Editor’s note: Attachment Parenting International (API) hopes every mom enjoyed her Mother’s Day on May 10 and every dad is looking forward to Father’s Day on June 21. This week, in honor of all mothers, API gives you a special “Inspired Mothers” celebration. We hope these posts inspire you in your parenting journey.
Last week, my husband and I went out to dinner and a movie, while my mom put our toddler to bed. To many families, this might not be a big deal, but no one other than me had ever put her to bed before. My mom let her stay up an hour past her usual bedtime, so my husband and I drove around until my mom texted us that our daughter was asleep and we could come in.
While we drove, I cried. Was my daughter upset? (She wasn’t.) Was she asking for me? (She did, and accepted my mom’s explanation that Mommy and Daddy would be there when she woke up.) Did she still need me?
Of course she does, she’s 2 years old. But she certainly doesn’t need me as much as she used to.
That’s the paradox of mothering young children: When they need you relentlessly, you long for a break. But when they suddenly don’t need you for something, it leaves a void.
On our way home, my husband and I talked about our daughter starting preschool next fall. We’ll have a new baby by then, and I’m sure I will be thankful for the time to focus on just one kid. But I will miss her. And it bothers me that I won’t be there to see what she’s interested in that day or to kiss her better if she falls on the playground.
When I told my friends about my mom’s success getting our daughter to sleep, they all said how wonderful it is that I now have some extra freedom. They also empathized with my mixed feelings about it.
Truly, I love watching my daughter become more and more independent as she grows. If she wasn’t playing happily by herself right now, I couldn’t be writing this post. Now that she doesn’t need me to fall asleep, I can go out and not worry about being back by 7 p.m.
Freedom is wonderful, and I find it far preferable to being needed constantly. But as our children need us less, it’s hard not to imagine the day when they won’t need us at all. This, of course, is the goal of parenting, and our children’s separation from us is healthy. But that doesn’t mean it is easy. If I’m smart, like my parents, I will fill that stage of life with travel, hobbies and time with friends.
In the meantime, I will try to value the moments my children do need me, even when it leaves me exhausted and irritated — because mothering young children is relentless, but it is also temporary. One day in the future, I will sleep until noon and fill my day with activities of my own choosing. But for now I will read a book about Elmo making a pizza, for the 25th time, knowing that one day I won’t have to.
And while I probably won’t miss Elmo’s culinary adventures, I will miss cuddling on the couch while I read about them.