The trick that motherhood plays


He says it now. Mama. It flows freely from his mouth and it’s still so new that my heart still leaps when I hear it. Naturally, I love that of all of the possible first words, the universe of things he loves, trucks and snacks and planes, he chose to form his mouth around ‘Mama.’ I joke that every one of his future girlfriends will know this piece of our history. He says ‘Mama’ and reaches the part of me that wants to be needed and called by name. The part from which all of my mothering blossoms. He says ‘mama’ and my mind and heart finally agree yes, this is it. This is what we wanted. This is life.


She’s crossed the threshold into five. Big kid with big clothes, big toys, big life. But she’s not quite ready to jump to the next level. Not quite ready for any more independence and growing and pulling away. So she asks to be carried. And she melts before bed. She’s staring into the giant landscape of new and change and bigger things and she’s clinging to what brings her comfort. And when she reaches for me, begs for me to tuck her in, curls up in my lap at the end of a long day, my mind and heart finally agree yes, this is it. This is what we wanted. This is life.


Of course, the needing, it does hurt. That old Skin Horse knew what he was talking about. It does hurt to be loved so much that your hair has been loved off and you look worn and shabby. After a day of a million ‘mamas’ I am painfully Real. I collapse into bed, drained in every which way and wondering if I have enough in me to give it all again, and more, tomorrow.

The days feel like endless rings spinning on an endless loop. Over and over, we run the same race, stumbling in the same places.

In motherhood, so many moments feel endless. Those early, hazy days and sleepless nights, nursing them for hours in the dark, I didn’t believe that time would ever end. Hoisting babies onto my hip, into car seats, shopping carts and strollers. I’m here now and this is life, isn’t it? My life will now be spent carrying small people from one place to the next, keeping them so close, my arms circled around them. I’ll forever wake well before the sun and welcome the day with a party of small feet drumming on the floor. I’ll always end my days by brushing someone else’s teeth and tucking blankets around tiny bodies.

It’s the trick that motherhood plays. She lures us into thinking that this moment, this phase, this time in our lives will last forever. Because otherwise, we’d be so overwhelmed with just how fleeting it is that we’d never put them down. We’d cradle them in our arms all night long and carry them on our hips as long as the sun shined for fear that once we put them down, they’ll never come back up.

family and tree

After a day of a million ‘mamas’ I don’t see the day in my future when I pick her up for the last time. I don’t believe in the moment when he doesn’t sit on my lap and rest a head of curls on my shoulder. When I am running on fumes and just wishing for the day to end, these moments are not real to me.

But sometimes, I see through the trick. I peek behind the curtain and see the illusion for what it is. The weight of his sweet little head on my shoulders brings me solidly into this moment when he is still small enough to sit on my lap and suddenly I can see the future. I see that this time eventually passes. Crib moves out to make space for a bed. Glider is carried out my front door to a new home, a new family beginning their journey into fleeting moments that feel like forever. There are these moments when I see it. I see the real future, the one in which they grow and change and no moment lasts forever.

kids and waterfall

The moment when I see it, the real future, is just as fleeing as every other moment in my life. It evaporates as soon as I catch it. But the memory of it lingers. My mind moves on, focuses on the things to do, the lists and the busyness. But my heart carries the torch. This is it. This is what we wanted. This is life. Don’t miss it.


  1. So true, that trick. Thanks for this reminder of how fleeting these “endless” days really are. And that last picture is perfection.
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  2. I feel this every day.
    My girl, clinging to my legs, attempting an imitation of her brother. Desperate for comfort & attention.

    My boy, all his cute, newfound tricks.
    “But I can do that too, Mama!” she says…

    And me, at the end of the day. Just wanting to shake them off my body like a pack of werewolves. Take a shower & be alone.

    Then the sad, fleeting realizations: Someday I will again have myself, have time, have space. Because my babies were only for a moment. And I’ll be alone in this world once again.

    Thank you for writing this.

  3. Oh yes, motherhood is a tricky thing, isn’t it? And my heart is full that his first word was “Mama.”
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  4. Some days I’m aware of this sneaky little trick, and other days it flies over my head. I’m trying to freeze as many moments as I can, thinking to myself, “Remember this. Remember this. Remember this.” I hope I always do.
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  5. So beautiful, Tricia! And so very, very true.
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  6. You are so right, it really is a trick! And even though I should know better, my kids are now 15, 12 and 9, I still can get lulled into thinking I will always be needed to help, or answer a question or hear my name a million times in one hour. Thanks for a beautiful reminder!
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  7. This is unbelievably beautiful. Mine are 14 and 3 so I often think that I “get” how fleeing my young daughter’s toddler days are. But I don’t *know* know. The way I didn’t know her infancy was fleeting. The way I know I was once 14 and now I’m nearly 40, and my son will be 40 soon enough.

    The immediacy, the constant need of care for these young ones who want to and do not want to be independen, is exhausting. That is real exhaustion. And if we weren’t so tired that we had to put them down, we’d never let them get so independent. Not because we want them to rely on us forever, but because we know how much we’ll miss them when they’re the ones with families of their own. (If that’s where their lives lead them.)

    Love this post so much. I am so grateful that I got a chance to read it today.
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  8. So easy to miss it. I keep thinking of that story about Brittany, the woman who was diagnosed with an aggressive brain cancer and is choosing to end her life. It’s such an intense story with so many implications. Most of all it’s a reminder not sweat the small stuff so much. Not to miss it . . .
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  9. Oh Tricia, this speaks to me so, so much. I feel like over the past few years, I have become so hyper aware of how fast my kids are growing and how each moment may be the last of its kind. The last time I’m taller than him. The last time he talks in a little boy voice. But this is where we are now, and I will live here, with them, as who they are now.
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  10. What a beautiful post! Some moments seem to last forever, but they all pass. It’s good recognize and hold onto the fleeting when it comes to mind. Precious times!
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  11. That was beautifully written, Tricia. “But my heart carries the torch.” It is so true. I use to morn the moments that were fleeting, but like you said, “This is what we wanted.” We are here to live and watch them live and grow.
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  12. Oh this just makes me catch my breath and hold it. You are SO right. I just soak in your words like honey… you capture the very essence of our days and the fleeing years of motherhood just brilliantly my friend.
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