It's early in the morning. My husband has left for work and the kids are still sleeping. I sit down with a cup of coffee in front of my computer in my quiet, still kitchen to try and steal a moment to myself.
I scan my inbox, quickly deleting junk mail and silently reminding myself to pay bills later.
Then I see it. An old friend has emailed me a funny picture of us from when we were much younger.
"How are you?? Remember this day? So much fun!" She says.
I stare at the smiling faces looking back at me. We're laughing about something - relaxed and happy. We were connected then. An unbreakable bond of friendship.
Now, we only talk every few months, mainly because emails like this often get forgotten by me. I feel guilt wash over me as I look at the date on the email. Sent two weeks ago. Like many emails I get, I read them while I'm on the go - thinking to myself "I'll respond as soon as I get home". And then life takes over.
As parents of young kids, it feels like there's a constant conveyor belt of things that have to get done. If we're not getting children changed, dressed or fed, we're getting ourselves ready for work, running errands, taking kids to appointments, activities, birthday parties. Even in the summer, when we try to keep things as unscheduled as possible, there are always things that I have (and want) to do. Quality family time, making dinner, bathing children, reading stories, asking about their day.
Then there's the exhaustion at the end of the day. The baby is teething, so we're not sleeping. Or there's another ear infection. There's the non-stop juggling of time. Time with the kids. With our partners. With our extended families. All of this on top of the task of shaping young lives. Raising little girls to be women and boys to be men - a full-time job on its own.
Before long, it's not just unanswered emails I'm bad at. When I do manage to carve out time to see friends, it has to be on my schedule. "Can you come to my place after the kids are asleep?" "Can we go somewhere close to me so I can still help get the kids to bed?"
And when we do get together, it's not long before I find myself yawning at 10 at night - yearning for my bed, even though we used to be able to stay up until the wee hours of the morning, chatting and laughing over several glasses of wine.
I've changed. And I want to acknowledge it.
I know I suck at being a good friend right now. But I promise it's not forever. I'm in the weeds. I'm knee-deep in parenting little kids who need me for pretty much everything right now. But this stage in life - it doesn't last forever.
They quickly grow up and need us less. They learn to tie shoes one day. They make their own breakfasts. They finally wipe their own bums.
And as unglamorous as it sounds, I want to hold onto it. Because the good stuff will go quickly too. I want to remember their little voices. The shape of their adorable toddler bellies. I want to soak up this time when they think I'm the best, most fun and hilarious human that ever graced the earth.
When they start to grow, I will have time on my hands. I'll eventually learn how to balance it better. I'll eventually be sleeping long, long stretches at night. And then, I promise, I will be the good friend I want to be. The good friend I still am.
Because I'm still here. I'm still me. And I still value our friendship - so I'm going to respond to that email.
Heather Dixon is a freelance writer and blogger, as well as a Mom to three highly advanced little girls (according to her husband and her). She’s also a runner, a reader and a lover of wine and beer - which is why she runs. Find her at heatherdixon.ca or on Facebook at Facebook.com/heatherdixonwriter. But not on Snapchat. She doesn't really get that one.