I sat down on the couch defeated after a not-so-good evening of parenting.

I had just finished the bedtime routine with all three of my kids which ended in me raising my voice and every child crying. It wasn’t who I wanted to be as a mom. It wasn’t the emotions I wanted my kids to feel as they drifted off to sleep.

Their dad was on his second business trip of the month, and I was merely trying to survive. Often, I wish my kids would jump on board the survival train beside me.

Let’s just get through this week. Let’s survive! We’ll worry about thriving next week when Daddy’s home.

Kids don’t understand this surviving mindset.

Honestly, my parenting changes when my husband travels. I’m more stringent at dinner and bedtime because there is only so much of me to go around.

By bedtime, I want them to act like little toy soldiers who march up the stairs, brush their teeth, say their prayers, and get into bed. Their bedtime checklist has a zero-tolerance policy for silliness.

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My single parenting expectations aren’t really fair. We aren’t raising them to be toy soldiers who check off a checklist. We’re raising them to be relational, independent humans.

The relational part becomes hard when you’re just surviving. You don’t bask in the small, beautiful moments. Like when your daughter asks to talk about her day as you lie in her bed or your son begs you to tell ONE MORE story from when you were his age. It’s easy to decline their invitation (because that’s what it truly is) and hurry through the bedtime routine. It’s like we think a gold medal is waiting at the end if we complete the routine fast enough.

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Spoiler alert! There’s never a gold medal. If there was, I’d have it by now.

Guilt is what awaits me as I sit alone on my couch.

The next night, I did my best to be a little more relaxed at bedtime. During our bedtime prayer, I even asked God to forgive me for my impatience and poor attitude. I hoped they noticed my prayer and that sometimes mommy needs to ask for forgiveness too.

I even laid on my daughter’s bed and heard all about her day at school.

As I sat on the couch that night, I wasn’t filled with the all-too-familiar feeling of weariness and guilt. I smiled because I didn’t raise my voice and no one cried themselves to sleep. Surely, grace surrounded me that night as I peacefully put my kids to bed with what energy I had left.

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The kids and I will do this again next month when my husband travels for work.

Next time, we’ll lean on in-the-moment grace instead of after-the-fact grace.  

I want to choose grace that allows me to get through the bedtime routine without raised voices and tears. I know that grace for when I absolutely lose my cool is always available, but it’s just not as fun or necessary.

Since I need grace, either way, I choose the grace that leaves me smiling on the couch afterward as my kids are falling asleep peacefully.

Lauren Elizabeth Miller

Lauren Elizabeth Miller is the author of Made for More: My Story of God's Grace and Glory. Lauren serves people through words and points them to Jesus as the blogger and creator at laurenelizabethmiller.com. She earned an MBA in 2012 and uses her business degree for nonprofit work. As an adoptive mom, she has a passion for kids in need of families locally and around the world. Lauren lives in Nolensville, Tennessee, with her husband, Scott, and three children.