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You’re going to miss this” is often said to mothers while they are in the midst of chaos. It’s said as a way to knock some gratitude into the harried mother’s heart; to make women stop complaining and take stock of how hashtag-blessed they are to be in this stage of life when their hair and body go unwashed as they survive on heart-racing amounts of caffeine because they haven’t had a full night’s sleep in lit-er-ally years. 

Years, y’all. 

The inability to sleep deeply again is a fun side effect of early motherhood no one warned me about. I was warned about being tired. But no one warned me about “the hovering.” Even after my kids got on a sleep schedule, gone were the days of sleeping without care. Instead of sleeping deeply, I hovered in my sleep, just below the surface of the waking world, so that I could be aware of any cry, grunt or disruption signaling that I was needed or that my child was in distress. I always had to be available, even when I was sleeping.

At least, that’s how I’ve felt for the past decade.

Related: This is what moms of older kids mean when we say: ‘You’ll miss these days’

My kids are 10 and 6.5 now and I’m just starting to notice the unclenching of my entire body as I am needed less. Please don’t misunderstand: as a mother, you’re always needed. That doesn’t go away. But the constant stress and anxiety of sheltering your child from imminent harm? That does reduce I’m thrilled to say. 

For example, if we go to a playground, I sit on the bench. A wild concept for moms of littles, I know! I no longer need to walk along the perimeter of the play structure as my child climbs, my hands held up like I’m playing defense in basketball, ready to cushion a fall. My children were always one little toddle-wobble away from a broken neck. Who designs these play structures? Why is there always a giant opening two stories off the ground that toddlers can easily fall through? My kids were fast and their impulse control to climb higher would nearly always win over my rational plea for them to stay on a lower, safer, less-likely-to-break-your-neck platform.

I don’t miss the constant feeling of anxiety and hyper-vigilance needed to get through daily life as an early-years parent.

Parking lots are less of a nightmare these days. I would hold my child’s hand and while I stopped to look both ways, they’d wriggle free, shouting “I can do it!” while sprinting ahead. I’d yell with blood-curdling urgency, “Stop!” trying to catch up to them. Then I’d hold their wrist instead of their hand and gently, ever so gently, explain through clenched teeth, that no, trying to outrun the cars in the parking lot will not prevent you from being hit by one. You are in fact, more likely to get hit by a car should you dart ahead. They weren’t buying it.

Related: Here’s the truth: Being a parent to young children is HARD

I can easily open my cabinets these days. No more fumbling with the sliding lock placed there so that my children wouldn’t accidentally ingest the dishwasher liquid or pull out heavy and breakable casserole dishes onto themselves. 

Small LEGOs litter my rugs now, but at least they are only causes of foot pain and not choking hazards. 

Did the toilet seat get left open? Annoying! But at least I’m no longer worried that my kid will fall headfirst into the open commode. 

I don’t miss the constant feeling of anxiety and hyper-vigilance needed to get through daily life as an early-years parent. As much as people would like for me to think that I should miss those days, I don’t. When I see families chasing their kids away from danger and bouncing their babies to calm them, I don’t think, “I miss that.” Instead, I think, “I’m glad I’m not in that stage anymore.” 

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These days there are new types of worries and fresh anxieties to dwell on as my children get older: How are they doing in school? How are they navigating friendships? When do I talk to them about puberty and sex? Are they playing too many video games? Are they doing too many activities? Are they not doing enough? The list will always be long but it feels more manageable. Maybe it is. Or maybe I’m getting better at this. Maybe it’s a little bit of both. 

My younger child and I spent the morning looking at videos from when she was a baby and her brother was a preschooler. We cooed and giggled over how sweet they were, with her chunky cheeks and his chipmunk voice. And then we both went back to reading our books. She’s recently gotten into the Dog Man series and loves to sit next to me while we read quietly together. Her brother was off playing with neighborhood friends, without any need for me to be there, shadowing him in case he falls. If he falls, he’s got a watch he can call me from. And I’ll come running.

Related: 10 true things about the first year of motherhood

If you’re in those early parenthood years, wondering what the heck you’ve gotten yourself into, hang on. You might miss this time. But you might also find yourself in a spot that makes you not miss those days at all.

Now, let’s check back in when my kids are teens. Worrying about my kids running in a parking lot might seem like a dream versus worrying about them driving in one. 

This story is a part of The Motherly Collective contributor network where we showcase the stories, experiences and advice from brands, writers and experts who want to share their perspective with our community. We believe that there is no single story of motherhood, and that every mother's journey is unique. By amplifying each mother's experience and offering expert-driven content, we can support, inform and inspire each other on this incredible journey. If you're interested in contributing to The Motherly Collective please click here.