Dear toddler, in case you didn’t know, I love being your mom more than anything in the world. I’ve had a lot of titles in my life I’ve loved and am proud of, but I know nothing will ever compare to being your mom. Every day with you is the best day.

I love your silly smiles and your laughter is the sweetest sound. I love watching you sleep when you are peacefully resting in my arms, knowing that you are safe. I love seeing you try new things and watching the world expand before you.

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I love that because I am here all the time, I miss the subtle changes that happen as you grow and can only be seen when I try to remember when exactly you learned that new word or when your hair grew long enough to touch your shoulders.

I love that you come to me for comfort when you’re tired or scared.

I love that I am the person you want to share your excitement with when something delights you. I love that I am the one who knows all the little nuances that make you who you are.

It has taken me by surprise just how much I love being a mom. I always knew I wanted a child someday, but I wasn’t someone who dreamed of motherhood. When I met you, though, everything in my life shifted in an instant and I knew this was the thing I was truly meant to do. I enjoy my job and feel proud of the work I do. I’m involved in volunteer efforts that are fulfilling and meaningful.

But being your mom is the most important work I will ever do.

Sometimes it can be difficult to see something in its entirety when it is built moment by moment, day by day, and that’s what motherhood is. I won’t know whether I’ve really succeeded at this until you’re grown, and maybe not even then because mothering doesn’t end when a child becomes an adult; it is a life’s work. I will always, always be your mother.

I’m proud of things I have accomplished in life outside of motherhood, but I’ve never known anything that is as all-consuming and rewarding as being your mom.

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There are days when it is tough, and motherhood really does feel like work. When I’m exhausted and overwhelmed, and you need my full attention, and I’m sure there’s no way I can do it all.

But the good days far outweigh the challenging ones.

I know now that I likely won’t ever write that great novel as I had once hoped, and the world won’t ever know my name. It doesn’t matter though, because I get to be your mama and there’s nothing else in the world I would rather be.

I have no doubt that motherhood–right here with you, day after day–is the most important work I will ever do.

Chelsey McCarthy

Chelsey is the mama of one sweet baby girl and one grumpy bulldog. By day she is the Executive Director of a rare disease foundation. She is overly sentimental and an aspiring writer.