kids.” I never understood it and would always tell her she sounded like a Debbie Downer.

But now as a mom, I know there’s a whole lot of truth to that statement, and that for my grandma, it was rooted not in negativity but in a selfless reality. Her kids, my kids, come first. And sometimes, a lot of times, other stuff gets put on hold. Plans get cancelled, weddings get missed, the laundry and dishes pile up.

Parenthood is an exercise in letting go of the tendency to plan everything out, in learning when to say no, in realizing you can’t please everyone all the time. When you have little kids, plans are always written in pencil. Or washable crayon, depending on the day. The trick is knowing when to get out the erasers and being ok with some smudges.


Published by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

Mallary is a mom of two young kiddos -- Madelyn and Tucker. Mallary absolutely loves being a mom and often writes about the need to find harmony when juggling motherhood and work. Mallary is the Assistant Director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin, where she manages the Center's various programs related to distance learning, freedom of expression, and digital journalism. Previously, she was Executive Director of Images & Voices of Hope and Managing Editor of The Poynter Institute’s media news site, Mallary grew up outside of Boston and graduated from Providence College in Rhode Island. In 2015, she received a certificate in nonprofit management from Duke University. She now lives in beautiful Austin, Texas, with her kids, husband Troy and cat Clara. She's working on a memoir, slowly but surely. You can reach her at

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