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The days are long but the years are short

Dear Self in Twenty Years,

There’s a good chance you’re an empty nester now, since Finn is now twenty-two, Reed is twenty-five, and Tate is twenty-eight (I hope to heavens you’re an empty nester, actually).

You probably have a lot less laundry and still accidentally cook too much for dinner, as my mom said she’d do when my brother and I first left the nest. You may even get caught up on both the dishes and the laundry on the same day.

(That hasn’t happened to me yet since I became a mom, so I’m just guessing here on that one.)

I’m writing you a reminder when you look back on the days when the kids were little—these days I’m in right now as I write this—and to ask you to really remember.

To do your best not to put on your rose-colored glasses when you reminisce over the potty-training days or the sleepless nights or the learning-of-the-alphabet afternoons. Those gems are worth their weight in gold, but don’t beat yourself up that you didn’t recognize them as the golden years of parenting when you were in the thick of it. They were long, strengthening, arduous, monotonous days.

These three kids right now are precious, and you do happen to be in a sweet spot. You (I? We?) are enjoying this age more than the baby age, and they constantly say the funniest, most curious things.

You’ve forgotten most of them, I assume, since I currently forget them two hours after they happen. But they do, and those little moments are some of the highlights of my day right now.

That, and the snuggles. Oh, the snuggles… They probably don’t do that anymore for you. Do you remember them? They make the heart flutter. Remarkable, how happy they are just to sit by you.

paper airplanes

Raising little kids is hard, and you did a great job. But please remember when you see those young moms in the coffee shop who seem to be ignoring their children so they can finish their sentences…

Or the mom shushing and nursing and bouncing her screaming baby on the airplane…

Or the parent enjoying some time at the park with her phone (or whatever they have in twenty years—holograms or what-not) while her kids play…

Or the one who looks just. so. tired. and whose brood look like they could use a hair-brushing and a bath…

That it is real, exhausting—meaningful and rewarding, yes—but exhausting work, parenting. And saying, “Enjoy it when they’re little; it goes by so quickly!” is true but not always helpful, but saying, “I just want you to know you’re doing a good job” is almost always helpful. Sharing those eleven words could be magic to a tired parent’s day.

You would make the day of that young mama you’re getting to know if you slipped her a note of encouragement, wrapped it up in a coffee shop gift card, and offered to let her have time with a girlfriend while you watched the kids for a couple hours.

Oh, and also—call your kids to say hi, and if they have kids of their own, tell them you’d like your grandkids for the weekend. So that they could go do whatever.

And oh yes—you’re doing a good job. Keep at it.

Your Younger Self

Reading Time:

2 minutes





  1. Tracy @

    Love this! I definitely need to relax a bit more, but I love hanging out with my kids. The calmer weekends where hubby takes the kids is a great time to recoup and prepare for the week ahead. Thanks for the note as the days are long, but so rewarding.

  2. Pam

    Well, is that not the sweetest post ever and I read right after my kid had me in stitches saying” Say It Don’t Spray It”…. ” I finally Know what that MEANS!”
    We laugh until we cried and then I can downstairs to lock up and decided to check my blog reading list and this little gem met me. And now I am doing that weird thing that moms do, cry-laughing.
    God Bless You!
    Pam aka Momma

    • Tsh

      Oh, I know that cry-laughing well, Pam. 🙂

  3. Brittnie

    I love this post. . . thank you!

  4. Micayla

    I love this saying. Gretchen Rubin is a very insightful author.

    • Tsh

      Know what’s funny? I’ve heard this phrase for years, decades before I became a mom.

  5. Christine C

    Love this! I used one of your pinterest ideas and have a stack of index cards that I write one thing I enjoy about each girl every day as a calendar. It may be a milestone(started crawling) or funny (keep your fingers out of your butt) but its always positive. I write it at the end of the day so my final thoughts on my daughters are good ones, because they are good kids, regardless of what was destroyed/eaten (boogers) that day.

  6. Southern Gal

    I love this, Tsh. I’m at the stage right now of having grown kids (granddaughters even!) and still have an 11-year-old here with me. He gets the benefit of a mom who knows how quickly the time is flying yet the day to day grind is still a reality especially with homeschooling. (I’ll have enough years to retire legally in our state when I’m done.) I just want to thank you for sharing your wisdom with us moms. Wise words for one with littles still in the house. Happy Monday!

    • Tsh

      He’s a lucky guy, your son!

  7. Maggie

    Reading your blog this morning cheered me right up 🙂
    Thank you!

  8. Judy

    Amen & thank you!
    I was checking out in the grocery store, with my price matching and coupons, becoming increasingly aware of the line of people behind me and feeling more & more self-conscious over how obnoxious I must have been to them. Suddenly the lady behind me walked up closer and said quietly to me “Your husband must be proud…you are a smart shopper.” And that simple phrase made my ears burn a little less, and made my day that much brighter as I tried to entertain my 3 year old while finishing the check-out process.

    • Tsh

      That’s awesome. Good on that lady. 🙂

    • Alissa

      Oh my – what a gift! I want to find that woman and just hug her for having the courage to encourage you with those sweet words. I wish we as mothers could speak with such encouragement to each other more often. My kids are still little, but I often try to do my grocery runs during my work day and I always encounter mamas working so hard to get through the line with their kids. This is a good reminder that I can say those encouraging words to them, too. No need to wait until my kids are grown!

  9. Candace

    People should share these thoughts with each other much more often. Thank you! It was beautiful!

  10. Jessica

    Thank you! A wave of grace for this mom who constantly lives in the tension of “they grow up so fast” and feeling overwhelmed and exhausted.

    • Tsh

      It is a tension, isn’t it?

  11. Rachel

    That you for sharing this, it’s really sweet. I’m still a student, and nowhere near motherhood, but posts like these are why I read parent blogs. It’s a reminder of what my mom gave to me (my sister moved out this year so it’s her first year as a true empty nester), and inspiration for how to be gracious to the parents in my life (next time I see a stressed looking mom I’ll tell her she’s doing a good job).

    • Tsh

      That’s awesome. Yeah… definitely tell her that.

  12. Breanne

    I’m sitting here, blinking back tears while I read. So, so good. I made a pact with myself after my second daughter was born that I would keep a stash of coffee gift cards in my purse and just hand them out to moms of littles whenever I saw them.
    The days do go by so fast and we are all doing a good job. Even when we feel like every other mom has it more together.
    P.S. I love the picture of your kids, so lively and creative!

  13. Kristin

    Thank you for these words!!! LOVE this!

  14. Lauren Rothlisberger - GetGeeky

    This post is PERFECT! My Mom said this to me when I had my first child and it is so true. Like most Mom’s I try to cherish every minute, but the reality is you are best to cherish the nanoseconds that everything is just perfect. Then survive the rest. The people who always make the comments along the lines of “enjoy these precious moments” as your kids are in a cat-fight over a baby doll in the grocery line either a) never had children or b) has a completely forgotten how utterly exhausting kids are 🙂 I like the letter to yourself, perhaps I will sit down and write one of these myself!

  15. Tracy

    Needed this today 🙂 thanks!
    In 20 years, my Reed wil be 37, Liam 30, Anna 28, Avery 25 and Finley 22! Can’t even imagine!

  16. kate

    Thank you for this beautiful post! I will start caring gift cards with me:) My pastor actually talked about doing that in church (handing out gift cards randomly) but he talked about blessing poor college students with target gift cards! It is such a wonderful feeling to bless someone! My kid (s) are still young, but we spend a lot of time with grandparents, and I look forward to the future when I will be the grandparent.
    As always, thanks for your words.


  17. Amy - Funny is Family

    I look forward to the day we live close enough to family that the kids can go to Grandma’s for the weekend. One of my husband’s coworkers watched our three and five year old over a month ago so we could have a night out. Now, every time I see her, I want to grab her by the shoulders and tell her how much it meant to us. The thank you card and bottle of wine didn’t properly convey my deep gratitude, but a kiss on the mouth would be too much, right?

  18. Micaela @MindfulMomma

    Such sweet sentiments! Even just to take a few minutes to imagine my two boys in 20 years (at 28 and 33) is a treat!

  19. Karli

    I’m so thankful I read this today. I’m currently 4.5 weeks away from my due date with my husband and my first baby. While I nannied for 5 years before we got married & am familiar with the days being long but rewarding in raising others children, I know it will be even more rewarding but the days will be much, much, longer & much, much, more exhausting when I’m the one pulling the all nighters. Reading this helped to remind me that it is ok to feel this way when those days come. I’ll look back on those years (20-30 years from now) & be thankful I was able to be home with my babies. I loved this post so much!

  20. Felicia

    I almost teared as I read this. After screaming my head off at my daughter, I am glad to hear that I am still “doing a great job”.

  21. Jenn @ A Simple Haven

    Why does being told you’re doing a good job mean so much?? I need to tell other moms more often. Love this post; now I want to go write a letter to myself.

  22. Leslie

    I am not usually a commenter on blog posts. But this one…..was AMAZING!!! So true! It is a reminder to cherish the lovely moments, but especially not to judge. Most of us are all just barely hanging on. Blessings to you!

  23. Renata

    I don’t think I have ever commented before, but I had to stop and say that was a very touching post — a-tear-in-my-eye post. I loved it.

  24. Dana Bundy

    Lump in the throat. That was sweet.

  25. Lindsay

    Oh some days do feel long! Good reminder for yourself (and us). We’re coming out of the baby stage (for now), and I am really enjoying this stage as well!

  26. jill

    This was SO refreshing to me. I’m in the throws of motherhood…3 babes under 3. I think I’m going to start a book called, ” what NOT to say to a young mother.” I’m amazed by how many times I’ve been told (by other moms) that I look tired. Or I’ve been asked if all 3 are REALLY mine? Was THAT planned? Awesome. I was never the type dying to be a mother, so this is all new to me, but I’ve always known enough to help a tired momma out. So when older women tell me that it goes by soooo fast, I would really just love some practical help from them instead. I didn’t mean to rant..this kind of sounds like ranting to me. I’m tired but I just wanted to say that I really liked this post.

  27. Kathy

    Love this post! So often I have people tell me to “enjoy every moment.” Well, a lot of times I don’t enjoy every single moment. Especially when my 2 year old daughter will not sleep. Thanks for a great post. Helps me know I am not alone!

  28. Jennifer K

    OMGosh, the title “The days are long but the years are short” is sooo true. My kids are just old enough now (12 and almost 10) that I’m starting to realize just how fast the time goes. And contemplate how different the future will be as they grow up and leave the nest. And yes, hearing you’re doing a good job is about the best thing someone can say when you’re exhausted and not sure if what you’ve told them 50 times is ever going to sink in! I try to do the same for other parents when I encounter good kids. I know they will want to hear it. In a world full of criticism, an honest compliment can go a long way!

  29. Kelsey

    I woke up with the quote “the days are long, but the years are short” running through my mind this morning. My son, who I adopted as a newborn in June, will be 1 soon and I’ve been trying to figure out where the last year has gone, but then I have days like yesterday where they seem to drag on and on (I’m recovering from back surgery and I banged my foot up over the weekend! Argh!) while I’m trying to keep up with a very fast 10 month old.

    Anyway, thanks for your words and the reminder that is OK to not enjoy every moment and I can still be doing a good job. 🙂

  30. Ashley // Our Little Apartment

    Whenever someone told me to “enjoy that baby” when my son was born, I would want to shout, “I AM TRYING! How do I slow down time?” Because I sort of wanted to. And still want to. Even thought I enjoyed baby hood, that phrase just made me anxious about how FAST it was going to go. And it has. I have so enjoyed every stage of his 2.5 years…but I still find myself stressed that I am not slowing down enough to enjoy and remember it all. Will I remember how his voice sounded? How he laughed? What made him happy? I want to grasp on to every moment and never let it slip away.

    But it’s impossible to stop time. So telling me to “enjoy it” just makes me anxious and weepy about how fast it will go!

  31. Kelly

    I must also remind myself to volunteer to teach all the Sunday school classes and watch the nursery and volunteer to coach little league and just about anything else instead of saying, “Well, I did my time.” Mommas need a break! Great post, Tsh!

  32. Christina

    What a great post! It coincides nicely with the idea of the compass versus the calendar in First Things First or all the backwards curriculum design I did when I was a teacher. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, but I rarely think of where I’m headed as an individual and leader of my family in the long term. I did this kind of goal-setting in school and work, but I haven’t considered it in parenting other than what I hope and wish for my children. Thanks for some great food for thought – I have a lot to reflect on and plan for now.

  33. Cortnie

    You NAILED it, Tsh. I have had these thoughts often. Sometimes I tell my husband that the reason old ladies are continually telling me to ‘Enjoy it now because it goes so fast” are completely living in a state of denial, oblivion, and heavy nostalgia. Or all. Haha!

    Thanks for this!

  34. Christine Amador

    What a reminder! I think I should write such a post to myself too… This can be truly encouraging after a long and hard day.

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