Making it work as a working parent

Picking Madelyn and Tucker up from daycare is my favorite time of day. The hours that follow are often chaotic, as we rush to get them home, fed, and ready for bed while tending to tantrums and tears. But the actual end-of-day reunion is always a moment for the memory books.

When I walk into Madelyn’s classroom, she stops what she’s doing, runs up to me and gives me a huge hug while smiling and saying “mommy, mommy”! Tucker has also begun smiling when he sees me, and his little eyes grow wide.

Being a working mom can be an emotional seesaw, with your kids across from you. You lift them up when they’re down and they do the same for you. Some moments, you all have your feet on the ground and there’s a semblance of balance. The ups and downs are unpredictable, but the hugs and smiles and wide eyes are a consistent reminder that at the end of the day you are loved — and so are they.

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Here’s to a calmer 2018

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Looking back, 2017 was one of the most memorable years of my life. Madelyn turned 1, Tucker was born, Troy and I got new jobs, and we moved cross-country from St. Pete, Florida to Austin, Texas, which now feels like home. As 2018 approaches, I’m looking forward to embracing the stability that stems from all the big life changes this past year has brought. Here’s to a year of continued growth and bountiful love.

Celebrating the holidays with both sides of the family

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This has been a Christmas week to remember. It was our first Christmas in our new home, with two kids, and with both sets of grandparents here to celebrate it with them.

When you become a parent, you get to relive that sense of wonder you felt when you were a kid around the holidays. You’re given the chance to rekindle family traditions, leave behind the ones that stir up sad memories, and start your own. All the while, your Christmas wish list becomes less about gifts for yourself and more about your children — the big wish being that they’ll grow up with gratitude not just for the gifts they get but for the generosity they symbolize.

As 2018 approaches, I’m feeling grateful for my family — especially Madelyn, Tucker and Troy, the best gifts of all.

Instilling confidence & courage in children

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A rare photo where we’re all looking at the camera!

I spend a lot of time thinking about how I can instill confidence in Madelyn. She’s only 20 months old, but she’s already so impressionable.

Growing up, I struggled with anorexia and disordered eating for more than a decade and had no confidence. It took me awhile to regain it, and it’s stronger in some areas of my life than others.

These days, I’m most confident in my role as a mother.

As a mom, I want to show Madelyn that there’s beauty in imperfections, that her self worth isn’t determined by the numbers on a scale, that success is measured not just by our wins but by how we handle inevitable losses. It’s hard teaching this to a 20-month-old, so I try to hint at it in other ways — by the way I interact with her and the books I read to her.

PersistenceLately, her favorite book has been “She Persisted,” which profiles 13 American women who found the confidence and courage they needed to fight for what was right and pursue professions traditionally dominated by men. I recently bought the book for Madelyn, assuming she wouldn’t be interested in it yet because it’s geared toward older children.

But she discovered it in her book basket and now hands it to me multiple times a day, shouting “Reeeed!” She listens to me read vignettes about Ruby Bridges, Virginia Apgar, Nelly Bly, and Sonia Sotomayor with a look of wonder and possibility in her eyes.

She gets excited seeing illustrations of the women and shouts “guurl!” and “mommy!” when she sees them (because at her age, every storybook girl is a mommy). Even though she doesn’t understand most of the words I’m reading, I like to think she understands there’s something special about these girls/mommies/women and that, like them, she’s capable of achieving greatness.

As Sally Ride says in the book: “Young girls need to see role models in whatever careers they may choose, just so they can picture themselves doing those jobs someday. You can’t be what you can’t see.”

Kids see role models not just in real life, but in books, on TV, and in their imaginations. If they’re lucky, they see them at home. As a child, my mom was my role model. Mom wasn’t college educated and didn’t have a fancy job, but she worked hard at being a good mother. Most of all, I was in awe of her courage.

Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was just 36 years old. As the disease spread to her bone marrow, liver and brain, she grew too weak to even stand or smile. But even at her weakest, she was my greatest source of strength.

It’s been 20 years since Mom passed away, and I still seek inspiration from her perseverance and persistence. She showed me that courage isn’t always grandiose; it takes shape in both small steps and strides.

As a mom, I’m shaped by my own mom and the story of my past. I try to be a role model by taking care of myself, by not critiquing my body out loud, and by pursuing my career while giving my kids all the attention and love they need at home. Some days, it’s all about small steps. Other days, strides.

I like to think that all of this will make a difference in my kids’ lives — and that my husband Troy and I can provide Madelyn and Tucker with the ability to confidently and courageously see all that they can be.

 

Welcoming Tucker Tarpley

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On Wednesday, September 6, we welcomed our second child, Tucker William Tarpley, into the world. Needless to say, we are so in love with him! We adore watching him and his big sister, Madelyn get to know one another. Madelyn and Tucker are close in age — just 19 months apart — and we hope they’ll always be close as brother and sister.

We’re having a lot of fun with our little guy, who likes eating, staring at ceiling fans, keeping mom and dad awake at night, and going for walks in the stroller with Madelyn. Our little guy has only been here for a few weeks, but he has forever changed our lives.

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Remembering loss & celebrating love on Mother’s Day

Squealing and squirming
Exploring the garden.
Hand in hand.
Bow-less and pigtail-less.

 

It’s been 20 years since my mom passed away from breast cancer, and yet I still get emotional on Mother’s Day. Every year I tell myself that I should be over it, that the tears of loss should be dried up by now.

This year, I tried letting the mascara run without remorse. I felt both the sadness of my mother’s passing and the joy of my own passage into motherhood. I approached Mother’s Day as a time for remembrance and celebration, a reminder that loss and love can coexist without one having to replace the other.

Having a daughter of my own, with another baby on the way, makes me feel both closer and farther away from my own mom. Closer because I now appreciate her on a much deeper and relatable level, and farther away because I can’t ask her questions about motherhood or about what I was like as a baby.

I make sense of these paradoxes through writing. For so long, my mother has been my muse. And now, so too is Madelyn — my strong, beautiful and vivacious daughter.

Madelyn squealed and squirmed when we tried posing for Mother’s Day pictures, so we opted for candids instead. She’s always finding ways to deepen my appreciation for unplanned and unposed moments of happiness. When you lose a parent as a child, you wonder if you’ll ever experience those moments again. Becoming a parent years later reminds you that it’s possible. The cyclical nature of life is healing.

Mother’s Day morning, shortly after throwing a teary tantrum, Madelyn grabbed my hand and her grandma’s and guided us on a toddler-size tour of my mother-in-law’s garden. Smiling, I thought about how it was my favorite Mother’s Day gift of all.

When nursing comes to an end

Madelyn found this hat in one of her drawers and keeps putting it on her head and giggling. She normally hates wearing hates. My maternal grandma gave her the hat — one of many great-grandma gifts from the Dollar Tree. Madelyn loves them all.

Last week I stopped nursing Madelyn. For 12.5 months, nursing was her nourishment, her sense of comfort. In some ways, it was mine too. It’s hard to let go of the things that draw our children near — but our motherly instincts, our bodies, our children usually steer us in the right direction and help us arrive at a good decision. Sometimes we take the scenic route, or our internal compass fails us along the way, but eventually we get there.

Remembering my mom, who taught me so much about motherhood

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My beloved mom passed away 20 years ago this month. Usually, life with her in it feels like forever ago. But this year feels unexpectedly different. The memories feel fresher, more vivid — probably because I’m reminded of my mom on a daily basis now that I have a daughter of my own.

For years after my mom died, I put her on a pedestal of perfection. I blocked out the bad because it was too painful to remember and it felt disrespectful. A few years ago, one of my writing mentors asked: Did your mom ever do anything wrong?

Over time, I began writing and talking about her more authentically and came to accept her for who she was — a loving mother who, like us all, struggled and made mistakes. Unintentionally, Mom taught me to appreciate both the blemishes and beauty in life and to see perfection for what it is — unattainable.

Today I’m celebrating the mother she was and the grandmother she would have been. I know she would have loved Madelyn.