NBC News star Tom Llamas on parenting: 'With 3 kids, it’s always a party'

Tom Llamas talks fatherhood. (Photo: NBC; designed by Quinn Lemmers)
Tom Llamas talks fatherhood. (Photo: NBC; designed by Quinn Lemmers)

Welcome to So Mini Ways, Yahoo Life's parenting series on the joys and challenges of child rearing.

NBC News anchor Tom Llamas has been seen chasing storms and ex-presidents, but at certain hours of the day, he’s likely running after his little ones. Llamas has three children with his wife Jennifer (“the executive producer of our family!”) and while he’s been working in newsrooms since he was a teenager, his schedule is now as grueling as ever thanks to the demands of parenting and anchoring,

Currently hosting the new primetime series Top Story, a fast-paced visual journey of the major domestic and international headlines from around the world, the Emmy-winning Miami native spoke to Yahoo Life about parenting his three kids during the pandemic and calling New York City home.

"Raising kids in the city is tough, but I will say, because of the way we live, we’re always together and we’re such a close family," Llamas says. "I really hope that never changes."

How would you describe your approach to parenting?

I learn every day but I grew up with a certain set of values and I want to share that with my kids — that they have a loving home, they have two people who love them more than the world. I think that’s our driving force, and to always be supportive and talk to them.

Does that closeness stem from a close relationship with your parents?

My mom could talk to me multiple times a day and she’d be OK with that [laughs]. I talk to my parents a lot. Coming from an immigrant family — you have to understand, my parents and grandparents came here, lost everything, didn't speak the language and all they had was each other — family is very, very important. Just the fact that I don't live in Miami — they support it, but it’s not normal to my family. Luckily, my mom has my brother down there, but I come from a very close, tight-night family and it’s nice to share those experiences with my parents. It’s incredibly important; when my parents come here to New York, they’ll stay with us. I love it! I love having family over and staying with us.

How do you carve out time for yourself?

It’s hard with the new show and it’s hard for my wife. If I’m not doing the Today show, I wake up two hours before my family (around 5 a.m. during the week) and do my reading, meditation and prayer, have my coffee, think about the day and about the show and try to get set for the day. I make it a point to have that morning to get up before the kids; it ranges from one to two hours. It sets the tone for the day. Sometimes my son hears me and my alone time is over [laughs]. Once the family gets up, it’s chaos! The day’s going to start, and with three kids, it’s always a party.

What was parenting for you like during the pandemic? Even crazier?

First, I was a frontline reporter interacting with doctors and people recovering from COVID, going to hospitals in New York City. My wife and I made a decision early on, since I was on the front line, to be careful and to send the family to Miami...

We were apart for three or four months and it was difficult. It was a horrible story [to cover] and incredibly lonely. The story was devastating and it was tough for my wife; trying to take care of three kids was difficult. I don't have good memories of that, but luckily, it wasn't too bad and we got through it — and hopefully my kids don't remember that time period.

Is there anything that blew your mind about parenting?

They bring so much happiness to me and my wife. We like to go on vacation together but we’re at the point where we want to take them along. Thankfully, we have all the grandparents who come in and help us out. But now, we just want to spend time with them and be together.

You have this assumption that kids are going to be [just like you] but they’re their own person and it’s better that way. They’re their own people, completely.

What have you learned from having daughters?

It’s opened my eyes to a new way of living and life. It’s wonderful. It’s like, whatever they ask, I’ll give them. I’m gonna be the worst parent when they’re older [laughs].

And what have you learned from having a son?

It was a complete game-changer — but in a great way. I grew up with a brother and my daughters play different games and with different toys [than we did]. My son just wants to wrestle — every day. My daughters will see that and they’ll want in on the action [laughs].

Do you have any advice when it comes to dealing with parent-shamers?

Now having children of my own, I don't judge parents, because you don't know what that family is going through. I learned that early on; once you have kids you realize it’s wild.

Top Story with Tom Llamas streams live Monday through Friday at 7 p.m. on Peacock, Roku, YouTube TV, Fire TV and Apple TV (and more).

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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