When you become a mother, you hear all about life with little kids—the exhausting newborn phase, the restless toddler stage and the wild preschool years—and you hear all about the bittersweetness of raising teens. But what you don’t hear enough about are the middle years and what it's like to be a middle mom, when you don’t have little kids anymore but they aren’t big kids either. Middle moms are in the thick of it in every possible way.

Some people call these years the “sweet spot”—and for good reason. You’re no longer wiping bottoms and changing diapers, but you’re needed for a bedtime snuggle and a hug before getting on the school bus. Your kids still want you to go to the public pool with them, but you can sit on the edge and chat with other parents. You are needed—but not too needed.

Related: When it all feels never-ending, just remember how fast time passes by 

Children’s book author Emily Rousell captured what it’s like to be a middle mom in a recent Instagram post. “There’s no longer a baby on her hip, but she’s not misty-eyed marveling over caps and gowns,” Roussell writes. “She's far enough into motherhood to know how fast it all goes, but not yet fully through the land of little. She's in the space that lingers between babies and bigs.”

When you’re a mom in the middle years, your kids aren’t hanging off your legs anymore, but they will still lean in when watching a movie together. Because you’re less touched out, you have the emotional space to take it all in. You can let out a deep contented sigh.

As a middle mom, there is more predictability to your days. Sleep regression is a thing of the past and you have a morning routine. But there is still a delightful chaos to the everyday. The house is messy, loud and wild—but in a way that almost makes sense.   

Being a middle mom is a state of mind

Being a mom in the middle is more than just remnants of little kid gear, but a state of mind. It is knowing that you are in the “sweet spot,” as they call it, but also knowing that it is a fleeting moment in time. It is knowing that you are on the precipice of a major shift in motherhood and your kids’ lives. You are excited for what’s to come and also a little scared too. It is feeling overwhelmed and pulled in a million directions, but also feeling like you’re in a holding pattern, waiting for those inevitable changes. 

Middle moms don’t take the moments of freedom for granted. We know how precious alone time is, and we soak it up. But we also know that we will one day have too much alone time, so we read one more bedtime story. We watch another Pixar movie. We dish out popsicles to the neighborhood kids when they come over. You are acutely aware of the growing silence that is melting into the home and the family as their kids become more independent, busy with school and sports and friends. 

Related: Dear Son: You will never be too old to need your mama 

Middle moms see the eye rolls and hear the exasperated sighs of tweens. We worry about what’s to come. But we push it aside, telling ourselves we aren’t there yet. We tell ourselves that we have several years before college visits and graduations. But if we’re really honest with ourselves, there’s a tiny voice in the back of our head reminding us that they were right, it really does go fast. Too fast.

Middle moms are in the thick of it. Middle moms are straddling two worlds, with one foot in the world of nap times and Peppa Pig and another foot in the world of adolescent hormones and independence. Middle moms are in the sweet spot— exhausted, pulled in a million directions, and loving every minute of it.