Goodnight Motherhood

goodnight motherhood

In the great green room, there was a telephone
And a red balloon
And a picture of a cow jumping over the moon…

I have read those words hundreds – thousands – of times.

With six sweet babies that have graced my arms, the story of Goodnight Moon never gets old. The baby still claps. The emerging reader still giggles. The older sibling still smiles.

There’s a reason they call it a classic.

But as many times as I’ve read that book and as many chubby hands that have grasped it, there’s one thing I’m not sure my heart will ever be fully prepared.

The letting go.

That moment of holding a newborn, it’s still so fresh in my memory. After all, I just did it nine months ago! The thoughts. The joy. The fear. The worry. The adventure. I’ve felt them all as I laid eyes on each of my beautiful babies.

We’re so insulated during the baby moon. People bring you meals, you walk around in a half stupor because of the sleep deprivation, you nurse, you change diapers and then, bit by bit, the fog clears and your baby starts to turn into a beautiful, wonderful little person.

They sleep through the night (or not).

They start solids.

They walk (mine never crawled longer than a week or two!)

They cut teeth.

Before you know it, they want a cell phone and a girlfriend.

Goodnight nobody, goodnight mush

Perhaps I feel like I’m standing in no man’s land. With one foot, dipping its toe into the high school scene and the other firmly planted in diapers and nursing. Maybe that’s what brought this feeling on so suddenly. Or, maybe it hasn’t really been suddenly.

Just last week, I said something to my teenager and he did kind of a small eye roll-sigh, but with a cute smirk, and I did an audible gasp.

I saw a glimpse of a young boy, growing into a young man. Long gone are his sweet hands, grasping my leg, begging for another lollipop at the bank. In his place is, dare I say it, a man. And in that moment I thought to myself: how the hell am I going to do this? How am I going to let him go?

No really, y’all. How?

I see the four years of high school zooming at breakneck speed into my home. They will zoom by faster than I can say pomp and circumstance and he will be off. Off to find his own place. {praying for Aggieland} Off to enjoy new adventures. Off to meet new people. Off to travel the big, wide world. Off to burn his ramen noodles and turn his whites pink in the laundry. And I will be here, mothering five others, left wondering where the time went. Then, they too will fly the nest.

I’m already having heart palpitations.

It’s not because he won’t be ready. I know he will. And if he’s not, we’ll be here to soften the blow and pick him back up. Or, we’ll step aside and let him fall, if he needs that.

It’s because I’m not sure I’ll be ready. Will I be ready? As the momma bear of many, the nest will be lighter and my heart, will it be heavier?

Mothers of bigger bigs, how do you do this? How do you let them go with grace?

I read all these articles about moms who say, “Oh, I don’t get sad when my kids reach a new milestone. I applaud. They’re growing up! Quite sniveling in your tissues, mama, and see the kind of person they’re becoming.” I get that. I really, really do. But how do I balance the beauty of their childhood with the amazingness of their future?

My most fervent prayer is that God will replace some of my fears, my worries and my sleepless nights with confidence, trust and wisdom. That somehow I’ll stop hyperventilating in the bag long enough to snap the prom pictures or help fill out the college scholarship applications.

In the early days, I thought parenthood couldn’t possibly be more beautiful or fulfilling. And then I got a toddler (okay, bad example because TANTRUMS). Then the toddler turned into a Pre-Ker, an elementary whiz, a moody middle schooler and, soon, a confident high school kid. The awesome parts of parenthood haven’t left, they’ve just changed.

Maybe that’s what I’m fretting over. The change.

It has to be God’s infinite wisdom that He allows us to let go of our kids, bit by bit.

Goodnight stars, goodnight air, goodnight noises everywhere

May these coming years allow me to let my kids catch their own flight, in their own time. And not one second before.


  1. Claire on February 24, 2015 at 11:33 am

    I totally relate to this, especially since I’ve only had one chance to experience these stages (I only have one living child). My biggest challenge is to guard against getting so caught up in mourning the passing stages that I miss the joys of the current stages. It’s very hard.

    • Kathryn on February 24, 2015 at 9:03 pm

      Yes. That’s the crux! I don’t want to miss out on the joy because I’m crying in the corner.

  2. Kimberly on February 24, 2015 at 11:34 am

    Kathryn, I don’t know how to let go. I don’t think you ever really do. Our oldest started high school last fall, and our youngest just turned 4. I almost lost it last week when the kids found a old video clip on the home computer from about 8 years back, and they were singing a Christmas carol in those sweet, little kids voices. Talk about holding back the tears! And now we have one starting drivers ed…talk about a heart attack waiting to happen. I just pray, and pray some more. Mary had to let her son go too, and I know she understands the worry and anxiety we all feel. They grow up, they change, and our hearts just learn to love in different ways, through all the stages.

    • Kathryn on February 24, 2015 at 9:04 pm

      So very true. I think in my hardest moments of motherhood, she’s the one I turn to for intercessions. If anyone knows the pain of a mother’s heart, it’s her. Thank you for that reminder today.

  3. Melissa on February 24, 2015 at 11:50 am

    My oldest son reminded me this morning that he has 2 years left of high school. My heart sank. Next year I will have 2 in high school and I just can’t wrap my mind around it. Some days I feel like we got this and other days I feel like we are feeling around in the dark.

    • Kathryn on February 24, 2015 at 9:04 pm

      I’m feeling like that on most days, like when did we have all these kids and why are they growing up so quickly?!

  4. Erica on February 24, 2015 at 11:57 am

    I just talked to my Mom about this the other day. We have a junior in high school and I am due with #8 in a couple of weeks. My heart breaks at the thought of letting my oldest go. My Mom said, “We start grieving the minute our babies are born, even if we don’t know it, but some of us are lucky, in that before our youngest has flown the nest, the grandbabies are filling it back up again.” Oh, if only I am so blessed. I hope the same for you.

    • Kathryn on February 24, 2015 at 9:05 pm

      Oh, I hope so. And, congratulations on the newest soon-to-be. How awesome.

  5. Beth (A Moms Life) on February 24, 2015 at 11:58 am

    Well, since your kids are nice and spread out, you will most likely have grand kids to love on before your house is empty! And with 6 kids, there’s a pretty good chance you will have LOTS of grand kids! 🙂

    • Kathryn on February 24, 2015 at 9:05 pm

      Gah! Grandkids! Well, at least I know I have an intercessor in your sweet Rebecca.

  6. Erin on February 24, 2015 at 12:43 pm

    Oh gosh, I relate to this so much and my sweet little guy is only 4 months old! I packed up his newborn clothes and got all choked up. The pediatrician mentioned solids and I was in denial that we should even be talking about it. I’m an older first time mom and I don’t know if we will be blessed to have anymore babies. I adore each new thing he does and have truly delighted in each change, but oh I already miss my wee little newborn. Thank you for your reflection.

    • Kathryn on February 24, 2015 at 9:06 pm

      Love on that baby you have…packing up clothes is my kryptonite. I have to psych myself up to do it with every kid. Kills. Me.

  7. Cynthia on February 24, 2015 at 12:59 pm

    It’s a different kind of life, still a great life. . . just different when your kids leave. My two girls who are 23 and 26 (she recently married) have their own lives that we still participate in. You still worry (just differently) and you are still so very proud (just of different things) and you celebrate the fact that you and your husband did a pretty darn good job of parenting. I could never understand my own mother’s great, great excitement when we came home for the weekend to visit them. She literally would stand by the window waiting for us and now I do the same. I can’t image what it will be like when they bring home my grandchildren. I will confess that I was a little worried about the empty nest because we were so involved in our girl’s activities but I think that somehow God prepares you and you embrace the clean house and less laundry and oh look so forward to those visits. I wondered as a new mom how I would survive (prayer) and now when I miss them so much I still pray but I also just pick up that phone. Life is truly seasonal and you just need to embrace the season or seasons you are in.

    • Kathryn on February 24, 2015 at 9:07 pm

      Raising a glass to this season. Your words were really beautiful, Cynthia. Thank you.

  8. Mary on February 24, 2015 at 1:01 pm

    I’m not in this phase just yet, but it is such a good reminder to just be in the moment and cherish it. Cliche, but true. Thank you for this beautiful post! I am new to Team Whitaker, and I look forward to learning more from you, Kathryn!

    • Kathryn on February 24, 2015 at 9:13 pm

      I’m so glad you’re here, Mary. Your blog is just adorable.

      • Mary on February 25, 2015 at 5:13 am

        Thank you!!!!

  9. Kristen on February 24, 2015 at 1:11 pm

    Kathryn, I am with you on all of this. I also have 6 (but all are boys!). My oldest is a freshman this year (the youngest is 2) and I keep finding myself amazed at how he is becoming a MAN and simultaneously wishing he was still the sweet boy that held my hand and loved the adventure of the grocery store! Praying has helped me alot. I’ll be praying for you, too!

    • Kathryn on February 24, 2015 at 9:14 pm

      Funny you say that, Kristen. This Lent has found me praying much more than usual. And I like it.

  10. becky on February 24, 2015 at 1:22 pm

    kathryn, my oldest is a senior in high school and my youngest will be born next Monday, no matter what. I can relate to your beautiful post. I always go back to my mom who says with each phase “God has a way of preparing you and them” and she is so right. As he submitted college applications and with each acceptance letter, you get excited for them and you see their growth and development and you cheer it on. It is hard to sit and think about where the time has gone and how it went so fast, but I think we have to look at the time that lies ahead for them. My 4 years at Aggieland were so amazing and I get excited for him getting to experience college. Then that first time you rent your own apartment, pay for your own car, get your first real job… it’s all such great stuff and our children (by the grace of God) will get to experience all of that. I think it comes down to looking at all the things in the great green room and what an amazing room it is, and not what is no longer in the room… does that make sense? Of course, talk with me next year! I totally get the foot in two different worlds point, I have lived like that for several years and it can be hard. But, it has kept my older children so grounded having younger siblings to role model and do for. That teenage selfishness is minimized and home is where their heart is. Daily, I watch them come home from a long and you know challenging day of high school and be greeted by their little siblings with big hugs and love. I often look at them and think how blessed they are to be loved and to love like that!

    • Kathryn on February 24, 2015 at 9:18 pm

      I hadn’t even thought of that, Becky, but it’s SO true. The look on Will’s face when he sees Gianna is just priceless. I absolutely love the joy that she’s brought to everyone in our house. That God, He knows what He’s doing.

  11. Nicole on February 24, 2015 at 2:03 pm

    Oh, all of this! I just don’t know how to watch them grow up (and I love that they do). I don’t know how to hold on to those memories of them being babies and learning to tie shoes, and ride a bike, and still let them fly the nest. Someday maybe I will know, but until then I need to hold tight to today. It’s all I’ve got.

    • Kathryn on February 24, 2015 at 9:17 pm

      Right there with ya, Nicole.

  12. Bonnie on February 24, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    Oh Kathryn. I am crying up here. I wonder those same things. Time is going faster and faster and, I think, because my kids are so close in age our house will go from being full of life to being empty. Sometimes I long for the years when there will be quiet and tidiness and time for me to do whatever I want, but sometimes I just want to pause them all.

    However you do it, I hope you blog about it because I am looking up to you. (no pressure!)

    • Kathryn on February 24, 2015 at 9:16 pm

      Consistent oversharer here. Pretty sure you’re going to hear about it! Mwah!

  13. Becky D. on February 24, 2015 at 4:17 pm

    Oh It’s hard. I was incredibly blessed that when our oldest 2 finished high school we started fostering. We adopted twice in our 40’s. Our last was born the week before my one daughter got married. He’s now 3. We got him straight from the hospital so we got all the sleep deprivation and midnight feedings. I was rocking him just yesterday in the old rocking chair in our room. It’s the one I got for my 1st Mother’s day and wedding anniversary back in 1987 when I was about 7 months pregnant with #1. I got a big wave of memories remembering how my now 25 yr old married daughter who is a mom too used to play with my hair as she nursed. So it’s hard and I’m facing the end of being a mom to a little but I have one grandson already. Basically there is so much joy and busyness in each new stage that the stage you don’t always have much time to miss the last stage.

    • Kathryn on February 24, 2015 at 9:16 pm

      I am praying the busyness allows me to focus on the present and not wish it away. Thank you, Becky!

  14. Anna on February 24, 2015 at 5:45 pm

    God prepares you and helps you prepare them. As a mom of 5 with 1 gone for 3 years now, I still yearn to see her. My heart hurts every day I don’t see her, but totally cherish to hear about her accomplishes that she did all on her own because she was ready. As the kids grow, you ponder milestones you can’t imagine being ready for, but when the milestone comes upon you, inevitably you and they are ready. Enjoy the moments! Don’t fret about the future! Those too will be moments to cherish and enjoy in their own time!

    • Kathryn on February 24, 2015 at 9:15 pm

      That’s pretty sage advice, Anna. I know you’ve been there!

  15. Tracy E on February 24, 2015 at 7:37 pm

    As our oldest turns 18 this coming August and just informed us that his school schedule next year bascally has him FINISHED. FINISHED, I say in December!!!

    One day at a time. That’s all I can say. One. Day. At. A. Time.

    Bless it. and bless you!

    • Kathryn on February 24, 2015 at 9:14 pm


  16. Laura @ Mothering Spirit on February 24, 2015 at 8:27 pm

    Oh my, I was semi-holding it together until this line: “But how do I balance the beauty of their childhood with the amazingness of their future?”
    Beautiful and heart-breaking and true. Thank you for this.

  17. Veronica on February 24, 2015 at 9:06 pm

    You made me cry! I was thinking how big Will looked on Sunday evening, serving at Mass. I have no advice for you, except I can say that your six are SO BLESSED to have you as their mom. Take notes because you know I’ll be calling on you in a couple of years. Prayers that my favorite NICU mom finds that balance.

  18. Amber on February 24, 2015 at 9:44 pm

    Seeing my daughter off to college was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I cried every day for weeks. Not because she wasn’t ready, because she was, but I missed her, deep down in my soul. It’s hard to not see her everyday. But we text, face time, and call. She is doing great. I am getting better… I don’t cry every day anymore. Every time she comes home and then leaves again it gets easier. My heart has realized she will always be mine, she will always come back.

  19. Megan Swaim on February 24, 2015 at 10:40 pm

    I’m the oldest of 7 and there are 19 years between me and my youngest brother. I think the day that I left for college was one of the hardest of my mom’s life. She was 36 weeks pregnant with a new baby and letting her first baby move to a new city. I couldn’t appreciate what it felt like for her until I held my own newborn in my arms and almost stopped breathing when I thought about “that day”, when she would leave me. But, here is the good news! My mom says it got a little easier with each one, that circumstances change but the relationship deepens, and that there are a lot of wonderful things about having littles at home still when the older ones have grown – it keeps us coming back, frequently and for long stays. Now they have 3 grown children, 2 in college, a 7th grader and a 4th grader, and 3 grandchildren! Holidays at our house are very full, and they’ll tell you life couldn’t be any sweeter.

  20. Susan on February 25, 2015 at 12:57 am

    Oh Kathryn, I know what you mean. This spring my “babies” will turn 20, 17, and 9. Their “little” years passed by so quickly even though I tried to cherish every minute. I get teary eyed thinking about Goodnight Moon baby snuggles too. One thing that helps me is to focus on whatever they truly need from me now -on a day to day basis – (advice, help, listening ear, prayer warrior). I put a lot of energy into keeping the lines of communication open. My college daughter knows she can call and talk (or text) in the middle of the night if that’s what she needs. I also visit often (probably more than most people would think is normal – but I don’t care! :)) Thank God TAMU is only 2 hrs away! We are like so many who have replied to this post: we hope we will be starting into the “grandchildren” phase of life when our last one leaves the nest. Just remember, your teens/young adults need you just as much as they did when they were babies, whether they express it or not. It takes a LOT of prayer support for a young person to progress through this crazy world unscathed. Stay strong! ❤️Susan

  21. Annery on February 25, 2015 at 6:35 am

    Such a moving reflection. I’ve always said I enjoy my kids more the older they get, but my tween leaving one day is a hard thought. I think it will be like all things though, the grace from God for that moment won’t show up until I’m actually in it. And I’ll probably cry buckets and spoil younger children a little more for a bit.

  22. Annie on February 25, 2015 at 7:21 am

    This post is absolutely beautiful! Thank you it is reassuring to know that no matter how many kids the ache is still there. I thought it was because we are struggling with secondary infertility that I was having such a hard time watching my 6 year old get bigger and reach milestones. I am sure it plays a part. But knowing that others find the letting go just as hard makes me feel better.

    • Kathryn on February 26, 2015 at 10:25 pm

      We’re all in this together 😉

  23. Jenna on February 25, 2015 at 8:11 am

    I am right there with you! Last week we received “the” high school letter. I knew it was coming but actually opening it and seeing how soon this was all happening hit hard. I mean how is it possible!?! I just had her! She starts talking about college bound classes and possibly majoring in agriculture or going to be a nutritionist and I’m like whoa slow down!! In two months my baby will be turning one and in three months my oldest baby will be turning 14 and graduating from the eighth grade. It’s like I can see the hour glass in front of me and I can see those grains of sand pouring through and I just want to lay it on its side to make it stop. Where has 14 years gone? And if 14 years went by in a blink of an eye, then how fast is the next 4 going to go?!? It’s like I can see her walking out the door now. I feel like I haven’t had enough time with her. I pray that she is ready, that I am ready, and that I have done my job as a mom to prepare her, but as of right now I’m keeping a tight grip. I think that with each pregnancy, with each baby, I worry more, pray more and I swear time goes by faster. That roller coaster is moving at full speed and there are some days I want to get off and other days I’m holding on tight, either with tears in my eyes or a smile plastered on my face. I love the thrill, I love my life, and I especially love these 6 kids. Having such a break between number 5 and 6 has now put me back in baby mode and thinking I don’t want that part of my life to be over yet either. I’m leaving that one up to God.
    I feel Ya Kathryn –

    • Kathryn on February 26, 2015 at 10:25 pm

      Can’t wait to meet you in July, Jenna. And, so glad to know another mama knows my heart.

  24. Julie G. on February 25, 2015 at 12:49 pm

    Oh, was I crying in my coffee this morning as I read this! I don’t have any in HS yet, it will be another 9 years. However, I can say one thing about that ache of a mamma’s heart- it gives us a tiny peak at the love Christ has for us and thank you God for allowing us to experience that!
    Your reflection inspires me to hug on my beautiful girls a little bit longer and take the time to color with them and spend a few more minutes watching them fall asleep at night. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Kathryn on February 26, 2015 at 10:24 pm

      That is a beautiful reminder and I needed it today, Julie. Thank you!

  25. Wanda on February 25, 2015 at 5:02 pm

    I wish I were 2 hours closer. In all honesty, it never gets easier. Even as they leave my house with their own families it isn’t easy. I have never raised boys. Just these 4 girls. Maybe that is why it is hard. But every single time that door closes there is a tear.

    • Kathryn on February 26, 2015 at 10:24 pm

      Next time you’re in Austin, please holler Wanda!

  26. Meghan on February 25, 2015 at 9:14 pm

    Can’t go there yet. Nope, just can’t do it.
    My oldest (of 6) will be in 8th grade next year, and suddenly I find I have a young man living in my house. What?!?!
    My NICU baby will be 4 in a little over a week and the baby-baby is really more toddler than baby.

    • Kathryn on February 26, 2015 at 10:23 pm

      Ahhh, we are living almost the same life.

      • Meghan on February 28, 2015 at 10:16 pm

        Indeed we are, but I have to fully disclose that although we used to live close to Austin, I graduated as a Red Raider. Am I still allowed? 😉

        • Kathryn on February 28, 2015 at 10:19 pm

          Just keep your guns holstered and I think we’ll be just fine! Actually, my grandfather is a Red Raider (shhhh) 😉

  27. Janet Inman on February 26, 2015 at 10:24 pm

    What a beautifully written post. I know exactly what you are going through because I have already lived through my 2 sons growing into fine young men. I dreaded high school graduation knowing that in a few short months we would travel up the interstate about an hour and drop him off to start a new chapter in not only his life, but, ours as well. One would have thought he was going to 24 hours away instead of just an hour because I cried all the way home. Thank God we still had our youngest one at home. Two years later we had to go through this again. UGH! Fortunately, this went a little bit better. Part of it was because it was the 2nd time we had done this and another was just the difference in personalities. College graduations were hard as well and then weddings came along. That’s a completely different story. To see my little boy(s) walk down that aisle–where did the time go? I thank God every day that they both married Godly women and are happily married.
    I know you’ve heard it over and over again, but, try to enjoy every minute because they really do go fast! I now have a 20 month old grandson and I see it going by so quickly with him. Cherish the simplest things, take plenty of pictures and write things down because as much as you think you will remember something, you don’t.
    You are so blessed (I know you realize that) to have such a great family and it looks like you are doing a fantastic job of raising them.

    Good luck and God Bless.

    Janet Inman

  28. Taylor-Ann on February 27, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    Not a Momma, but I am a college girl who is real close to her Momma. This post made me smile and think about conversations I’ve had recently with my Momma. I graduate college next year, and my younger brother is sixteen and driving and an upperclassman in high school, which is all just a little much for her Momma heart. As I start solidifying post-college plans and consider potentially staying in this Midwest city (and 1000 miles from sweet home San Antonio), my parents and I talk about what life might look like for myself and our family in the coming years. I questioned her the other day on whether she would be okay with me staying here rather than going back home. Her response might help ease your Momma heartache: “No, I would much rather you be here with me and dad and your brother. But I know this is what I raised you for. We raised you to go off on your own and leave the nest. We raised you to be capable and successful and independent. And I know God will keep you and protect you, and Mary and the saints and angels are guiding you and intercessing for you. And it’s not gong to be easy, but it is certainly worth it to see you follow God’s plan for you.”
    Anyways, I love your blog, it’s like a little slice of home every time I read! Texas, Aggies, Catholic, big family, it’s the best! Praying for you and your Momma heart!

    • Kathryn on February 28, 2015 at 10:23 pm

      How lovely to hear your viewpoint, Taylor-Ann. Your mom must be very proud of your kind heart!

  29. Ana Hahn on February 28, 2015 at 1:43 pm

    Kathryn, you are killing me!! My hormones can’t take this, soo teary while reading it! Such a beautiful reflection and a great reminder for us moms in the thick of only littles, the thought of them in anything other than this house makes me start twitching and /or crying. Too much! So good!thank you!

    • Kathryn on February 28, 2015 at 10:20 pm

      Next time, I’ll pass out the kleenex!

  30. Becky on February 28, 2015 at 4:45 pm

    Oh man, I’m feeling this already and my little girl is only 9 months old! 🙂

  31. […] MONDAY. Head on over to her and stick around. She’s loverly. Did you read her post about “Goodnight, Motherhood”? Weapy Nelly over […]

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