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Moms, I’ve Finally Made It to the Point You’re All Waiting For

Photograph by Twenty20

Last night, my husband and I sat on our backyard swing and watched as our four children ran laughing in the light of the setting sun.

There was no one to ask us for help getting up on the trampoline, no one who needed my hand to walk around the yard, no one to hold or feed or push or pick up. I sat on the swing and breathed a deep sigh of relief.

"This is it," I told my husband. "We've been waiting so long for this."

He nodded in agreement and we sat in silence, basking in the moment when it felt like we had made it as parents.

Right now, I am so close to what you could call a "sweet spot" of parenting. Four children who are potty trained, four children who can walk alone, (mostly) get in the shower alone, and get dressed alone. And yet, at almost three through nine, they are young enough to cuddle with, play with, and keep safe. There are no late-night texts or phone calls to worry about, no teens driving on the road, no endless sports activities to run to.

For so long, I feel like I've just been trying to survive parenthood—just getting through to the next feeding, the next diaper blowout, the next chance I could sneak a moment to close my eyes. It's like I've been on autopilot and I've come to a shuddering halt.

And now? I'm looking around with relief and gratitude and realizing that we've made it out of the trenches.

I look back on what I've been through as a mother and quite honestly, I feel like I've been through some battles. I was so young when we started having kids—only 21 and still in college—and by the age of 28, I had given birth to all four of our children. I was too young when we got started to even realize how hard it would be, too young to realize what was ahead of me, and too ignorant to know that there might be a better way.

I look back my youthful, naive, innocent self and kind of want to hug her but also smack some sense into her. Why did she insist on doing everything alone? Why did she sit alone in her basement and cry instead of getting help? Why didn't she realize that being a "good" mom looks like whatever you want it look like, not like staying home and baking all day long?

So to all the mamas who are currently drowning in the trenches, I'm happy to report that it really does get better. It really and truly does.

If I'm being honest with you, there were some serious dark times in my early years as a mom. Days and weeks and months and years when I felt like I was walking in a fog, when I was exhausted from the moment my eyes opened in the morning, just thinking of the sheer monotony of the tasks that lay before me: diapers after diapers after diapers, cleaning 24/7, never leaving my house, feeling trapped in an endless cycle of kids on opposite nap schedules, honestly believing I was the only mother in the world who hated motherhood and loved it so much at the same exact time.

And just like that, I stepped out on the other side, not even realizing that I was doing it. It was like one minute I was knee-deep in the mud, and the next I was standing on the edge of the bank, looking over my shoulder suspiciously like are we really here right now? Do I really get to sleep an actual eight hours and wear normal shirts and walk out of the door with nary a bag of spare clothes and diapers and snacks in sight?

But I do. I am here.

My kids are still young, of course, but that baby and toddler stage is so very different and intensive and it feels like a big, breath of fresh air to realize that I can finally relax a little bit.

So to all the mamas who are currently drowning in the trenches, I'm happy to report that it really does get better. It really and truly does.

I understand if you don't believe me. I kind of wanted to punch people who told me it would get better, because I didn't believe them, either. I tried to protect myself by reminding myself that the teen years are coming and hormones will be raging and being able to soothe my children's ouchies with a kiss is a whole heck of a lot easier than trying to ease a broken heart or bullying.

But I'm changing my tune now that I'm in the sweet spot of parenting, far enough removed from the relentless baby and toddler stage to realize that when you're in there, it's OK to hold onto to that lifeline that older parents try to throw you by encouraging you that better days are ahead. Because they are.

So if you're in the trenches right now, hold on to this life preserver I'm throwing you, because there will be a day when your kids just go get ready for bed without you or get a snack without you or, holy grail, use the bathroom without you, and it will be good. It will be good in different ways, just like I'm hoping the teen years will be good in different ways.

And if you're like me and looking around warily, wondering if you've really made it through the baby and toddler years, let's take a minute to enjoy this oh-so-sweet phase of parenthood —we're going to need this break before diving back in come puberty.

Gulp.

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