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Yesterday, my kids made to-do lists as I do, they pretended to be Mom in their play, and they wanted to look up a bazillion and one things on my phone.

These little humans are watching me. They are taking in all my actions, one by one.

And it’s exhausting.

From 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. (or later), I have to be “on.” I am expected to watch what I say (no cussing), be careful what I watch (no inappropriate memes or shows), stay off my phone as much as possible, and, of course, enjoy every moment and be present at all times.

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If I have a drink of wine at 2 p.m. to find a way to relax–they are watching.

If I veg out on my phone for an hour due to pure exhaustion–they are watching.

If I leave a mess or two (or three or ten)–they are watching.

If I chat on the phone all about Julia’s recent breakup–they are watching.

My freedom has been lost for eight years now, yet as my oldest gets older, the loss seems to grow.

I thought the newborn years were the years of loss of self, but it turns out that was just a tiny beginning.

Yet, when I look at this list, is it really a loss of freedom or more of a loss of what is actually entrapping me?

The desire to indulge in wine to dull the hard moments. The desire to veg out on my phone to escape in idleness. The desire to leave the messes in frustration and anger. The desire to chat about my friend and gossip for cruel entertainment.

These are the acts I don’t want my kids (or anyone) to see me doing–but ultimately, they are harmful acts against those whom I love and my own self.

Perhaps being on for my kids is requiring me to be refined and renewed more than ever before.

It’s these little actions that, before seemed insignificant, are now extremely significant in shaping and training my kids–the little people who truly are the most important to me, their mama.

RELATED: No One Told Me How Overstimulating Motherhood Would Be

Fighting temptation and struggle will always be exhausting, and perhaps that is what motherhood is requiring more of me. A stronger fight for the sake of my kids. While the motivation is partly for my kids’ sake–the purpose becomes for the sake of true refinement. A purpose that fulfills, as I look beyond instant gratification, and does the hard work of positive change.

As I eliminate what leaves me empty–the momentary pleasures of wine in the afternoon, an aimless scroll, or a mean gossip–I hold on to true fulfillment, which gives life to my kids and myself. Things like drinking glasses of water, spending time reading and chatting with friends in true vulnerability. Choices that will positively impact me, my kids, and many others who enter my path. I hope my kids are watching this too.

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Esther Vandersluis

Esther is a Canadian writing from Hamilton, Ontario, living in a sea of pink as a girl mom to three. Find her on Facebook ( where you will find writing for stay-at-home moms, moms with littles, sleep-deprived moms, moms feeding babies, and babies with failure to thrive, all under the umbrella of faith in Jesus Christ.

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