I will always remember the way it felt walking into my nana’s house the first time after she died.

I walked into a house that looked and smelled the same way it did when my grandmother lived there. And for a split second, I expected to hear her coming around the corner or down the creaky, carpeted stairs in excitement. For a split second, I expected to smell the coffee and receive a multitude of coffee kisses. Or to see her leaned over the sink with her apron on, piping hot water steaming around her well-worked hands as she washed her favorite coffee cup.

I expected that feeling of home to be there. Even if she wasn’t.

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For so many of my family Christmases and birthday celebrations, her house was home. It was falling asleep on her living room floor as I listened to her, my mom, and aunt talk. It was hearing the freezer door squeak open as my grandfather grabbed his before bed snack of ice cream, thinking no one would hear his shenanigans. It was her fruit compote in fancy bowls and my great-grandmother’s recipes fresh from the oven. It was running laps through the halls and hearing her call my name in delight.

But that day, as we worked to sort through the house the eve before Mother’s Day, it felt lonely, and it dawned on me how much mothers make a physical house a home. How they fill those walls with photos and the rooms with laughter. How they fill tummies with food and hearts with joy. How they make that house a refuge, a guiding light in the storm not because that house is built with wood or stone and can weather the elements.

But because that home is built on a mother’s love, a mother’s guidance, a mother’s patiencea solid foundation.

And then when that mother person in your life isn’t there . . . well, you find yourself a bit homeless. You find yourself a bit lost. You find yourself grieving home amidst the same physical walls that held so many memories. 

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Sifting through my grandmother’s items that day alongside my own mommy homeI felt all those things. And in the days that followed, I prayed that no matter how many chapters I might be passing or failing in the parenting books, that at the very least, I was creating that same sense of home for my own children. I prayed they would feel grounded and surrounded by love even if I couldn’t completely calm their storm. And I prayed that even amidst life’s hits, I was giving them a solid foundation and sturdy roots.

I prayed I was giving them generations of a mother’s love.

And in a world that can often overlook the home you build, I hope that if you’re reading this, you remember what a gift you are to your family. I hope you know what a foundation you areeven when you’re convinced you’re failing or not doing enough. And I pray, even if they don’t say it like they could, you know how blessed your people are to have their safe haven, their roots, in you.

Their home.

Kathryn Bartling

Kathryn is a born and raised midwest girl, working to raise her twin toddlers to appreciate the world around them, dark chocolate and the beautifully ordinary moments in their lives. A stay-at-home mom after a career in marketing, she's learning to embrace the unique tidal wave of parenting, twins and toddlerhood.