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Motherhood is: Waiting for my child to fall asleep

During the waiting, time changes shape. I can wait for half an hour and think it's been five minutes, and it happens the other way around too. I always feel like I should be using my time more productively, but I'm afraid to make a sound and I can't focus on anything anyways.

Motherhood is: Waiting for my child to fall asleep

It's the same thing every day.

I'm told that sameness is a comfort for toddlers, and after living with this one, I can believe it. He smiles and laughs as we climb the stairs hand in hand, he brushes his teeth standing on his little red stool (“No no, we don't run with our toothbrushes in our mouths"), and then we read a story.

After the story, he runs, joyous and laughing, into his own room. We hug and he tells me how much he loves his stuffed panda and his blanket, and then I put him in his crib and say, “I love you, have a good nap, I'll see you soon."

Then I walk out and close the door. At that point, every single day, he cries.

Will the child sleep?

It's the question on my mind each and every day. There are no breaks from the question, and there are no breaks from the impossible waiting. The pattern, the sameness of every single day, is less comforting for me than it is for him.

I sit on the couch, and I wait. I listen to his sweet baby babble. I listen to him singing songs to his panda. I wait, I listen, and I wonder.

Will the child sleep?

Often it goes quiet, and I breathe a sigh of relief, and wonder how much time I have. Often, the sounds get louder, and I breathe a very different kind of sigh and drag my tired self back up the stairs to say, "Seems like you're having some trouble, huh?"

I remind myself that he's tired, he needs the nap, and it must be more frustrating for him than it is for me. I remind myself of lots of things. When you're a parent, and you're waiting (always waiting), you fill your brain with a thousand platitudes.

It used to be different. A few short months ago, he still wanted to breastfeed, and nursing was emphatically the only way he would fall asleep. So there he would be, a giant baby cradled in my arms, and I would be there too, waiting.

In those days it was both easier and harder: I had a ready way to calm him and ease him into sleep and I never had to close the door on him, but I also lived with the constant knowledge that a poorly-timed sneeze would wreck any chance of a daytime nap, ruining both of our days.

Those days, the waiting was unbearably, achingly quiet. These days the waiting is filled with sounds that my ears zoom in on, sounds I am obsessed with. I listen to him singing, whining, and just breathing. I listen as hard as I can, trying to decode the sounds. I try to picture him in his crib in a restful position, as though this will somehow help.

During the waiting, time changes shape. I can wait for half an hour and think it's been five minutes, and it happens the other way around too. I always feel like I should be using my time more productively, but I'm afraid to make a sound and I can't focus on anything anyways. My brain is elsewhere, every part of me consumed in the question:

Will the child sleep?

There is so much waiting.

Once, I was waiting for it to be time to try to make a baby. I didn't want to wait, I wanted to rush headfirst into parenting like a cannonball into the clouds, but it wasn't the right way. For one thing, I'm gay, so there were months of prep. We met with the sperm donor, we set a date, we drew up a contract, and we waited.

Then I waited for those magical fertile days to arrive. I put stickers on my fertility charts, waiting to find out whether or not conception had occurred, waiting for the nausea to subside (it did not), and then, of course, waiting for labor to start.

I had thought that I was waiting to become a mother, and that once I arrived at that coveted status – motherhood – I would feel, well, arrived. Maybe I do feel that way, some days, but mostly I feel like I'm constantly in limbo. Mostly I feel that parenting is, by definition, a kind of waiting. We, the parents of the world, are all holding our collective breaths together.

Will the child sleep?

We wait for milestones. Once he's this age, I'll be able to do that thing I want to do. Once he can talk, I'll finally stop worrying about his development. Once he can sleep through the night, we'll have sex again. Once he's school-aged…and on and on.

I wait for my wife to come home. I wait for organized activities that might give structure to the totally structureless amoeba that is life with a toddler. I confess that sometimes when I'm outside with him, I watch the clock like a hawk, waiting for it to be a reasonable time to return to the simpler world of our living room.

We are waiting, waiting, waiting. I have given my life over to this strange stretch, the push and pull on time itself, the sensation of the constantly-baited breath.

Will the child sleep?

Today, it's almost certain that he will not, so I am taking a deep breath and trying to prepare myself to climb those stairs again. The day will go on and, soon enough, it will be time to wait for bedtime.

This 'mama' necklace is a bestseller for a powerful reason

There's a lot going on in the world right now, but one thing that's certain? You're still mama.

There's a lot going on in the world right now, but one thing that's certain? You're still mama. No matter what is going on at work, what decision you make about heading back to school, or how you're caring for your family right now, we know you're the best mama for your family.

So in case you need a little reminder of just how incredible you are, we love this sweet necklace from Tiny Tags. And other mamas do, too, because it's been one of our top sellers for weeks.

Whether you're coveting it for yourself or want to gift it to your favorite mama, it's one of those gifts that'll keep on giving years later. It's dainty enough to easily layer with just about anything you have in your jewelry collection, but is just as beautiful as a standalone piece to wear daily. And in these tough seasons, it's honestly a gentle, much-needed reminder that you were made for this. You can do hard things. You are doing the best you can even when it feels like you can't make one more decision.

Tiny Tags script 'mama' necklace

tiny tags mama necklace

The charm is 1/2" long and the chain is 16", falling just above most mama's collarbones. All Tiny Tags personalized jewelry is laser engraved by highly skilled artisans to make the most elegant pieces.

$105

And, don't worry, it's totally low-maintenance. Simply polish with a polishing cloth every now and then for extra shine. Now to decide: gold or silver?

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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5 brilliant products that encourage toddler independence

Help your little one help themselves.

One of our main goals as mothers is to encourage our children to learn, grow and play. They start out as our tiny, adorable babies who need us for everything, and somehow, before you know it, they grow into toddlers with ideas and opinions and desires of their own.

You may be hearing a lot more of "I do it!" or maybe they're pushing your hand away as a signal to let you know, I don't need your help, Mama. That's okay. They're just telling you they're ready for more independence. They want to be in charge of their bodies, and any little bit of control their lives and abilities allow.

So, instead of challenging your toddler's desire for autonomy, we found five of our favorite products to help encourage independence—and eliminate frustration in the process.

EKOBO Bamboo 4-piece kid set

EKOBO bamboo 4-piece kid set

This colorful set includes a plate, cup, bowl and spoon and is just right for your child's meal experience. Keep them in an easy-to-reach cabinet so they'll feel encouraged (and excited!) to get their own place setting each time they eat.

$25

Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

Before you know it, your little one will be asking (okay, maybe demanding) to fill their own water cups. This amazing 4-pack of cups attaches directly to the fridge (or any glass, metal, tile or fiberglass surface) making it easier for your child to grab a cup themselves. Just be sure a water pitcher or dispenser is nearby, and—boom!—one task off your plate.

$29

Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

These beautiful blocks, made from sustainably-sourced wood and water-based, non-toxic, lead-free paint, will keep your little one focused on their creation while they're also busy working on their fine-motor skills. The puzzle design will encourage patience as your kiddo creates their own building, fitting one block in after the next.

$18

Lorena Canals basket

Lorena Canals Basket

This *gorgeous* braided cotton basket is the perfect, accessible home for their blocks (and whatever else you want to hide away!) so your kiddo can grab them (and clean them up) whenever their heart desires.

$29

BABYBJÖRN step stool

BABYBJ\u00d6RN Step Stool

Your kiddo might be ready to take on the world, but they might need an extra boost to do so—cue, a step stool! An easy-to-move lightweight stool is the must-have confidence-boosting tool you need in your home so your growing tot can reach, well... the world.

$20

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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In Montessori schools, parents are periodically invited to observe their children at work in the classroom. I have heard many parents express shock to see their 3- or 4-year-old putting away their own work when they finish—without even being asked!

"You should see his room at home!" or, "I ask him to put his toys away every day, and it's a battle every single time" were frequent comments.

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