Parenting Through Small Moments Creates Big Lifelong Impact

mother and child girl reading a book in bed before going to sleep

I always thought I was going to rock parenthood. I thought that I’d have all the answers, raise my kids “right” (whatever that meant) and find some way to make sure each of them always felt loved and wanted. I was also going to be this incredibly fun parent that had it all together while being there for all the big, important moments in life.

Clearly I was delusional, as most kidless people are about parenting.

parenting through the small moments creates big lifelong impact


At one point though, I felt like I was close to this person. When it was just my daughter I would talk through tantrums, kiss every mild boo boo without rolling my eyes and always ask thoughtful questions about how her day went. Sure I would have my moments, especially in infancy, but I’d rarely get frustrated because life was manageable with her.

I was able to be there and be present in the small moments – like when I rocked her to sleep at night – and the big, fun moments – like when we went to Disney World or a movie for the first time.

But something happened when we had our son. I feel like I lost my mom/home/life balance and never fully regained it. Because you can’t add more hours to the day, your time with each child is immediately cut in half.

Less time isn’t necessarily a bad thing because as children grow they want to be more independent, but time is a fickle thing. Kids grow so quickly and the days pass so fast that I often feel like I’m getting bogged down in all the details of life and missing the fun.

I get frustrated more easily, I roll my eyes, I yell more, have less patience. I often feel guilty reacting like this even though whatever caused it at the time probably equated to some sort of complete chaos with a healthy dose of consistent whining.

Somewhere along the way I realized it’s not even necessarily about dividing my time between them, it’s about everything else that goes along with having more than one kid – more laundry, more meal prep, more activities to run to, more homework, etc. The life stuff seems to get in the way of parenting.

Even now as a parent who works from home I struggle to feel like I have enough time for both of them with all the other things in life that need to get done.

I recently stumbled across a 2016 study from a Cornell scientist that explains why I feel so much more frustration now. The study concluded that parenting carries more strain for mothers. It showed that people who are parents experience greater happiness and meaning when they do activities with their children, as opposed to when they do things without them, but mothers feel more fatigue, stress and less happy than fathers do while parenting.

The study explained this by adding that mothers often do less fun things with children while parenting. We are cleaning, running to activities or appointments, grocery shopping, etc. Fathers get to spend more time playing with kids.

“Mothers are doing different things with their children than fathers are, things that we know aren’t as enjoyable,” said Kelly Musick, associate professor of policy analysis and management and co-author of the study. “Playing with their kids is a particularly enjoyable experience for parents. And dads are doing more play as a share of the total amount of time they spend with their kids.”

Yes! Yes! Yes! This completely describes my life with the kids. It wasn’t as bad when I had one kid because I was able to balance it more easily. It was there but it’s amplified now that I have two kids.

I’m the one that often disciplines both of them and regularly cleans up the toys, which doesn’t seem to count for my husband because it gets messy again 20 minutes later. I cook almost all of our meals, do most of the laundry and I am in charge of homework.

“A lot of how parents feel about parenting is based on incidental moments with kids like hanging out on the couch or going grocery shopping,” Musick said. “There’s a lot of parenting involved in those small moments.”

I parent in the all the non-fun situations of life. If truth be told, I’m often jealous that my husband gets so much time playing with the kids while I seem to get the leftover parenting moments that leave me feeling like I’m not a good parent.

The truth is though that it’s me that has to readjust my thinking. I’m not sure if I’m ever going to feel like I get to be the parent I want to be because there is all this other life stuff I have to take care of. My husband will always get to be the fun one, at least for the foreseeable future.

I may not be rocking motherhood in the way I dreamed of. However, if I can continue to parent both of them well in those in between, everyday moments I can still make a positive impact on their lives.

The big moments may be the memories we make but the small moments are the pieces of our days that string life together. The small moments create consistency, norms and help children see boundaries and expectations more clearly. If I have to miss out on some of the fun to create an environment for my kids that helps them to function as happy, successful adults then so be it. Life isn’t about rocking parenthood, it’s about sacrificing the life you imagined so they can have the life they deserve.


  1. It really IS the little things that matter to kids. I try to do as many things with mine as I can – the cleaning can wait.

  2. Love this mama beautifully written and perfectly describes how I feel even though I only have one! I still find that my husband gets to play more than me while I feed then clean up after her than get her bottle ready and he gets to play with her! Momlife I guess !

  3. I get all the play time with my kids. And all the teaching time. And all the punishment time. And basically everything but bath time, because that’s the only thing I can get my husband to do. I completely relate with that study! Actually, I have a book I could write about this subject, but I have to finish a bit of work and then do some grocery shopping so I can feed my children, so it’ll have to wait!

  4. This sounds just like the sacrifice my mom made. We weren’t really close growing up because she was also the strong, stoic one that kept our lives together. But as I’ve gotten older, we have become best friends.

  5. The small moments add up to a culture of well being and the feeling of being loved. The big moments provide lifelong memories embedded within the the feeling of community. You are doing it right!

  6. Wow!! This is so on point! Exactly how I feel as well. I am always having to check myself before I start thinking negatively about how I am parenting, because I never feel good enough. But you are so right, it is those small moments, the routines and conversations you have on a daily basis that mold the children into successful independent adults. Its not necessarily a glorious job but it carries a lot of weight and has long term benefits. Thanks for sharing!

  7. I think this is a good metaphor for life – we often are waiting for the big moments that we don’t stop to appreciate the significance that are in the little moments! As for children, I’m not a parent myself but watching my nieces and nephews grow up I know that they take in everything (whether you like it or not haha). So it is important to make sure those lessons you are teaching them are shown throughout your own behaviour day in and day out

  8. I think this is a good metaphor for life – we often are waiting for the big moments that we don’t stop to appreciate the significance that are in the little moments! As for children, I’m not a parent myself but watching my nieces and nephews grow up I know that they take in everything (whether you like it or not haha). So it is important to make sure those lessons you are teaching them are shown throughout your own behaviour day in and day out

  9. I think it also helps when you think back and realize which memories you remember with your parents and what made an impact in your life. It definitely changes the way you parent your kids. I think small moments matter.

  10. I felt like this when I had my second child. Now I have four and I completely feel better and not guilty at all. It’s about the time we all spend together and it doesn’t matter how simple or little it is.

  11. I have always thought it was the little things that matter the most. The nightly sitting and reading, weekly grocery trips. These are the moments that seem to stick with our kids and I love that.

  12. I’m not a mom yet, and probably won’t be for a while. But this is probably some of the best advice for parents I’ve seen out there.

  13. I was the complete opposite. I didn’t have the mother connection with my first because I was young when I had her. My second though, I was completely connected. It was difficult to be that type of mom to my first that I needed to be, but somehow I managed.

  14. The children grow up so fast. I mean I remember being a little kid and now I have children of my own. The memories are definitely important because that’s what we remember the most.

  15. Small moments absoultely do matter. I find my kids remember the littlest, smallest things more than the big grand things and thats ok. I think its true they are what create big lifelong impacts!

  16. You have put into words exactly my thoughts! I am so stressed making sure our lives are all perfect and all activities planned that I forget to just enjoy the moment and that doesn’t foster our bond with each other. Thanks!

  17. So we’ll said! I totally identify with being less fun because of the care taking but you’re right all of those little things add up to create an environment that helps our kids so much!

  18. It is true that the smallest moments can create the biggest impact, especially down the road. Experiencing what I had experienced as a child taught me to relish in every moment – no matter how mundane it may be.

  19. I recently lost my mother to cancer. I miss her every day, not because of the big things she did for me, but the little things. I miss having her to go to for answers, she always seemed to know every thing. I also miss just being able to talk to her and share little moments like trying out recipes in the kitchen. Parents do the best they can and at the end of the day that is all that matters.

  20. Yes!! I try to include my son in everything I do throughout the day because sometimes things have to be done. And if I have to work on my computer while he is awake, I usually set him up with crayons and have him work beside me.

  21. I walked through the same struggle. Especially after I had my third. I still have a hard time balancing it all and making sure they all get there time.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here