When my daughter was little, I had a small desk in the corner of my office. On her desk she had an old computer keyboard. She had a drawer full of markers, crayons and a notebook very similar to the one I used to keep my notes in.

When I worked, she worked, too. Most of the time she’d let me work, only interrupting me occasionally for a quick hug and a kiss. However, some days she wanted more than that, and those were the days it was difficult to get anything done.

I remember one occasion when I was facing a writing deadline and my daughter insisted on typing the letter “m” on the computer. M is the first letter of her name and, of course, her favorite letter. I explained that I was working but that as soon as I was through, I would show her how to type her whole name.

“Show me now,” she said, putting her arms around my neck and crawling on my lap. Positioning her little hands on the keyboard, she looked up innocently. I took a deep breath and reminded myself to be patient.

Many times throughout my children’s childhoods I wished that patience was something I could buy at the grocery store and stock in my pantry. It would have made my life so much easier if I could have sprinkled it over everything I ate.

It took my daughter 10 long minutes of writing her name before she was ready to let me work. I looked at my watch and by then it was already 6:00 p.m. I only had 30 more minutes left to write before it was time for her dinner and bath.

Women of my generation have always been told that we can do it all. Most of us know that it isn’t quite that simple. Whether you work outside your home or you’re a stay–at–home mom, a woman’s job never ends.

There are days when juggling it all seems easy. Then there are days when you feel you’re being pulled in different directions and it’s overwhelming. Most of us, when given a choice, will always choose our families first. Whatever time is left after that is divided into little pieces.

That particular day with my daughter always stands out in my mind because I was torn between my work and the needs of my four–year–old daughter.

After I gave my daughter a bath, fed her dinner and took her upstairs to get her ready for bed, I read her a story and, as I was turning off the light, I reminded her that I was only staying for two minutes. Two minutes was usually much longer, but this helped her understand I had to leave eventually.

As I lay there in the dark next to her, I began to relax. My daughter was tucked in up to her chin; her forehead was touching mine. She smelled of soap and Aqua de Violeta, a Cuban cologne for children. She was sucking her right thumb and with her left hand she played with my hair.

“Do you know how much Mami loves you?” I asked her as I kissed her on the cheek. Pulling her thumb out of her mouth, she answered groggily in Spanish, “Si, Mami. Tú me quieres hasta la luna,” meaning Yes, Mami. You love me all the way to the moon.

At that moment and many times over the years, the caresses and love of my children have reminded me what is important in life.

Whether you work outside the home or stay at home with your children, there will always be stressful days, days when you wish life could be simpler.

On those days when you feel like you are about to explode, don’t fight it; instead, cuddle with your children, read a book with them, breathe in the scent of their hair, because sooner than you think they will grow–up and those are the moments you will miss the most.

Maria Luisa Salcines is a freelance writer, certified parent educator and corporate empowerment consultant with The International Network for Children and Families in Redirecting Children’s Behavior, Redirecting for a Cooperative Classroom, and Redirecting Corporate America. Contact her at her Web site at www.redirectingchildrenrgv.org.