As mothers, our roles are constantly shifting and evolving, and we have no choice but to try and keep up, whether we’re ready or not.
Our son has had the same bedtime routine since he was a baby. After dinner, he has a bath, we read some books, and I sing his bedtime songs before kissing him goodnight. This has been our evening routine for nearly four years now.
And then the other night, after we’d finished his last book, I tucked him in and started my nightly rendition of You Are My Sunshine, when he stopped me and said, “No songs tonight, Mommy. I just want to go to sleep.”
I was a little surprised, but figured it had been a long day and he was likely pretty tired. But the next night, when we got to the “songs” step of our routine, he stopped me again.
“No songs tonight, Mommy.” My heart broke just a little.
That was two weeks ago, and he’s only “let” me sing to him once more, on a night that he was having a particularly hard time settling down to sleep.
My little boy is growing up, and there’s nothing I can do about it. It happened so fast; almost overnight, he’s gone from a chubby infant who was completely dependent on me, to a smart and capable little boy who is continuously testing his boundaries.
I think back to the nights (and there were many of them) when I rushed through our routine, mentally and physically drained after a long day of parenting, and wanting nothing more than for him to go to sleep instead of asking, “one more song, Mommy?” At the time, it seemed like this day would never come.
And it got me thinking …
How much time have I spent on the couch with a baby snuggled up on my chest? Sitting there feeling “trapped” thinking about all of the things I could be getting done instead?
How many days have I stumbled through in a tired fog, exhausted and irritable after waking several times the night before to soothe a teething baby?
How many hundreds of hours have I spent rocking my babies to sleep? Silently wishing I wasn’t spending so much of my day in that rocking chair, waiting for them to finally drift off?
At the time, each of these phases seemed as if they would last forever. Now, looking back, it’s easy to see that they were just that: phases. Brief, passing moments on this incredible journey called motherhood.
These days, I’m lucky if my children stop running long enough for a quick hug on their way by. They all sleep through the night. And I actually can’t remember the last time I sat in our rocking chair.
As mothers, our roles are constantly shifting and evolving, and we have no choice but to try to keep up, whether we’re ready or not.
In fact, up until this point, I’ve been pregnant or nursing for the past four years. My children – at ages two and four – already don’t need me in the way they once did. And it’s equal parts heartbreaking and liberating.
The evidence of all things baby is disappearing from our household. The high chairs, a staple in our kitchen “decor” over the past few years, have made their way into the garage. The plastic baby toys and teething rings sit untouched in a box on the top shelf of the playroom. And I’ll admit it: I’m sad to bid farewell to the baby days.
But at the same time, I can’t deny enjoying the rediscovered sense of freedom that’s come with my children’s growing up and gaining new levels of independence; I’ve gone back to work part-time, I’m actually exercising on a regular basis, and I’ve been indulging in some hobbies and interests here and there.
This must be one of the greatest paradoxes of motherhood: the desire to feel needed, while at the same time, longing for more freedom and time for ourselves.
We pour our hearts into raising our children, teaching them skills and life lessons in hopes that they’ll grow up to be confident, capable individuals who will someday leave our home and become contributing members of society. As parents, isn’t this our ultimate goal?
But at the same time, we mourn the loss of our babies. We’ll miss the days our children needed us to tie their shoes and button their sweaters. We’ll miss that little voice calling out, “Mommy?” in the morning. And we’ll miss that little hand reaching up to find ours.
Someday our house will be empty again. We’ll gain our time and independence back, and we’ll wonder where the years went. It will happen faster than we think.
So my advice? Cuddle your babies while they’ll let you, rock them to sleep for the hundredth time, and sing that extra bedtime song, because before you know it, your son might look up at you some night and say, “No songs tonight, Mommy,” and you’ll realize that another phase in your motherhood journey has come to an end. Whether you’re ready or not.