I imagine that every mum has a favourite stage of parenting. I like babies, but they’re also a lot of hard work. And, I love 4-year-olds because they are hilarious, and thank goodness they are not threenagers anymore. But, right now, I finally feel like I’ve hit my parenting sweet spot. My kids are 10, 8, and 5, and it feels like, after 10 years of parenting in the trenches, I want to freeze time and keep them right where they are.
For me, as much as I love smelling a newborn baby’s head, the sleep deprivation and round-the-clock breastfeeding left me feeling drained and exhausted. And, the years when I had a bunch of toddlers running around feel like a blur. But, right now? Right now feels lovely.
My eldest is in the dreaded tween years, but I love how she’ll still ask me to cuddle after a day full of eye rolls and door slams. My 8-year-old was a disaster as a baby, and now he’s at a cool age where he likes packing his own lunches, and lives to play outside with friends. And, my baby? Well, he’s no longer a baby. He’s going to Kindergarten next year, and I feel him turning into a big kid right before my eyes. But, thank goodness he still mispronounces things and melts me into a puddle of goo on the regular with his cute smile and happy demeanor.
The stage right now, in the middle years of parenting, might be the sweetest of all. I’m no longer required to pack my entire life into a nappy bag when we leave the house, and everyone can wipe their own backsides and strollers aren’t required. It feels easier than ever. I know what’s ahead, and I find myself begging time to stand still.
There are a few signs that you’ve hit that parenting sweet spot. And, if you’re not there yet, hang on mamas. This is what they mean by “it gets better”. But, here are five signs I know I’ve hit that sweet spot for me:
1. I can nap again. On Sunday, my husband and I both had a nap. Together. At the same time. My kids were happy in front of a movie, and my husband and I were spending some much needed time in bed together. On opposite sides. With our eyes closed. It was pure bliss.
2. My kids “mostly” get themselves ready now. Instead of feeling like a three ring circus act in the morning to get out the door, I can sit on the couch in the same room with them and gently coax them to stay on task. Everyone can dress themselves, brush their own teeth, and if I’m lucky, I’ll have time to put on some make-up before leaving the house.
3. They play outside without me. I’m not much of a free-range parent, but this stage of life is pretty sweet because they are mostly safe outside when I’m inside doing something else. I check on them often, but I don’t worry about them running into the street without looking, and they stay in our garden and seek out neighbourhood kids when they’re bored. I don’t have to sit on the verandah for hours waiting for them to come in so I can clean my bathrooms. Instead, I can do a head count every few minutes or so, and stay inside with a little peace and quiet.
4. They’re more fun to hang out with. The thing I love about this stage is that they can play more complex board games, and they get the sarcasm and actually make jokes. They are just more fun to hang out with and be around. Yet, they are just young enough still that things will go over their heads and my husband and I can have our own secrets, too. My kids feel more like people to me now (even though I know they always have been) and they are actually fun to be with in a way I didn’t feel before when they were toddlers.
5. My kids still need me, but they kind of don’t. I imagine that at some point, I’ll feel sad that they don’t need me as much, but this stage, right in the middle is just about perfect. They need me for some things, and I can show them I’m still here, willing to help, but they don’t need me for as much anymore. It’s the perfect amount of neediness, and I wish I could stop time and savour it before they ditch me in the teenage years.
Every stage has its beauty and its unique challenges that make it interesting. But, for me, the sweet spot is right now. It looks like being past the trenches of new motherhood, and settling into a more confident role because I finally know what I’m doing.
It looks like enjoying them just the right amount and not feeling so weighed down by the heavy responsibility of feeding, bathing, and getting them to sleep.
It looks like seeking them out when they’re happy doing their own thing just so that I can spend some extra time with them because I not only love them, I like being with them.
It looks like wanting time to slow down a little more each day, and savoring the sweet moments when they come because I finally recognise they are fleeting.
It looks like my happy place. Right here. Right now. And, I know it will be gone, so I’m soaking up every last drop of this sweet spot I’m in.