I’m 32, and like most of my friends, my kids are still young. My first is in kindergarten this year, and my second just turned three. Our lives are still filled with diapers, naps, and battles over food. But we’re reaching the end of that stage in life, and with infertility rearing its ugly head, we don’t have any reason to believe we’ll be starting all over with a newborn any time soon. At this point, it seems much more likely that our days of diapers and naps are coming to an end.
That’s definitely not true of most, if not all, of my friends. They are all still very much in the thick of it. They are announcing new pregnancies and births regularly. They are experiencing the joys and pains of life with infants—nursing issues, sleepless nights, and diaper blowouts. Life is scheduled around naps and bedtimes, and nothing takes priority like a baby’s sleep patterns. I have had more than one playdate canceled or postponed because of naps. But I remember what life is like with an overtired baby, so I don’t mind.
I still remember what those baby years felt like. They were not so long ago for me, but with every day that passes, they’re further and further in the past. I have felt the joys and pains of new motherhood, and I have been left with beautiful memories. Even the bad days and the long nights don’t seem so bad now. They have taken on the glamor of nostalgia, and sometimes I find myself missing them.
I miss my babies even though they are still here with me. But they’re not babies anymore. They’re growing up and becoming less baby-ish by the day. My son is all long limbs and gawky poses. He can dress himself and is already learning how to tie his own shoes. My daughter is just days away (hopefully) from being diaper-free, and we all know our nap days are numbered. They are growing up.
While my friends are still in the thick of the baby days, I am beginning to appreciate the next stage of motherhood. It’s easier to travel now, and my backpack is not so heavy anymore (and sometimes the backpack even stays home). The occasional trip to Starbucks is not so stressful (though the kids are much more opinionated now) and being in restaurants with them doesn’t give me anxiety like it used to. I can (usually) trust them to behave in public. My kids are both fully capable of expressing themselves in a manner that is easily understood, and they do so regularly.
I wouldn’t say life is easy now, but it’s a whole lot less difficult than it once was. I am looking forward to this new phase of motherhood, but I am afraid to do it on my own. I assumed all of my friends would be with me, but they are still living out their baby days. I’ve left those days behind, and I’m venturing into the great unknown. I am moving forward in my life as a mother, but I also feel like I’ve been left behind. I might never know what it feels like to have three or more children. I might never know what it’s like to juggle extracurriculars, homework, and dirty diapers. I might never need to know how to get my baby to nap while also getting my oldest to soccer practice. There is so much to the life I envisioned for myself as a mom that I might never actually get to live.
But the life we dream of is not always the life we get. But we still get so much. My husband and I get to watch our son and daughter grow closer by the day, knowing they will always (and might only) have each other. We get to treat our kids to regular one-on-one time (it’s easy when taking one out for ice cream means one-on-one time for both). We get to take them to see family more often because it’s easier traveling with only two kids. This is not the life we dreamed for ourselves, but it has its beauty too.
And I know I am not alone. I have not been left behind. My friends will continue to be my friends even if we never have another child. Even when their lives are so different from mine. Even if I will never experience, firsthand, the joys and struggles of having a big family. I might never experience any of it myself, but I will still hear all about it. I will celebrate the highs and mourn the lows with my friends. I will be a hand to hold, a smile to share, a shoulder to cry on. I might be in a different phase of motherhood than my friends, but we are friends on this journey of motherhood together, and that is all that matters.
This essay originally appeared on Her View From Home. You can read the original post here.