I have a tiny confession to make.

I’ve been feeling a little bit jealous of you lately, mom of teenagers. OK, maybe more than a little bit, especially on days like today when the two tiny tyrants who live in my house have me waving my white flag of surrender way before noon.

Every time our paths cross, I can’t help but think that your life seems so much easier than mine. I’ve seen you around and you look so free. No crying children to console, no little hands tugging on you, no one shouting requests at you every few seconds, and no one needing you and your attention every minute of the day. Your kids are able to function and survive, at least for the most part, on their own.

You don’t have to cook meals that end up on the floor and constantly refill sippy cups. Your kids can dress themselves and put their shoes and socks on the correct feet. They can express their feelings with words instead of whining and crying (although to be fair I’m sure you may still get your fair share of those).

If you want to go somewhere, you just go. You don’t have to pack half your house in the diaper bag, lug a stroller or spend an eternity trying to restrain a flailing toddler in a car seat. Your kids don’t accidentally pee their pants and more importantly, they can wipe their own bums.

You can take your kids out in public without worrying about a meltdown and they can eat at a restaurant without crawling over or under the table. You don’t have to wrangle wiggly, slippery bodies out of the bathtub while they flip and flop like fish being taken off a hook. Your kids like sleep, therefore, you actually get sleep.

I’ve spent the past few years thinking all my problems would be solved when my kids were finally independent like yours. I can hear you laughing at me now and that’s OK because I realize how incredibly naïve that is. You know better than anyone that when that day comes, I’ll only be trading one set of problems for another.

Instead of bribing them to eat dinner, I’ll wish they were home for dinner.

Instead of trying to find two seconds of peace and quiet, I’ll wish we could have a conversation that lasts longer than two seconds.

Instead of spending my day trying to keep curious minds occupied, I’ll be spending my day shuttling bodies to practices, games, and extracurricular activities.

Instead of being up late because someone is always hungry, thirsty, or scared, I’ll be up late watching the clock until I know everyone is home safe and sound.

Instead of constantly wondering if I’ve allowed too much screen time, I’ll be worried about the people and information so easily accessible to them through the screen they carry in their hands.

Instead of wishing I was needed less, I’ll be wishing I was needed more.

Which brings me back to you, mom of teenagers. I forgot you’ve been there. You’ve been me. You’ve been the sleep-deprived, no shower, sweatpants are good enough, diaper bag wearing, stroller lugging mom. I’m sure there are many things about raising little ones you definitely don’t miss but part of me wonders if you’ve ever envied me in the way I envy you. If you’ve ever looked at me and wished you could go back to a time when your life was easier like mine. A time when making tractor pancakes for breakfast made you the best mom in the world and the worst mistake you could make was putting milk in the blue cup instead of the green one.

While my life is whining, tantrums, and never-ending neediness, yours is back talking, eye rolling, and the silent treatment. My job is hard because my kids aren’t independent and your job is hard because they are. No one stage of motherhood is harder than the other. It’s all hard. Being a mom is hard. But you’ve encouraged me without even knowing it and I just wanted to say thank you.

You’ve reminded me that this too shall pass. That the sleepless nights and constant demands will eventually come to an end taking the tickle fights, cuddle times, bedtime stories, and sticky kisses along with them. I can see a faint light at the end of the tunnel and I know that time is approaching quickly. I know it’s impossible to enjoy every single moment with our children but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to try my best. You’ve given me a new perspective and you’ve made me grateful for their littleness.

One day I’ll look at that diaper bag and stroller and realize I haven’t had to use them in weeks. One day you’ll see me freshly showered, dressed in real clothes and walking with an extra pep in my step because I finally got a full night’s sleep. I’ll seem free, just like I always wanted to be, but inside I’ll be secretly wishing I could go back to the days when life was easier.

The days when they reached for my hand as we walked side-by-side. The days when an ice cream cone could solve any problem. The days when they’d let me into their world because I was their world. 

The days I’ve been wishing away.

But you’ve reminded me how beautiful my reality is at this very moment and as I soak it all in I realize there’s no room left for jealousy.

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Lindsay Stauffer

Lindsay is married to the most supportive husband in the world and momma to two adorable rascals, who have turned her into a caffeine addict. She writes about marriage and motherhood on her Facebook page, Life Off The Record.