03/19/2015 12:09 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

When Later Never Comes

We've all had those days. They start off with a rainy morning, so, of course, the dog leaves mud all over the floor after you let him back in. Add that to the honey from last night's chicken nuggets, and you find yourself mopping before 8 a.m., while telling your daughter you'll let her help you feed the fish later.

The toddler runs off to play in her room/ruin all your makeup, and you change the baby's diaper after his morning bottle and put him into his play clothes. You start working on tummy time (guiltily remembering you didn't do near enough yesterday!) when the doorbell rings. It's just the UPS guy, but the doorbell caused the dog to act like someone burned him with a hot poker, and barked like he was dying, which terrified the baby and set him off on a 20 minute crying spree.

Trying to calm him down while also pulling the package on the doorstep inside without it getting too wet is impossible, so he has to lay on the floor while you duck out, hoping no one sees you in a t-shirt from high school and your polka dot pajama bottoms.

Your daughter chooses that moment to ask you to play horses with her. She's dolled up in her best dress, which you were sure you put away somewhere she couldn't reach. You tell her you'll play later, all the while pulling the dress off and finding her something safer (see: machine washable) to play in.

She skips off to read a book/eat her crayons, and you turn your attention to the still barking dog (OH MY GOSH, HUSH! You are so far down on the list of priorities, you have no idea!) and the wailing baby. You pick up the baby and rock him until he calms.

Tummy time finally happens, and suddenly, your daughter appears to ask for a snack. You realize it's already lunch time, and get everyone settled. After lunch, the baby has a gigantic diaper that takes all the wipes you have left in the house, so you've resorted to wet paper towels. In the middle of this disgusting task, your toddler saunters up to you, asking if you will play crafts with her. Immediately, your mind goes to GLITTER, and your nice, freshly mopped floor. You tell her maybe later, when daddy gets home and you can focus on her (and keeping it contained!).

The baby fights his nap, and sits red-faced in your lap, so tired he can't sleep. You juggle and shake and pat and rock and sing until you feel like a one-woman show, and then your daughter appears again. Mommy, she asks, will you take me to the park?

With the baby crying and the cold draft coming in the window, you know there's no way you can head outside right now. Later, you tell her, honestly meaning it.

All of a sudden, it's 8:30 and dark outside. You pick up your very sleepy toddler and tuck her into her bed. You look at the angelic face that looks so much like it did as a baby, and feel a rush of guilt jolt through you. Later never came. You fed the fish on your own, and instead of indulging in the joys of a preschooler, you let yourself become overwhelmed by the ties that restrict all parents who stay at home: keeping the baby happy and the house clean.

She sleepily opens her eyes and says, "You're the best, Mommy," before she drifts off.

You are always the best to her. Whether there's mud on the floor, or glitter or the baby's in pajamas all day. She is happy to be with you, to see you smile, to make you laugh. You're always the best, Mom.


Any husband and father worth his salt will tell you that coming home to happy kids is so much better than coming home to a clean house... and the best ones will come home and tell you how awesome you are as they unload the dishwasher for you.

Don't put off until later. Do now. Be in the now. Enjoy her now. Soon, she'll be the one telling YOU, "Yeah, maybe we can catch a movie later, mom, if the football game on Friday doesn't go into overtime, or if I don't have a gymnastic meet all weekend."

She's your little girl for such a short, short time. Indulge in the now. Save the housework for later, because it will still be there later. She won't.

This post originally appeared on Tales From the Plastic Crib. If you would like to read more of Rachel's writings, you can follow her on Twitter.