Standing in line at the grocery store with my two young daughters in a cart, I heard a couple behind me talking about how cute they were. I was about to turn around and thank them when the man asked, “Would you go back to those days with our kids?” 

“Not in a million years,” she quickly responded.

He laughed and said, “Me, neither.”

And my mom heart broke.

I wanted to turn around and say, “I can hear you, and I don’t want to be in these days either, but I am.” 

Instead, I cried silently inside. I was an exhausted, stay-at-home mom, struggling to make it through those tough years, thinking there was something wrong with me because I didn’t enjoy motherhood more.

Now those little girls are 23 and 21, and watching them continue to grow into remarkable young women is one of my greatest joys as a mother. 

We moms enjoy different ages and stages with our children more than others. My best friend loved parenting babies while I didn’t find my groove until my girls were around four and six. 

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It’s those challenging years that require us to dig deep within our mom souls to give our kids the best we can. It’s not always easy, but we find our strength and keep momming. 

And it’s OK if we are relieved when those tougher days are over.

Because when all of those years of having our kids at home with us are past, we have amazing humans to hang out with. The more we do the heavy lifting of parenting when our children are young, the greater the reward of seeing them become the amazing human beings they were meant to be.

And parenting those young adults is one of the most gratifying parts of the mom journey. 

Knowing we had a part in helping them reach their potential allows us to let them go on their way into their lives, coming back to us for moments that overwhelm us with joy and comfort us as we face the challenges of aging.

I see so many young moms on social media struggling to accept how quickly the time with their babies and children passes. They want them to stay little longer and have trouble letting them grow up.

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And I know those emotions. When my oldest daughter was five days old, I remember saying, “Next it will be five months, then five years, and then she’ll go to college.” And she did. And it felt like it went too fast.

But time with our children passes swiftly, no matter how much we want it to slow down. So use your energy to embrace the changes as they come as best you can.

Be present and focus on your favorite parts of the phase your kids are in. 

Look to the here and now, not the past or the future, because your children aren’t there. They’re with you nowin their sweet hugs, their milestones, and yes, their tantrums. 

That future will arrive faster than you can imagine, but your children will be there with you in a new kind of relationship you can’t even fathom yet. 

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They may not be living with you then, but they’ll need youas a friend, confidant, and yes, still as a mom.

So keep parenting bravely through those tough years. 

Because someday, you, too, will stand behind a mom with young children at the store and think, “I wouldn’t go back to that in a million years.”

Carla Burgess

Carla Burgess, The Older Mom, had a baby in her 20's, 30's, and 40's. Her blog, www.theoldermom.com, helps women manage motherhood, find themselves, and keep their lives together.