Motherly Collective

It’s morning. I pat the space next to me, but there’s nothing there. I should be happy about this—it means my daughter spent the whole night in her bed—but I can’t help feeling a twinge of sadness. She didn’t wake up crying, insisting that she needed to be held and to sleep in my bed. She didn’t need me last night.

I don’t sleep well when she’s in our bed. She kicks, and fidgets, and oftentimes ends up horizontal between my husband and me. More times than not her warm body is pressed up against mine, forcing me to the edge of the bed and onto the side I prefer not to sleep on. Oftentimes I lay awake, unable to sleep at all.

The next morning with bleary eyes it’s easy for me to complain about the lack of sleep. I insist to my husband that we’ll try harder, that we’ll be firm and make her stay in her bed. Every night that she does I’m proud of her.  Although part of me secretly wishes that she’ll call out in the night, that I’ll get to tuck her little body and her stuffed bunnies next to me and we’ll snuggle until morning. That I’ll get the validation that she still needs me.

The long term goal, of course, is to have a self-sufficient human who doesn’t actually need me. I don’t want her to have to rely on me for everything. That’s not healthy nor is it beneficial to her. I know in order to get there that I have to foster her independence, let her do things on her own. Logically I know that the more she does without needing me to do it for her the better off she’ll be, which is what I want. 

But will she still want me when she doesn’t need me anymore? That’s the question that tugs on my heart, causes my stomach to churn, makes me want to preemptively put her in my bed.   

“I do it by myself” is one of my daughter’s favorite things to declare right now. She says it when she wants to do something herself that she used to need me for, like putting on her shoes or getting out of the bathtub. She’s signaling her independence and while my heart soars with pride every time she masters something new, it also aches a little knowing she’s one step closer to not needing me. One step closer to choosing whether she wants me when she doesn’t need me. 

Our children need so much from us in the beginning. It feels like it’s all consuming and, at first, it is. It’s 24/7/365 and can feel like it will never end, that this little person will never give you a break. 

Independence milestones happen quickly though—they don’t need us to help support their neck, don’t need us to feed them every bite, don’t need our hands to hold them steady as they walk, don’t need us to thread their arms through their shirts to take them off.

I tell myself that there is plenty that she’ll need me for in the coming years. She’ll need me to teach her how to ride a bike, write her name, read books, bake cookies, help her navigate her first breakup. 

I’m trying hard to really savor all of the ways she needs me.

But at some point a shift will take place. She won’t actually physically need me anymore. I won’t hear the seemingly constant calls for “Maaaaaaaammmma.” She’ll be capable of navigating life herself. I’m worried this will happen sooner than I am prepared for, that I won’t get enough of a heads up to prepare for the heartbreak of not being needed. Will she still want me when she doesn’t need me?

Will she want me to give her advice on how to navigate friendships? Will she want me to help her decide what to do after high school? And one day, will she want me to help her pick out her wedding dress or want advice for how to care for a newborn?

I can only hope that she will, that I’ll be able to grow with her and that she’ll want to need me when she’s older. I hold on to the fact that I still want my mom, more so now than ever, and that hopefully my daughter will want the same. 

It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day right now and the never ending list of to-dos to keep up with what she needs, but I’m trying hard to really savor all of the ways she needs me. I remind myself that I won’t know the last time she won’t need me for these things, and that what can be frustrating now I’ll look back on and wish I could still do. 

The need for her to hold my hand to cross the street even though she walks slow and we’re running late. The need for me to scare a dinosaur in her bedroom even though it’s an hour past bedtime. The need for me to give her a hug when she’s crying even though it’s because I won’t let her eat a third cheese stick for the day.

My heart breaks thinking about the day where she doesn’t need me for anything, but I also know I’ll be so proud of her the day that she doesn’t. I will always need her, and fingers crossed she will always want me.

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.

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