I used to hate it when old ladies in the grocery store would stop me and say, “Enjoy these moments, Sweetheart. They pass so fast.”

Meanwhile, I had one kid standing on the bread in the shopping cart, another climbing the shelves to reach the Frosted Flakes and a third kid hiding under the cart with a bag of stolen M&Ms.

It took everything I had to smile and say, “I know. Aren’t they just a gift from God?”

I was talking to the mother of young kids a few days ago who was at the end of her rope. She desperately needed a few moments to herself but felt the mom-guilt that comes when we’d rather be sleeping than snuggling.

The tired momma was holding back tears as she said, “I don’t want to wish away these years, but…”

She trailed off.

Then I got to say the thing I wished the old ladies had said to me when I was a young mom. “It’s okay to acknowledge how hard this is while still loving your kids.”

Being a parent is hard. The decisions often must be made quickly and under the enormous stress of knowing each one of them will have repercussions. Good or bad, there will be fallout from each choice.

Now with three kids quickly making their way to true independence, I can see what the grocery store grandmas were talking about. Sort of.

Just a few days ago, Jordan was donning a pony-tail palm tree on top of her head. Today, it’s a graduation cap.

I miss that sweet little face, just like I know I’ll soon miss having her sleeping in her upstairs bedroom.

But each of those heartaches comes with the gratitude of having been part of her story. And if all goes well, I’ll get to be part of her stories to come.

So, to the moms of the young ones out there who are feeling desperate for a break. It’s okay. Enjoy what you can and give yourself grace when you’ve got nothing left to give.

In the end, it’ll all be okay. And if it’s not okay, it’s not the end.