What One Tired, Impatient Mom Learned About Herself

She had almost nothing left to give — welcome to motherhood

Our personal agendas can get in the way of being a part of the small and important moments that are the crux of parenting. The challenge with kids is to balance our own needs with the knowledge that children are always communicating with us, or trying to.

Ask any grandparent. It is often the small moments, sometimes beginning with a child’s needs or worries, that end up being lifetime memories — or important parenting lessons.

In spite of good intentions, I had dropped the ball. I’m seeing other times I drop the ball, too.

One recent morning, my kids and I were behind in getting ready for school, and the day was starting off in a mild panic. I hurried my six-year-old into the bathroom to lint-roll an inordinate amount of German Shepherd hair from his school uniform, while his sister ran to pack gymnastics bags for the afternoon. I gathered the bagels and waffles my kids would eat in the car on the drive to school — and we grabbed lunch boxes and headed out the door.

I’d only half-heard my son ask me to slow down while lint-rolling — I assumed he was grouchy from a somewhat sleepless night, and I, too, was feeling the residual aftershock of being eight-and-a-half months pregnant and trying to sleep with a restless first grader.

On the way to school, as I tried to avoid traffic so I wouldn’t have to walk my children into school in my pajamas, my son brought up the lint-rolling incident. He explained he wasn’t asking me to stop because he didn’t want me to do it, but because he had a cut on his leg — which I’d completely forgotten. Each rough roll over his right shin caused him pain, but I’d shushed him and said rather harshly that Mommy was running behind and that we had to get a move-on.

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I am in a relatively good place with my parenting. I feel competent and capable, able to hear my children express needs and to have genuine conversations with them about issues at school or books they’re reading. We cook dinner together, chat over homework, and give each other all the details of our days. We don’t aspire to be constantly on the go. In spite of all this well-intended interaction, however, I had dropped the ball. And I’m seeing other times when I drop the ball, too.

Related: Why We Must Be Peaceful Parents

My least favorite time of day is bedtime. The tucking-in and book reading is fine. The before-bed activities are fine, too — Legos, storytelling, art activities. But I slip up when one of my kids gets up and comes into the living room where I’m reading or catching up on some unnecessary TV. I find I’m ready with the same greeting every time — an eye roll. My daughter normally wants me to read a few extra pages of her novel, or my son is afraid of robbers or clowns.

All I want is to be left alone at that time.

This need to rush out the door in the morning and to take a personal breather at night are real and relevant needs as a parent. The issue is when I move into a space of self-interest as opposed to a selfless interest in my children. I find myself too often thinking 10 or 15 minutes ahead — of what it would look like if we were late to school, or if the kids fell asleep at 8:15 p.m. instead of at 8 p.m. Instead of really hearing and seeing the kids, I only see my needs — and am thus unable to meet theirs.

Related: Is ‘Good Cop, Bad Cop’ Any Good for Kids?

My challenge to myself has been to become more aware of these times — and to do something different. I am now trying to no longer be openly annoyed with my children but to instead see them as they reveal themselves to me. It is a gift when my children hope for just a few more moments with me, or need a hug after a bad dream. I so often cast aside these simple but powerful moments out of frustration about my own unmet needs.

I will stop listening to my agenda and start listening to my little ones.

In a few short years, my children will drive themselves to school and hurry me out of their bedrooms. They won’t wake up scared or want to sit on the couch and cuddle after bedtime. Being open to the small moments allows me to remember this and to breathe them in, grateful for my ever-growing relationship with my kids.

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Accepting these parenting moments means we play Legos while I forget about the dishes, that we braid hair while I forget how long it’s been since I’ve washed my own. It does not mean my needs cease to exist or that I’m choosing a life devoid of self-care — quite the opposite, in fact.

Instead, practicing intentionality in parenting will lessen my stress. In those moments where I feel creeping annoyance and impatience, I will stop listening to the agenda in my head, and start listening to the little ones in front of me, waiting to be heard.

Liz Logan lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her growing family. She is pursuing a master’s degree in creative nonfiction.

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