Dear Mom: I Needed You. You Did Not Come.

Nancy Corbett
Written by Nancy Corbett

That was the message, scribbled on a torn, scratch piece of paper. It was a simple, easy-to-miss message, and yet it still echoes in my bones all these years later. I’ve held on to that tiny piece of paper, propped atop a cabinet, so I never forget.

My daughter, now 17, was in elementary school at the time. It was one of those nights when we read some books together at bedtime and rather than snuggling for a bit as she fell asleep, I decided I had more important things to do.

It was likely some work-related emails I needed to answer, or something I wanted to cross off some obscure list, or it could have been a pile of dirty dishes in the sink. No matter, I had promised to do whatever I so “desperately” needed to do and to return soon.

But by the time I returned, she was asleep and there laying on the floor was the note.

“20 minutes passed, you didn’t come. I needed you.”

I remember picking it up, reading it and starting to cry. I had traded a moment in time with my child for something that would never amount to more than a glorified scratch through an item on a to-do list. The moment was gone. I would never get it back. No do-overs.

And sure, there are lots of moments but it’s always when you think it doesn’t matter that it matters most. It’s not so much the big moments as the really teeny tiny ones when they want to whisper their thoughts, share a dream or spill out something they find scarier than any bugaboo under the bed.

The truth is, they are never on our time clock. They share their secrets, musings and thoughts in pockets of time and if we aren’t present or listening, we are the ones who miss out. If we aren’t ready when they are, the moment is usually lost. We finish whatever it is we have to do and when we circle back, they no longer have anything to say. They’ve moved on and so too has our moment.

That’s the thing about parents, maybe more importantly about moms, we’re needed at the most unexpected times. And it’s when we drop everything, or set aside our electronic contraptions, our children understand they are more important than anything else on this planet. Words are just words. What we actually do is everything.

It’s funny. I can only recall one time when my own mom didn’t show up when I needed her which speaks volumes about all the times she did show up.

Distraught the summer my dad died, my mom arrived late for my 16-year-old moment in the sunshine at summer camp. I’ve never forgotten the disappointment I felt when I saw her shuffling across the pebbled rocks, minutes after my big event had come and gone.

While there may have been other times, that’s the moment I recall. For the rest, she always seemed to be there, no matter what. When sick, she was there with cold washrag in hand, sitting beside the toilet bowl as my stomach churned. When I needed someone to hear the ramblings of my heart, she sat silently, usually perched on a hard toilet seat cover as I soaked in the tub, or fixing some midnight snack as I babbled on into the wee hours of the morning.

She even showed up in my early thirties when a marriage disintegrated into something that played out like a poorly produced movie on the Lifetime channel. Packing up whatever we could fit in her red Jeep Cherokee, she drove me and my six-month-old child away from hell to safety.

She never complained. She never said, “I told you so.” She may have asked a few questions but mostly she just listened. And above and beyond everything else, she showed up. I needed her and she came.

People can tell you they love you. They can speak all kinds of wonderful wonderments, promising everything, but if they don’t show up, it’s just hollow words.

Yes, there are times, for whatever reason, we can’t be there. But when we can, we should. May I never forget these nine simple words: “20 minutes passed, you didn’t come. I needed you.”

About the author

Nancy Corbett

Nancy Corbett

Nancy, a corporate public relations professional by day, navigates motherhood, some days better than others, under the aging 1930s roof of a teenager, a husband 14 years her senior, two hound dogs and her own midlife perimenopausal madness.

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122 Comments

  • Nancy, this is a great article! Tell Bobbi and Paris that I am honored to know them and you! Lifes road makes some nice corners and curves. Glad you were on my road many years ago!.

    • Ruthie,
      I will tell them both. You loved my kiddo all those years ago and we loved you. Thankful for the road. And thanks for reminding me that there have been plentyof nice corners and curves.

  • I want to Thank you personally Nancy. My daughter who will be 24 next month sent me this link. I read your story Mom I needed you & you did not come… It home with her (deeply), you see I am raising her 4 1/2 year old daughter she has been a hero in addict she started using one year ago on the anniversary over second brother’s death. I know better than anyone that you can’t get those moments back especially when they’ve crossed over. I know that better than anyone so I lost my first son 11 years ago. Your story is what made her think of Maci & how much she is missing out on. I pray your words will make a difference. I really just wanted to say Thank you & I will continue to read on for a Yaya (grandma did not suit me) I’m determined to get it right this time. I have taken parenting classes for unlike your loving supportive mother mine was a raging screaming hitting lunatic. So even though my daughter is in her own struggle, not a moment goes by that I am not there for her with unconditional love (not $). Thank you reminding me just how precious our time with our children is. Many Blessings.

    • Teri,
      Your story about your daughter Maci and the loss of your son made me cry this morning. One day we have them, and the next day, sometimes we don’t – whether they die or make choices where they are almost impossible to reach. As far as parenting goes, we are all screw ups. We’ll never find that perfect spot but if we love them and listen to them and stay even when we really just want to run down the road the opposite direction screaming, it will mean the world to them. Your granddaughter is blessed to have you, her Yaya. I hope, Maci, too will make her way back to both of you because its the people in our lives that are everything. There are no do-overs – just the moments we have right now.

    • Teri, I read your story to my daughter because it was her words on a note years ago that made me think about how I show up for her, myself and others in my life. I was so emotional when I read your story that I mistook your daughter for Maci. Maci, your granddaughter, and your daughter are blessed to have you.

    • Teri, I read your story to my daughter because it was her words on a note years ago that made me think about how I show up for her, myself and others in my life. I was so emotional when I read your story that I mistook your daughter for Maci. Maci, your granddaugher, and your daughter are blessed to have you.

  • Nancy,

    In spite of the so called neglect, you managed to raise a wonderful daughter. Kudos for you, and parents are not infallible.

    • Thanks, Huda. As parents, we are all screwups to some degree. But if we can just love them (especially through the teen years) and stick around, I think in the end it all shakes out. Goodness knows, we all have our holes (the deaths and losses) and yet the holes are the very things that make us who we are.

      • Thanks, Huda. As parents, we are all screwups to some degree. But if we can just love them (especially through the teen years) and stick around, I think in the end it all shakes out. Goodness knows, we all have our holes (the deaths and losses) and yet the holes are the very things that make us who we are.

  • Thank your for sharing this because it made me realize that although my mother was single and had a career I can’t ever recall a time in my probably too spoiled life that my mother wasn’t there. What a great testament to her commitment to being my mother.

    • Thanks for you kind note. We are all doing the best we can. As my grandmother said to my mother and my mother said to me and now I say to my child, “I’m not perfect. I’m just doing the best I can. I love you with everything in me but I’m imperfectly human.”

  • Nancy, this is a great article except that it is not always easy to determine when the need is real and when they are manipulating. It is also important to teach the needs of others. Children, especially girls, will push as far as they can. I love to read and snuggle with my daughter but I can’t do it every night or there will not be dinner on clean dishes, clean clothes to wear for school just to name a few. A well balanced house is a happy home. I try to teach my children that their needs are important to me but there are other needs too, This same girl who needs me to snuggle tonight may be angry tomorrow because her uniform is not clean for school. A mom and dad cannot satisfy all needs all of the time. Do what you can and have #NoRegrets.

    • Thank you. My thoughts exactly.

      As a foster child, I could write a book about all the times I needed someone, but had no one to go to. It wasn’t neglect or bad parenting on their part, it was just a symptom of my situation.

      Amazingly, I survived to tell of it, although generally I don’t, because I understand that they all did their best by me. They were not mind readers or magicians capable of taking all the hurt away. I’m grateful for what they did, not resentful for what they couldn’t.

      As parents we have thresholds, and our needs matter too. The author needs to give herself and her socalled shortcomings a break

      • Caitlyn, it sounds like your foster parents did the best they could and that’s what we all do. There is no perfect parenting – just people paddling, depending on the day, upstream or downstream.

    • I enjoyed the article and agree with this comment! I could not help but think, I would be in bed with my kiddos every night at 8pm until the morning if I agreed to stay with them each time they asked! What can we do? Our best to balance the need. Love the discussion!

      • I agree that it’s a balancing act every single day. We don’t ever reach this permanent, perfectly balanced life. Everything is always moving and changing and throwing everything off kilter. Some days I do the balancing act remarkably well and other days, I completely bomb. Oh well, there’s always another day.

    • Toni, I don’t disagree with you. It’s a constant struggle of when we really need to be there for them and when we need our own space. I speak from a place of someone who lost a parent young and so that influences me to this day. About two months before my dad died, my mother made me as a teenager go on a weekend trip with my parents. I was a typical teen and I had my own plans. To this day, I’m thankful she made me join them because my dad died a few months later. The point is that we just never know how much time we have on this planet. I certainly won’t be at the end of my days wishing I’d worked more. “Doing what we can” and not living in regrets is the best we can all do.

    • Toni, I don’t disagree with you. It’s a constant struggle of when we really need to be there for them and when we need our own space. I speak from a place of someone who lost a parent young and so that influences me to this day. About two months before my dad died, my mother made me as a teenager go on a weekend trip with my parents. To this day, I’m thankul she made me join them because my dad died a few months later. The point is that we just never know how much time we have on this planet. I certainly won’t be at the end of my days wishing I’d worked more. “Doing what we can” and not living in regrets – what more can we do?

      • I agree 100%. I think that’s what I got from this story in the first place. That maybe sometimes the dishes, clothes, etc. can wait. Or maybe next time there are chores, I’ll try to incorporate spending time with my little ones. I am the worst when it comes to blowing them off while cleaning or while doing something else. When I’m old and leaving this world ..chores won’t be on my mind. I love you Maci (I have one too!l love you Calei…and I love you baby CJ.

    • Thank you for including the word dad in your response. Too many times the father is left out of the conversation and is left isolated by the “social norm.” Its time to include the dad and stop the one sided conversation of mom only care.

    • I agree with Toni.
      I have a hard time getting a lot done at home also, because I try to spend a lot of time with my toddler ( almost 3 ). I also have a hard time getting him to listen to instructions and obey right away. I try to explain to him that I need to clean, so we will have clean clothes, dishes and maybe I can play later. But it takes so long to get him to cooperate with every meal, potty break, etc. that I can’t play with him much.

    • Spending time with your child is not more important than other things. This is why time management is so important – if you have laundry, dishes, etc. done in a timely manner, you won’t need to choose between your child and chores.

    • I was moved by this article and loved the intent but all at once, it made me feel really guilty and added pressure to an already tough job. Now I worry about causing emotional scarring if I need to get some things done…I make the time more often than not, but now I feel insecure that I don’t give enough??

    • I couldnt agree more. For all of the times I am there, this made me feel guilty about those minimal times when I cant be. When I travel for work or when I am so exhausted from being “on” all day that after reading books and saying prayers I am “done”. Of course if my kids said they need me I would be there, but discerning between “I just dont want to go to bed” and “I need you” sometimes can be a blurry line. Most of us are doing our very best and putting everything we can into the day….I am not a fan of the articles that make me feel guilty for the “one” time. Thanks for your realistic perspective.

      • So true. We want to be fully present, but sometimes needs must. And so many articles make you feel like a failure, when that is already a battle you fight with yourself. .

  • Powerful message and reminder to all parents! Just last night I had “more important” things to do than to spend time with my kids after tucking them in. It makes me wonder how many times my kids would have written those 9 words to me. Thanks so much for sharing and reminding us all how un-important all of our “more important” things are when compared to our kids!

  • All the nope on this. Raising my kids to think they are the absolute centre of my universal and their needs come before mine all the time? Nope.

    Encouraging a passive aggressive communication style? Definitely a nope.

    My kids know their needs are balanced with the needs of everyone else in the family. And that they should express their needs clearly and respectfully.

    Your mileage may vary, but I would be disappointed if one of my daughter’s wrote a note that attempted to guilt another human rather than getting up and coming to me and clearly stating their needs.

    • Hi Sarah,

      I think the beauty in this world is that we’re all doing the best we can. There is no perfection but lots of goofups and screwups along the way. Best to you and your kiddos.

    • I echo your thoughts, Sarah. Well stated. I recall my brother leaving a similar note for my mother that devastated her. I was a child and to see my mother so crushed was awful. It colored their interaction amid a divorce for years.Responsible communication and empathy go both ways, and teaching our children how to navigate emotion and need is an imperative. I disagree with this author’s personal experience being a broad benchmark for others’ parenting and would encourage parents to raise their children with their best judgement and education, not out of a sense of guilt.

    • Agreed, Sarah. Love is teaching kids to be resourceful and sturdy (as well as cuddled and safe). There are nights where they should fight the battle knowing their parents are there to greet them in the morning. Love does not breed dependence and insecurity. Love builds independence and trust. I pray my kids carry an inner light that does not require my constant physical presence to keep lit.

      • I agree with anonymous. We should teach our kids to be strong, smart and resourceful, as well as loving, caring and confident. Part of love is teaching our kids how to think and do for themselves. If I have to constantly hover over my child to do things, then I am probably doing something wrong.

    • Well-said, Sarah. The note left a bad taste in my mouth, too. My kids would’ve gotten out of bed and told me they needed me, at which point I would have been there for them.

    • Oh please, this is why kids these days grow up so weak hearted and thin skinned as an onion. I grew up in a very large family, 7 kids. My mom and dad both worked full time and raised all 7 of us. Sure, there were lots of times mom (and dad) was not there as she was busy, tired and also having her own life (she ran her own business). When I was older, I was surprised to know that parents usually helped their kids with their homework! Mine never did, but I never held it against them. I always saw my parents slaving away to put a roof over our heads, to make sure we were safe, that we had food, took care of us when we were sick, and that we had the best education. These things made me feel very, very loved, and my mom didn’t even say “i love you” much at all (I can count with my fingers the number of times she said it to me). If I did ever had a problem I would try to solve it myself, only when I cannot really get anywhere anymore did I talk to my mom.

      Kids should feel loved and taken care of, that is a given. But they should not expect to be the “entire” center of their parents lives. This is why you have so many spoiled kids these days. I know this sounds so much like a broken record, but it is so true. We grew up from a poor beginning but in the end my parents elevated our lives quite a bit (way more than their own childhood). We did not get everything we wanted, heck, we barely got anything at all besides from the essentials. The only thing our parents spoiled us on was education, books, and more education.

      In closing, I am not saying ignore your child, but getting a note for being 20 minutes late? In my opinion, this kid needs to grow up a bit and appreciate how lucky she is that her mom reads her stories, helps her with her homework, listens to her, works so she has food to eat, clothes to wear, and a roof over her head. I never got any of the first two, but I sure am so grateful to have such a loving mom.

    • The first thing I thought was “oh no mom guilt reading”. I refuse to feel guilty for meeting my needs. A mom who puts her needs after her families’ needs is not the best mom she can be. If my needs are met, I will be a better mom at tending to my children. Moments are relative too. One day may be hectic and emails have to get answered. The big picture? Well, if we don’t answer those emails it may cost us a job or a relationship or we may forget something important. This is why I am thankful for my husband. Between him and I we can be there for our kids and not have guilt for neglecting them or their needs.

    • Sarah for the win!

      Nancy, when will your article laying a guilt trip on fathers be coming? Let me guess, it’s not….

    • Totally agree with your comment. I am a widow raising 3 kids, and I do the best I can. It is not possible for me to be there all the time. Parents will never think they are doing a good enough job, and we really don’t need any more guilt. I try to balance everything, but my needs and my job are also important. I tell my kids that my job is the reason we have a house, and food and clothes, so sometimes I need to spend time dealing with work stuff. They get it, but I am also not going to raise them to think they are the center of the universe. We should cherish the moments we have with them, but sometimes the needs of others have to trump theirs.

    • Whew — thank god I finally came across 1 sane comment on this blog.

      This author isn’t at all aware of what a narcissist she is. It’s unfortunate that her mother enabled this behavior, and I hope that her teenage daughter is able to break the cycle.

  • I think it is really sad that you only remember the time she wasn’t there. Moms are not perfect, and no one is harder on us then ourselves when we can’t be there, or when we fail at something, or when we make the wrong choice. To have you shame us for not being perfect is just adding insult to injury. Moms are not perfect no matter how hard we try. It is a sad testament that all you remember is the one time your mom wasn’t perfect for you.

    • Hi Barb,
      My story wasn’t intended to make anyone sad or feel shame. It’s just my story – a moment in time. I do remember the time my mom didn’t show up but it’s not lost on me the countless times she was there for me. And I’m grateful for it all. You are exactly right, we’re not perfect. We’re all just doing the best we can. Best to you.

      • Nancy, thanks for your story. I am taking the value that I can out of it. I had a mother who was rarely there for me and so I try to be there for my girl as much as I can. That was a LOT in her younger years, and she’s very secure and doesn’t need me as much now. I have to pick and choose when I show up for her, and school functions are starting to be what I am cutting out in exchange for the very meaningful one-to-one time at home where we truly bond and have quality time. Your article just reinforced that for me that bonding is the most important use of my limited time. While I’m annoyed at some of the unfriendly comments on here, I’m glad you wrote this, and that you’re gracious about those who disagree. But this is like everything in the world, take in what serves you and leave the rest be for those who need it.

      • Well it’s more than just a story. You refer to moms in general, stating “we” and giving instruction as to how we should or should not miss moments etc. It is intended to instruct moms on your opinions that come from a sad moment in your life. When you post something like this, it is more than sharing your story, you know it’s going to be read by many. The story started and ended with a guilt statement, those 9 words you’ll never forget. Inbetween you tell us not to miss moments and trivial responsibilities mean nothing compared to time with our kids. Saying you love your kid but not beign by their side is, how did you say, hollow words? A bit much.

        • What nonsense. Your kids are kids for a finite time, be with them, don’t make your job for them to remember a cold, uncaring mother like you come across here. If you think your style is in anyway commendable, you are wrong. I feel for your kids and your inability to understand how short both life and childhood is. No one respects a terrible mother like you. No one.

      • I liked your post. There are times you of course can’t be there. But there might be that one time. And then the article didn’t say why mom was 20 min late. That is important. I am a recovering alcoholic. The times I was, 20 min late due to a hangover do matter.

    • exactly!!! This article is completely wrong and why kids are thinking that they are the ones that rule the house! Rather than dissappoint a child the parent seems to think that she should be around doing whatever the child wants for fear of (I need you/this). Complete garbage and definitely speaks volumes of the writers self esteem and relationship with her own mother. Who is raising whom?

    • I agree! I was a very devoted mother but also paid attention to my goals. One time I didn’t go to a school function because I was finishing my degree and had an important class I couldn’t miss. My daughter told me a week later how upset she was! Occasionally, I still think of that ONE time I let her down…but remind myself what a role model I was for never giving up on my dreams…and guess what? She is now 29 years old and never gave up on hers either–she recently passed the NY Bar Exam!!

    • I was thinking the same thing! I have cut back to extreme part time so that I could be home with our daughter as much as possible. Unfortunately one of those days I have to work is Saturday, there are parties we have to decline, playdates to the zoo we have to miss or I send her with someone else. This article makes me sad to think that instead of remembering all the days I did get to spend with her she will only remember the days mommy couldn’t be there.

  • Try to not take that note so serious, to me it’s the same when they cry, act out for not getting that toy that they instantly saw on isle toy candy, get it? It’s you feel too guilty, but good people always think or go hard on themselves? Hey we all feel neglected or loss, your okay it’s all good!

  • Only a mom would punish herself for this ONE missed moment for so many years and for so many years to come!!

  • While I really love the spirit of this article, it is something I cannot get fully behind. My mom has been chronically ill for most of her life and my father left us at a young age. There was physically no way for her to be there for me or my older sister during all of those “unexpected times.” I had to face the disappointment of her not being there for me when I needed/wanted her, but that was because she was working 60+ hour weeks to keep a roof over our head and food in our stomachs. When she came home she was in so much pain both physically and emotionally that all she could do was go to sleep to prepare for the next day’s work. My sister and I learned to take care of ourselves. I would argue that her actions of working hard even through the pain are just as meaningful as any other mom being there for the small moments. I think you have your heart in the right place and I’m not trying to be controversial, but these problems of “putting aside our electronic contraptions” speaks loudly to the certain levels of privilege.

  • I was in third grade and it was MY turn to lead the lunch line to the cafeteria along with my mom, but she was late, and so I didn’t lead the line. I STILL remember how hurt I was and I can still hear her saying she was sorry….

  • I got that message from my daughter after she was married. (no abuse – just a young bride and mother) I knew she needed me, I knew I should stay but she turned me away. She turned me away. She even made me feel uncomfortable for being there. Like I was intruding. And so I left. I would have stayed but felt she wanted me to go. It broke my heart as a Mom but I went. And years later, I got the note, – .”I needed you and you went away.” That turned my soul to dust that day. I would have and wanted to stay.
    She still needs me. I feel it like I did then. She still turns me away and breaks my heart every time she does.
    Mothering is hard and amazingly Wonderful. Joyful and maddening. Rewarding and Heartbreaking and Sooooooo important.
    It doesn’t happen often enough but even though we are both adults, I am still her Mother and she is still my Daughter and When she calls to me and says – “I need you Mom” I’m there, every time. Trying to rebuild that trust. I pray that she has learned to be there for her children every moment they need her – they need her sooooooo much.

  • Ouch. That kicked me right in the gut. I needed to hear this today. I’ve been unavailable for my kids lately as I try to focus on growing a business. I need to be focused on growing my babies. Thanks for these words.

  • We do the best we can as parents, we cannot be ashamed or beat ourselves up over what we perceive as “what we should have done” instead of trying to take care of life. Yes, we need to spend as much time as we can with our children, but there are many other aspects to life that require our attention. It teaches our children that they have to wait sometimes, the world will not come running to them when they beckon. The children we are raising believe the world revolves around them, you get participation trophies for doing nothing more than showing up, you receive extravagant presents for minor holidays and small goals instead of real accomplishments. We lost one of our children when she was 8 months old, I did my best to spend as much time with her as I could, but I do not regret when dishes had to be done, clothes needed to be washed and folded, or life happened and I couldn’t be there at that perfect moment. We need to quit making each other feel guilty and support each other as parents.

  • My first reaction was that this was beautiful, truthful and eloquently put. As the mother of 4 grown (mostly grown) kids, my second reaction was that this made me feel guilty. I doubt this was the intention but it seemed to perpetuate the idea that as a Mom we must always be there or we must carry the burden of guilt. As I re-read this, I remembered all the time when the words “MOM…I NEED YOU” rang out from 4 different corner of the house. I’m sure there were many times I wasn’t there when one or the other of them needed me and I’m sure there were special moments that could have been but weren’t. But what I’m happy and satisfied about is that they know they are my life and they are loved “to the moon and back”!

  • While I can appreciate the spirit of this- that we need to make sure we’re not letting every hum-drum task come before that precious time with our children- the fact remains that dishes do need to be washed, laundry folded, and take home work done; and I need to get those things done so I can sleep so as not to be short with my daughter the next day and end up jumping down her throat for any small thing. When I read these “every moment is precious and time is slipping away” posts, I think it is just one more thing to make us Moms feel guilty about, along with not making homemade yogurt and laundry detergent. It’s not like I’m passed out drunk on the couch while my daughter’s life is passing by. I’m not ignoring her or neglecting her when I say, “I can’t play now, I’m cooking dinner.” LIFE MUST HAPPEN TOO. We need meals, groceries, clean clothes and dishes, and a clean (enough) house- and we need sleep and time with our significant others, too. I tuck her in, we read, and I sing her a song. She knows she can count on that. But when she asks me for the fifth time in as many days “why does the earth spin?” as I’m closing her door, I’m pretty sure she doesn’t really need me, she just doesn’t want to go to bed. And her room doesn’t have a lock. If she ever needs me, she can come down or just call to me, and I’ll be right there.

    • Exactly. I’m sick of all these blogs telling me I’m a terrible mother because I’m not catering to my child’s every whim. Children need to learn they’re not the center of the universe. It’s an incredibly important life lesson that most kids these days are sadly missing out on.

      • I am 62 and I was always there for my boys. Trust me their needs and wants came before mine. Buy guess what ? Today I havent seen them or heard from them for over a year.They have turned into self centered harden men who have no respect for the woman who gave them her life. . So please dont feel guilty for taking time for yourself. Your children have a better chance of growing up to be respectful grown ups.

  • “Dear Kid:

    Life’s not fair. Moms/Dads are human. Even they will fail you, though they will move heaven and earth before even entertaining the possibility. But sooner or later they will fail you at the moment you think you need them the most, even if you really don’t, and trust me, it’s far worse for them knowing they let you down than it is for you.

    It’s also important for you to know that moms and dads can’t be there every minute, and sometimes they need to step away to do other things (like pay bills, see to other children, or just soak in a tub and enjoy an end-of-day glass of wine).

    And to be honest, my love, if you’re old enough to scratch out a note and be aware of 20 minutes passing, you really are old enough to fall asleep by yourself. We cherish every moment we have with you but there are times when we have to let you soldier on by yourself, even when it hurts our hearts to make you do it.

    Better for you to learn these things early so that you can get used to them, adjust accordingly and keep moving forward as you are supposed to.

    In the meantime, here’s a teddy bear and nightlight. Suck it up, my darling. I love you.

    Sincerely,

    Mom/Dad.”

  • Oh please, this is why kids these days grow up so weak hearted and thin skinned as an onion. I grew up in a very large family, 7 kids. My mom and dad both worked full time and raised all 7 of us. Sure, there were lots of times mom (and dad) was not there as she was busy, tired and also having her own life (she ran her own business). When I was older, I was surprised to know that parents usually helped their kids with their homework! Mine never did, but I never held it against them. I always saw my parents slaving away to put a roof over our heads, to make sure we were safe, that we had food, took care of us when we were sick, and that we had the best education. These things made me feel very, very loved, and my mom didn’t even say “i love you” much at all (I can count with my fingers the number of times she said it to me). If I did ever had a problem I would try to solve it myself, only when I cannot really get anywhere anymore did I talk to my mom.

    Kids should feel loved and taken care of, that is a given. But they should not expect to be the “entire” center of their parents lives. This is why you have so many spoiled kids these days. I know this sounds so much like a broken record, but it is so true. We grew up from a poor beginning but in the end my parents elevated our lives quite a bit (way more than their own childhood). We did not get everything we wanted, heck, we barely got anything at all besides from the essentials. The only thing our parents spoiled us on was education, books, and more education.

    In closing, I am not saying ignore your child, but getting a note for being 20 minutes late? In my opinion, this kid needs to grow up a bit and appreciate how lucky she is that her mom reads her stories, helps her with her homework, listens to her, works so she has food to eat, clothes to wear, and a roof over her head. I never got any of the first two, but I sure am so grateful to have such a loving mom.

  • Well done. There is great value in being mindful that those little moments are so easy to overlook and yet so valuable in the long run. Thanks for reminding us not to get so caught up in our overwhelming, over scheduled lives that we miss those precious moments. They are fleeting but carry immense importance.

  • To all of the comments talking about how you “disagree” or think this article is “wrong”:
    1. This is an article, not the Bible!
    2. This is an opinion of a mother and her own personal experience
    3. You may not understand the authors experience or relate to it at all, but this is about her story, not yours
    4. If anyone wants to disagree with everything i have just pointed out, think again.

    this world has enough hate and arguments, lets make it better by supporting other moms and not putting them down. All of the moms out there have enough to deal with already 🙂

  • To all of the comments talking about how you “disagree” or think this article is “wrong”:
    1. This is an article, not the Bible!
    2. This is an opinion of a mother and her own personal experience
    3. You may not understand the authors experience or relate to it at all, but this is about her story, not yours
    4. If anyone wants to disagree with everything i have just pointed out, think again.
    —-this world has enough hate and arguments, lets make it better by supporting other moms and not putting them down. All of the moms out there have enough to deal with already 🙂

  • You know what?! Give yourself a break. Kids are the masters of guilt and, as you point out, it’s never the million times you did come that they remember. It’s always the one time you didn’t. You deserved time to get your things done too.

  • Holy Crap! To all the women disagreeing with this, saying this is what’s wrong with children today…Read it again! This article is about PRIORITIZING. If there are things you that have to get done, then yes, do them. Your job, your schooling to make a better life, making sure that clothes are clean and that there’s food to eat, having an illness or condition that’s debilitating…these are things that can’t be helped and must be taken care of. Those things are not what this article is about. No where in this did I read to put your whole life and all responsibilities aside for your child’s every beck and call. This is about realizing that you don’t have to take care of every little thing right then and there in order for your house not to fall apart. To me, it was “don’t sweat the small stuff.” There are times that our children are just going to want or need us more than others, for no reason other than they just do. Our kids are not going to want our attention, love and affection ever again like they do when they’re little and it’s important for both child and parent to soak it up for as long and as much as we can. It will be the foundation for your relationship. So PRIORITIZE. If it’s something that can be put aside, something that can wait, let it wait. Make sure your children know that they will always be more important than the small stuff now so that they’ll always know that growing up. Put yourself in their shoes. If you needed your SO to give some attention, just a few minutes to hold you or listen about your day but he said that he had to take care of the yard or catch up on some random work, how important would you feel then? This isn’t about guilting parents for doing what they have to do, it’s about reminding them that they don’t have to do everything all the time.

  • Wonderful article, it’s true. The days go by so fast. It’s tough, it really is. Specially for the parent that really does do everything around the home, we wear so many hats whether it be because we are single or married. So much is on our plate and in our heads. You have no idea how many times my son says I don’t listen yet I swear I am, but I think with all i have going on I’m my head, I guess I do forget. So many nights I watch them sleep wondering if I was they best I could be for them that day. Even if they live to be 80 each day is a day you’re never getting back again. Like you said, each moment as well.

  • Dear Nancy,
    I came across this today and I wanted to say thank you for your honesty. If more mothers would share the difficult lessons that they learn through motherhood, then we could all lift each other up. I applaud your honesty and will un-plug for the rest of this weekend to soak up some of the little moments.
    Jaime

  • I relate and thank you for bringing this to our household. My 20 year old son asked me as to why I appeared so forlorn-I shares with him your reading. Mother of 3 sons and a beautiful daughter of whom has penciled the very same message I still keep and she is now 18 on her own and I miss these moments I cannot take back either…

  • I know that you are putting this out here for mothers but please understand that there are single fathers out here as well. This statement: “That’s the thing about parents, maybe more importantly about moms, we’re needed at the most unexpected times” demeans fathers. I am the father of two ADHD children whose mother can’t seem to find two minutes to spend with her children let alone figure out which electronic device she wants to meddle with when she is with them. I think a lot of people miss the point that there are some really hard working and caring fathers who have to make excuses for why their spouses can’t see them or send time with them. Sure, the nature of things is to think that we fathers are all just a bunch of sperm donors that leave when we make our deposits but there are those of us who will do everything in their means to make sure their children are cared for and loved. I made that decision when I found out that my own father did not want me. When we divorced in 2010 in Florida, with no family members that would be nearby i came back to Ohio, lifed out of a weekly motel, ate junk food and worked three part-time jobs because I swore that I would never abandon my children. And the reason I am so committed is because I had a strong mother and grandmother who raised me and taught me that no matter what, we must do what is right. So while moms I know get the lions share of the responsibility, remember to find the fathers out there too that do the right thing and not just for show or for father’s day but everyday because if they are anything like me, their own lives became more valuable the day they held and saw their own child for the first time. I will give women props but don’t negate that about fathers by such socially acceptable dribbling. I am a man, a father and a parent and I am more proud of that than anything I could have done in my life.

  • How very sad that any mother would shame another.. False humility … Hanging on to a resentment against your mother when you yourself are a mother.. do we not all have sorrow in our hearts from moments where we have missed the mark… Where is the faith in.. (forgive me while I paraphrase) All things work together for good in God’s plan. These are the moments offered to us for teaching.. To teach our children that there is only one who can be there for us always and there is where our children are to turn when we are not there.. God’s love is made perfect in our sorrow, there we open our heart completely to recieve his love and comfort, there is where we are as little children.. The moment missed in this article is not that the mother was not there when the child’s heart was yerning, the moment missed was the perfect opportunity for that mother to help the child reach out and recieve God in all his wisdom and perfection and the truth that we are just human and fallible…

  • I truly believe it’s important to teach children that they’re NOT more important than anything else on this planet. Kids learn to be thoughtful and empathetic when they are taught that parents have needs, too. Children need to be taught how to balance their needs and wants with the needs and wants of the people around them. Dropping everything to come running when little Suzi calls is just teaching kids to put their own needs before everyone else’s.

  • I randomly came across this sitting here at 4 in the morning feeding my daughter, and im glad i did. It was one of the most beautiful things i have ever read. As a new mom im sure there will be times i mess up, but will try my hardest to enjoy the now moments with my dauhter. I will never forget this story. Thank you for that

  • Wow. Just wow. That’s as rare an example of mom-shaming as I’ve seen in a while.

    I read this because it a friend posted a link on Facebook. This friend has two children. With the second, she suffered profound complications during childbirth. Forever life-altering complications. She will be subject to medical scrutiny for the rest of her life. Her overall health is compromised forever. A minor bug one of her kids gave her landed her in the hospital recently.

    She cannot pick up her son.

    I’m sure she wishes the only thing she had to feel bad about was twenty minutes her child once spent falling asleep on its own. I’m sure she regrets that she can’t do all the things she wants with her child because of the time she has to spend taking care of her own health. Every. Single. Time.

    Don’t worry though, you didn’t make her feel guilty. You just made her mad.

    I’m angry too. On behalf of all the daughters who have had to distance their toxic moms, I’m really sure the scars you bear because of the one time your mom was late are surely very painful.

    And I won’t even go into all the societal, mom-blaming-culture, feminist backlash, setting too high a bar, reasons I hate this.

    Finally, maybe the real problem isn’t that you let your child fall asleep without your arms around her. Maybe it’s that you seem to have lied to her. Maybe you should have just said, “go to sleep yourself tonight, I have some things to do”. Maybe you shouldn’t have given her the expectation that bedtime is an hour-long ritual culminating only when she’s asleep. Maybe she needs to be aware that the many other things you do, like clean the kitchen or hold a job make her life better too.

  • As a mom, it’s important to realize that where children are involved we will always have the ability to find times where we could have done something different than what we did. I myself have several incidences that can be recalled at a seconds notice, but for the most part kids don’t remember those things unless it’s a common theme in the relationship. My mother was never there, never, not once so I knew how important it was to be “there” for my kids and did the best I could. Most of you sound like your mothers did great which is why you can only remember once your mother wasn’t there. I will bet that you’re also doing great-count your blessings, enjoy your children and don’t be too hard on yourselves.

  • Touching. But if your child dies, you won’t need little pieces of paper. Every single incident will be crystal clear. I know.

  • It isn’t failure as a parent to allow your child to face some portion of life on their own. That is how they build independence and character. Constant coddling and catering is why the current generation of new “adults” is next to useless. Furthermore, perpetuating the idea that you need to be there every waking second is dangerous to new mothers who think helicoptering is what they should be doing for fear of the guilt involved if they don’t. I understand the intent behind this article, but I can’t agree with the message.

  • Today I pulled down the chook pen I’d built for my daughter’s chooks. I have my garden back again now but I miss those chooks. So many times I haven’t been there for her because I’m only one person but today was a reflection day of the things I haven’t done because I did things for her. Today I also remembered a friend who had had 7 children, she went back to school for one … but gave all she could as caring mother’s do for their children regardless of how many.
    We all miss moments and it’s good for our children to realise that there are other things that need to be done even though they want us.

    As a parent, I’d love to capture every moment and have it in a perpetual jar but I can’t. I do have to settle for knowing that when my daughter really needs me, it’s done.

  • Beautiful article about a child’s growth and what is important to them in their little sphere. I agree it’s amazing watching them grow.

    However I detest your comment:

    “That’s the thing about parents, maybe more importantly about moms, we’re needed at the most unexpected times. And it’s when we drop everything, or set aside our electronic contraptions, our children understand they are more important than anything else on this planet. Words are just words. What we actually do is everything.”

    Wrong. Haven’t you heard of equal rights? Im a 35 year old male and like you I left when my spouse when my child was in nappies. I look after my toddler who I’ve just got out these nappies, why sites like yours continually quote over and over the mother as being the person who is so important are really misguided. Try working full time, being a male and looking after a toddler by yourself – it’s a lot harder than being female because (just like yourself) few people (who are usually female) don’t even give it a second thought.

  • Thank you for sharing this thought. It really does matter to make sure those small special moments are the ones they will always remember. Whether you’re a high paid executive or school teacher, both jobs are very time demanding and that is why we always have to remember to make time for our children.

  • We (Moms) need to start giving ourselves some credit. They will grow up just fine. Because we are there, for almost all of it! Our children know that. We will make them great because we are great at what we do. Dwelling on things breaks us down. Letting go of little things. Forgive ourseleves and forgive our parents. Remaining present in the moment, will help us be present for them and will teach them to do the same.

  • At the risk of seeming antagonistic, I respectfully disagree with the tone of this piece. We, as moms, have enough to feel guilty about. If my kids had it their way, I would be waiting on them hand and foot every minute of every day. The large amount I give never seems to be enough for them. I know other moms can relate. And while I cherish the time together and do my best, the bottom line is we need to set limits, and teach our kids limits as well. Work has to happen, dishes have to get done, obscure to do lists are there for a reason, if for nothing more than making a parent feel like they have maintained some semblance of order in the world around them so that they can feel satisfied or productive in some way. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating putting everything else before your kids, quite the opposite. My kids know that they are the number one priority in my life, and they’ve experienced the evidence of that many times. But it’s our duty as parents to teach our kids to appreciate the world around them and understand they they aren’t always the center of it. Sometimes, it’s OK to do what needs to get done, without guilt.

    • I think the main point of this article is that if promise that we will come, we better do so… That little girl would not have counted the minutes had she not been told by her mom that she will be there soon… The best thing is to not promise something, rather than promise and not keep…

  • We all want to not miss those moments, BUT we also have to remember we are raising these children to be competent adults someday and this very moment could have actually helped your daughter to be stronger because she was able to get through it in her own. Just food for thought.

  • This blog hit home. I had turned my phone off during a date and woke up to a tiny crying voice on my answering machine. I felt my heart had been ripped out. When I got home, there was a “cry for help” letter on my bed; my daughter had been contemplating suicide. Worst wake-up call ever. You need to stay close at all times; it’s a small sacrifice for a lifetime of love for our children.

  • This brings tears to my eyes, because too many times I’ve been in this situation with my own daughters. I can’t be there because I’m working. I can’t pause because I’m on a roll and if stop it will never be done. Or I simply have to many tasks and not enough hours. And it is sad to think but I justify it all by saying “I do it for them”.

    They are 6 and 4,and we are all going through a divorce, and I know now more then ever i will show up because they need me…

  • Did I miss something, why was the mother needed so badly?
    Yes, the moments are precious, but let’s not helicopter our kids so much that they can’t figure out how to be self-sufficient!

    Here’s what would have made this article great:

    After I found the note, I tucked it away so I could talk to my daughter the next day.

    1. Let’s clear up the difference between need and want. If it was a real emergency, you should always come and get me no matter what. If you are lonely, of course you could get a snuggle, because hugs and cuddles and love are important.

    2. Let’s talk about our words being powerful and our voices being strong. It’s important to tell me your needs and wants, and to not just write them down for me to find later [nip passive aggressive behavior in the bud]

    3. Mommy is a person, too. We are members of the same family and we take care of each other. Sometimes that means mommy’s have to do things we don’t like, like chores, and paying bills. But these are important so that our household and family time can run smoothly.

    4. I know that you are a growing up and that you can do so many things! You can help mommy out! I have a short list of things you can do to help our household.

    5. You should trust that mommy knows what you are capable of. I trust that you can fall asleep on your own. I know you are safe. I ask you to do things, I believe you can do.

  • This is an impossible standard for any human to meet. Take your own experience. The one time she was late (and as an adult, you can understand HER pain that day) and that’s what you focus on? Please stop laying guilt trips on good moms………..

  • Seriously?? How does this teach children independence and being able to work stuff out on their own? How does this leave parents time for marriage and their own interests? We cannot be there all the time and it’s not because of silly work emails or dirty dishes. It’s because we would like to read a book or watch a movie with a spouse! Is this article meant to instill a sense of guilt into parents who don’t devote themselves unconditionally to their children? Of course I will be there when my children need me but not for every single event or at any time they want to talk, and am pretty sure they will be fine. They have their father, their grandparents, their cousins, their friends. It takes a village after all and I don’t see why you are positioning mothers to be the single person always there.

  • Of course we need to be there for those we love as much as is humanly possible. That said, on the occasion when we miss an important moment through no fault of our own, or even because of our own mistake, we can rest assured that our loved one can gain a valuable lesson from our absence: that we are human after all. That gives that person a chance to grow in generosity and forgiveness, which is not a bad thing.

  • Thank you for your time to shared this wonderful article, Nancy.
    I enjoyed the article and what is my reaction? this made me feel guilty.
    I agree with pat Graham that no matter how old they get, they will always need you as much as they need you.