Motherhood is full of contradictions.

You sacrifice your own sleep to help them get some of their own. You then think about sleep all day long, counting down to when you can get back to bed, but inevitably you stay up well past a reasonable hour for no compelling reason.

You feel like your brain cells have been totally and utterly depleted, but that’s because you’re actually running 182,983 background processes, considering the needs of several other people, all at the same time.

A moment of peace is hard to find, because you feel like you are always, always being spoken to, touched or clambered onto, clutched or nestled into, a warm little head on your lap, legs with sunkissed, playground-grazed knees splayed out across you, or all of the above simultaneously. And yet, sometimes the loneliness of motherhood causes your breath to catch in your throat and you wonder how you can possibly feel this way when you are constantly surrounded, when you are never, really alone.

You grow tired of being so needed, but with every new independence you can’t help but feel like you want to hold on a little bit tighter to the way in which they no longer need you.

You hold them close, because you know that if you’re doing your job right, they will freely let go one day.

Every stage sends you into a little burst of panic at its newness. You feel like you know nothing, and yet sometimes it is only *your* instinct that can tell what your child needs.

You go through the motions of putting them to bed and swear you legitimately cannot take another second, but while their eyelids flutter and they finally surrender to the irresistible pull of sleep, a pang in your heart forces you to admit that you already miss them.

Almost in the same breath, you can lose your cool, snap and yell, but your arms are still the ones they seek out for comfort, even if you’re the reason they’re upset.

Your heart will lift with pride at something remarkable that happened today. But not without one part of you running through a guilt checklist in the background, ticking off what you probably could have done better.

You are teaching them about the world, the importance of pleases and thank-yous, how to do long division, and where babies come from. You teach them about kindness, and courage, and what it means to be a good friend. But —despite all that teaching, all that knowledge and guidance you allegedly have— you have never had a magnifying glass held so closely against your own character, and wonder if you are, in fact, the one doing most of the learning around here.

You give, and you give, and you give.

You are convinced the well is dry. You vow, with a huff and hands thrown up in the air, that you are done.

You are *done*.

And then they will ask – and you give just a little bit more.

Yet, when you take some time out to do something for yourself, you question, even fleetingly, whether you’re being selfish.

You think back to when life seemed easier, when you slept more, when you read more, when your goals took the front and only seat, when your personal space was not common property and your time was just that: *your* time. You look back wistfully at photo albums of holidays and long unworn clothes in your wardrobe and your achievements, successes and the things that brought you joy and fulfillment.

Yet you wouldn’t trade any of it back, not even for a second.

This article originally appeared on The Tuna Chronicles

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