Hello Readers! Welcome Justine from Here Where I Have Landed. She is one of the bloggers I’ve “met” along the way. Her musings on motherhood and life are engaging and ring authentic. Please give her a warm welcome! For more neighborly tales, please visit Amy at the The Never True Tales.

I have not been sleeping well lately. My mind whirs as I lay in bed, eyes closed, desperately yearning for the rest that evades me throughout the day. They say that insomnia is the bane of the third trimester. There’s a Karate kid inside my belly, and then there’s the restless leg syndrome that my doctor warned me about at this stage. All this is exacerbated by my inability to quiet my own mind that constantly reviews to-do lists for the next day, next week, next month. Work tasks, house chores, life changes – there’s always something.

I hear my two-year-old daughter stirring on the monitor, and soon, she calls for me. Usually, we ignore her and expect her to comfort herself back to sleep to avoid nurturing the bad habit of night wakings. But this night, she is persistent, alternating “Mommy, I can’t find my baby” (her doll) with “Mommy, where are you?” It’s always mommy, but I don’t often allow myself in her room.

Her daddy sees to her nocturnal requests because he is always all business – in and out in a few minutes – and it’s settled quickly. When I go in, she will do anything to prolong my stay, ruining both our sleep. And so I keep away, even if that’s the last thing I want to do.

When we put her to bed at 7 in the evening, I don’t see her until 5pm the next day, when I pick her up from preschool after work, since I leave before anyone is awake at home. It’s better that way as we reduce the pining and the heartache of goodbyes. Although that never goes away completely either.

On this night, when sleep eludes me yet again, I defy my own rule and go to her in the dark. She is in a sleep stupor, but I know she is surprised and pleased to see me, quietly beckoning, “Lay on my bed, mommy; I scoot over.” And when I do, she says, “Sing a song, mommy.” followed by her request for a recent favorite, Hey Diddle Diddle – a song my own mom taught me when I was little.

She joins me the first time but when she asks for more, she lets my voice fill the crevices of her room as she twirls her bangs with her tiny fingers, an overt sign of tiredness that began at infancy.

After the fourth or fifth rendition, I stop and try to leave but her little hand touches my cheek with a startling tenderness. As most toddlers, hands are often the force with which they thrust themselves upon the world. They throw, they grab, they smack, they pull, they shove, but that night, they cup my face with a warm and loving gentleness that melts me: “Stay mommy; lay here next to me.” And so I do.

My head joins hers on the same pillow, our faces nearly touching as we lay adrift – she into sleep, me into the kind of peace not found in my own bed. Her steady breathing is a balm to my restless soul, clearing my head of noise and pollution. Sleep finally finds me, but before I yield to its depth, I steal away after our hug and kiss – a sure sign that she too is ready for me to leave. I may be back in my room, snuggling under my own covers, but I am embraced by the serenity on her face and the memory of her breath on my skin. Soon my mind succumbs to the night. Rest, at last.

As a working mother, I often do whatever it takes to get through the moments I’m without my daughter, but there are times when 22 hours is just too much. We’ve been at this routine for two years now and while it’s easier, it’s still not easy on us. Despite being used to pushing these feelings of unease aside, they do inevitably bubble to the surface. I can’t help it; sometimes I really just miss her. And all the distractions in the world – the restless leg, the noise in my head – aren’t enough to quell my longing for my little girl.

On days when it gets awfully tough, I think she senses it. Or perhaps she feels it too and calls to me. Except when I go to her, I realize that I’m there because I need her as much as she needs me. I used to think that being a mother means caring for my child, but my daughter has proven to me many times that it’s not always so.

Sometimes, she takes care of me too.

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What are the ways your child shows that he or she cares for you? How do you deal with long days away from your child?

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