She slept right next to my bed every night for months, just close enough so I could reach out and touch her tiny body wrapped snuggly in blankets from her grandmothers. I could have moved her into her own room earlier, but she was my last baby, and I knew enough to appreciate the little coos she made in her sleep and relish the warmth of her body nestled against mine.

A mother can never have enough time.

She spent her infant and toddler years attached to me either in a baby carrier or on my hip or in a stroller. Her twin, slightly-older sisters didn’t quite understand that she was breakable, so it was easier to keep her on me then risk anything happening to her, so her title of mama’s girl was easily cemented. Because watching three babies was daunting for even the most skilled grandmother, she came with me wherever I went—on short trips to the grocery store and longer ones for weddings and funerals. She lights the room up wherever she goes and is such an amicable companion.

A mother can never have enough time.

Through the years I’ve watched her heart grow as fast as her long, lean body. Her first instinct is always compassion, whether it’s on the field, in the classroom, or at home. I see how she carries the weight of the world on her slight shoulders, but I also see how her bravery grows in lockstep with her years. I have no doubt she will change the world.

A mother can never have enough time.

And last night I said goodnight to a child, my baby, and woke up to a smiling teenager. She now easily looks me in the eye and her feet are too big for my shoes, and although I feel like I did not waste a minute of time with her, although I feel like I did all the things and was at all the places, it still isn’t enough.

A mother can never have enough time.

Now, as I watch the young girl sitting at my kitchen counter eating a birthday doughnut, I can also see the young woman she is becoming. And I know the time we spend together under one roof is heading to a close. I find myself praying I get to see the rest of her story unfold. I hope she has beautiful experiences completing her education and finds lifelong friends. I wish for her to find a partner to share her life with who is caring and loving. I want to see her have children of her own.

It doesn’t matter if you only know you are pregnant for a moment or you live until you are one hundred. It doesn’t matter if you stayed at home with your kids every second of every day or only saw them for a few hours because of work. It doesn’t matter if you adopted them in their teens or used fertility drugs or if it was a planned or unplanned pregnancy.

It doesn’t matter if your heart is full of gratitude for every moment of messy parenting or you get frustrated with the chaos. It doesn’t matter if your baby has babies of their own or if you are holding your newborn in your arms just after you delivered her.

When you see how swiftly time moves, when you feel the shift in your relationship, when you know that a part of your life, that part of your identity, is changing and coming to an end, it is gut-wrenchingly beautiful. And although I know we have so much of her story left to write together, it is bittersweet knowing we also can’t go back to where we were.

A mother can never have enough time.

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Whitney Fleming

Whitney is a mom of three teen daughters, a communications consultant, and blogger. She tries to dispel the myth of being a typical suburban mom although she is often driving her minivan to soccer practices and attending PTA meetings. She writes about parenting, relationships, and w(h)ine on her blog Playdates on Fridays.