There were many things I pictured myself doing as a parent:

Holding my babies closely against my chest, singing softly as they drifted off to sleep.

Watching with pride as they spoke their first words and took their first steps.

Cheering loudly as they ran around the bases or scored their first goal.

Teaching them about God, and nature, and music, and art.

Playing endless games of Candyland and Checkers.

And something I hold especially close to my heart—nurturing a sibling bond that would begin in childhood and last for the rest of their lives.

There are also things I didn’t picture myself doing:

I didn’t picture becoming a full-time referee. Oh. My. Word. The fighting. There are some days it feels like my kids argue from the time their eyelids pop open in the morning until they close at night. I didn’t picture how emotionally exhausting this part of parenting would be.

I didn’t picture myself crying while standing at my stove preparing dinner, because I couldn’t shake the thought that if I was a better mother and could give them what they truly needed, then surely there would be more harmony in our house.

I didn’t picture feeling completely lost when it came to challenging issues and praying for an answer because I just didn’t know what steps to take next.

I didn’t picture sitting in my doctor’s office after I had a panic attack a few months after my second son was born, and feeling like I didn’t recognize myself anymore.

I didn’t picture the hard stuff—because frankly, who wants to? But we all go through some kind of struggle, don’t we? Parenthood is full of the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows. Feeling your heart bursting at the seams one minute, and then breaking into a million pieces the next.

In the darkest moments of parenthood, I will try to remember all the ways I show up for my kids, each and every day. I will remember the I love yous and the tender hugs and the laughs we share.

In the darkest moments of parenthood, I will hold fast to those times when the bond between my boys is clearly evident. Where they stick up for each other instead of trying to poke each other with a stick. Where they put their arms around each other in an affectionate hug, rather than a chokehold.

In the darkest moments of parenthood, I will choose to shine a light on my struggle, rather than pretending everything is perfect because I believe honesty can help another mom or dad feel less alone.

In the darkest moments of parenthood, I will find hope in the belief that if I am doing the best I can, then all is not lost.

Mary Ann Blair

Mary Ann Blair is a stay-at-home mom living in the Pacific Northwest with her two little gentlemen and hubs. She loves connecting with other parents who like to keep it real! Her work has been published on Her View From Home, Perfection Pending, That’s Inappropriate, Pregnant Chicken, Sammiches and Psych Meds, Red Tricycle and in Chicken Soup For the Soul. She can be found at miraclesinthemess.com or on Facebook at Miracles in the Mess