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It’s so much easier to be a good mother when your kids are sleeping.

I walked into my sons’ room, to their bunk-beds piled high with blankets and Thomas the Train books, Spiderman and Little Critter stories, stuffies and flashlights, my three year old’s chubby cheeks still smelling somehow of infancy. I kissed his soft skin, pulled his blanket up to his chin, his arms splayed like he was confident in our love.

Aiden, my almost five-year-old with a splash of freckles on his nose, was deep in thoughtful dreams, his hands clutching his green bunny.

And I felt blessed standing there listening to them breathe, like angels brushing heaven with their wings.

And for a moment, I forgot about the day.

I forgot about the way I tried to rush them outside whenever I could, to get them to play away from me so I could get some seemingly very important work done. The way they asked me to watch, but I was too busy. The way I sighed when they asked me questions, the way I counted down the minutes until nap-time and then until their Dad got home from work, and then until bedtime. I spent the whole day waiting them away – only to appreciate them in their sleep.

And even though I felt grateful for them there in the dark, they couldn’t see the smile on my face. They couldn’t hear my prayers. I couldn’t pick them up and twirl them around and dance to long songs with them.

And then morning comes.

Every morning starts too early – don’t you feel this way, mothers? It always starts on our children’s terms, and I wonder if this is why we spend the whole day trying to get time back to ourselves. Trying to reclaim those lost minutes in bed, trying to reclaim control over a life consisting of sweats and unwashed hair and piles of laundry.

But what if we awoke as grateful as when we went to sleep?

What if we stopped waiting away our children’s existence – stopped pushing them out the door, or into bed, or making them generally feel like they’re in the way – and started taking three seconds to change?

My friend Rachel Stafford of Hands Free Mama wrote on her blog about the #sixsecondchallenge to change someone’s world. It just takes six seconds to hold a person’s face and tell them they’re beautiful, for example.

But I believe we can change our mothering in half as long. I believe we can become grateful moms in just THREE seconds.

Do you want to feel like a better mother during the day? Do you want to start feeling thankful for your kids while they’re awake, and to stop feeling like they owe you something? Do the #ILoveYouChallenge.

Take three seconds just to breathe in, and then out, before responding – before sighing in exasperation or responding with an edge to your voice, whisper “I love you.”

You’re not just saying “I love you” to your child (even though the point isn’t for him/her to hear you, but for you to remind yourself that you love your children). You’re also saying it to yourself. You LOVE yourself enough to be a better, more grateful mother. Because deep down you don’t resent your kids for waking you early – you resent yourself for going to bed too late. You don’t wish for more time away from them; you just wish for more time in general. And finally, you’re saying “I love you” to God – thanking Him for the gift of your child.

It’s this three-fold “I love you” which will transform your day from grudge to gratitude.

Soon we’ll have it. We’ll have more time than we know what to do with, and we’ll wish for all those moments back. We’ll wish for a do-over. So let’s stop the regret now by taking a few seconds each day to whisper, “I Love You.”

It will change your life – and your child’s. Forever.

Emily T. Wierenga is an award-winning journalist, blogger, commissioned artist and columnist, as well as the author of five books including the memoirAtlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look (Baker Books). She lives in Alberta, Canada with her husband and two sons. For more info, please visit Find her on Twitter or Facebook.

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Where do you long to feel more gratitude as a mom?