One of my happiest moments as a mom came about three years ago. I was at Raleigh Durham International Airport's Observation Park doing my very first park review for Go Ask Mom.
My younger daughter, then about four months at the time, was strapped to my chest in a baby carrier. We were walking toward the general aviation terminal to check out the planes on a brisk January day. I was happy.
I didn't realize how happy until the receptionist in the lobby stopped me to comment on how cute my baby daughter was. Then she said this: "You had the biggest smile on your face walking up that hill. You must be so happy."
I really was. It had been a rough few months. Recovery from my C-section took longer than expected. I had just spent a full three months to get a variety of breastfeeding issues under control (thank you Cindi Freeman!). And my nearly 20-year career as a newspaper reporter had ended when I took a buyout from The News & Observer.
But I had a beautiful older daughter, a wonderful new baby, an extremely supportive husband and a new work-from-home job that was about to take me to kid-friendly points across the region. I couldn't ask for more.
My younger daughter, who I call Monkey most of the time, went with me everywhere in that first year.
Regular Go Ask Mom readers might know this by now, but Monkey has played bit parts in many of Go Ask Mom's videos. She's the baby cooing in the background, the reason for the (more than usual) jerky video when she wanted to be picked up, the little towhead toddler on the swings and climbing the slide.
And she's spent time playing with all kinds of new "friends" as I visit local moms' houses to feature them on the site. (Thank you all so much for your hospitality!).
As she got older and required more supervision, my mom would tag along with us. I called them my "momtourage." We had some good times exploring historic sites, eating picnics in new parks and navigating the Triangle while my older daughter was in school.
Well, it's about to come to an end. Monkey, who has gone to preschool two mornings a week for the past two years, is about to turn 3. Starting this week, she heads to preschool four mornings a week.
With the almost end of her afternoon naps, which have been my usual working hours, it's a good thing. No longer will I have to enforce some "quiet time" for a couple of hours when she just wants to play or work long after my kids are asleep.
But I'm still getting a little teary-eyed as I think about the things that we will miss: Regular storytimes at the library, mornings at the neighborhood playground, quiet hours on the couch with a giant pile of books.
My husband reminds me that our older daughter went to full-time daycare for most of her young life. She has thrived. And it's not the end of our treks across the Triangle. It's just different.
I know it's good for both of us. She loves her school and her friends, and I do too. I make absolutely no judgement on how other mothers should run their lives. But I know that, for me, I need time like this for myself to be the best mom - or, at the very least, the least frazzled mom - that I can be the rest of the day.
So permit me a moment here to mark this big step in our lives.
Love you, Monkey.
Sarah is a mom of two and Go Ask Mom's editor. Most other days she writes about family-friendly programs, activities and events across the Triangle.