Nora didn’t sleep through the night until she was past one and a half years old. This was mostly due to the fact that I nursed her on demand for that time (and even a year past that) which meant if she wanted to nurse in the middle of the night, I’d do so.

However, when my husband would put Nora to sleep while we were weaning – so that I wasn’t there for the temptation to nurse to sleep – bedtime became a series of excuses for why I wasn’t the one to put her to bed. This pattern continued well past weaning. When I decided to go back to school, the excuse became an easy one – Mom has to go to school tonight. We used this excuse whether I was meeting up with a friend, fitting in a Pilates class or, in fact, heading to class or to study, because Nora understood that school was important to me and for our family and for her it was an “acceptable” reason for me not to snuggle her to sleep.

As I said, we were in this pattern for awhile, until a Mother’s Day project came home from preschool that listed mom’s favorite activity as “studying.” While this in and of itself isn’t a bad thing, because I realize she sees me work hard, I instead read that and heard our nightly routine in my ears.

Despite feeling sometimes like school has taken over my life, I do do other things. I have other interests and priorities. I have more to my person than “mother” and “student,” and it is important for my daughter to see that.

We were doing both her and me a disservice by hiding behind “the study excuse” each night simply because it was convenient and easy. So I decided to make a switch. At first it was hard for her to understand why I was choosing to do something else over putting her to bed (or studying), but with time she saw that there are other things in my life that are important, too.

So now when my daughter asks why I’m headed out in the evening, there’s no more hiding behind excuses. If I’m meeting a friend, she hears that mom has friends. If I’m going to exercise, she hears that being able to move my body is important. If I’m just grabbing some alone time, she hears that having time to oneself is valuable, too.

It’s not uncommon for me to say that my daughter is my everything. She means more to me than anything, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have other things in my life that are important. My daughter is now seeing her mom as someone who has many interests, skills, and priorities.