I won’t be at the gym in the morning, my daughter is sick and throwing up. Be sure to keep an eye on Little Man.

My friend’s text came in at 10:56 p.m.—well past my bedtime. Nevertheless, it was there waiting for me at 12:30 a.m. when I awoke to my son’s terrified screams coming from the room next to mine. Sure enough, I went in to find my boy covered in his own vomit, tears from both pain and confusion streaming down his flushed cheeks.

His sickness came in waves. Eight waves to be exact.  

Just like that, I knew my plans for the next day were going to change. A simple stomach bug was enough to knock us off the radar for at least the next 24 hours. And any hope of going back to sleep? Yeah, that had flown out the window along with my itinerary.

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Three bed sheets, two pairs of pajamas, and one rug tumbled around the washer in the wee hours of the morning. I listened to the soft swish of the machine as I lay on the small patch of vomit-free carpet next to my son’s bed with nothing but a stuffed moose for a pillow and a bath towel for a blanket. His tiny hand was tucked tightly into mine as I reassured him that I would be right there for the rest of the night.

At that moment flashed a memory so faint it could have almost been mistaken for a dream. My mom had done this very same thing with me when I was little. A midnight sickness, a scared child, and a comforting mama. Could there be a more purposeful combination?

In my sleep deprived, retch-covered state I had almost begun to resent this motherhood business. I had plans that were being interrupted, a life that needed to keep going. But there was a universal truth there hidden in the darkness that I had nearly missed had it not been for the recollection of my own mom keeping vigil by my bedside.

The truth is these are the nights we pay our dues simply for the privilege of being their mothers.

It may not feel worthwhile when you are changing yet another nighttime blowout at 3 a.m.

It may not feel worthwhile when you have a colicky baby screaming in one ear and a cranky three-year-old crying down the hall.

It may not feel worthwhile when your husband gets to stay asleep while you get up to nurse the baby every two hours.

And I certainly know it may not feel worthwhile when you are covered in another person’s vomit sleeping on the cold, hard floor.

However, I truly believe, with the exception of our salvation, nothing worth having is ever free. We must pay our dues.

Remember, that 3 a.m. diaper change means you are blessed enough to have fresh diapers for your baby and clean clothes to put them in.

Remember, your colicky baby will soon turn into that three-year-old down the hall, who will undoubtedly be growing up so fast you’ll beg them to stay a while longer.

Remember, with each nursing session you are providing a life-sustaining miracle that your husband will never have the ability to understand. Try to be nice to him, I’m sure he is paying some pretty hefty dues of his own.

And, last of all, remember every time you find yourself laying in puke on your kid’s bedroom floor, there is a mom in a hospital room who would do anything to be in your place.

These are the nights that make or break us as parents. Where our love for our children is just enough to sustain us until that first drop of coffee breathes new life into our tired souls. My wish for you is that you try to see each gummy smile, hysterical giggle, and slobbery kiss as your reward for those wearisome nights.

And, tonight, should you find yourself up once again burning the midnight oil, I sincerely hope you know that your work is just waiting to be rewarded in the fresh light of day. Right now, you are merely paying your dues.

Kayla Runkel

Kayla is a former marketer turned stay-at-home-mom to a sweet little two-year-old boy. She writes on her blog, The Rustic Hideaway, about her passion for the four F's: Food, Faith, Family, and Fitness. When she is not writing, Kayla loves spending time with her husband and son exploring her favorite place in the world, Wyoming, or as she simply calls it: home.