On those days yogurt stains and crusted baby food air-dry on her sweater and yet roll off her like she’s made of satin.
On the days the sink isn’t brimming with dishes, or maybe it is, but she was so busy in the sunshine armed with sidewalk chalk and a toddler on her hip she didn’t notice.
When she keeps her patience, holds her tongue, and manages to hold this house, that always feels like it’s teetering on the edge of bursting open at its seams, together.
For the days she doesn’t do it all by the edge of her teeth but by sheer will and grace and caffeine. She has days like that, too, you know.
Yes, it’s rushing and crying and bargaining on some (a lot of) days to accomplish even one measly thing. It’s three days without a shower, and sometimes even longer since someone thanked her for things like the clean socks she paired at 10 p.m. while sitting on the sofa.
Some days this house just doesn’t rest and neither does she and she’s left empty, eating her lunch over the kitchen sink.
You’ll love her anyway, and she won’t believe you.
She won’t believe you when you assure her she is the best mom for these whip-smart kids who jolt awake way too early every day. She won’t think it’s OK when you step over every toy and pile of laundry on your way to the sofa, even though you say it is. She’ll feel such guilt for everything she didn’t do and ignore the hundreds of things she did.
Mothers are befuddling creatures, so sure of themselves that there isn’t anything they wouldn’t do for their children, and yet so paralyzed by self-doubt that they convince themselves they aren’t actually any good at any of this.
But before those days come.
Before the thread of sanity runs out.
Before unseen and hidden tears fall when she’s by herself.
Tell her you believe in her.
Tell her how much you love how much she loves these kids. Like, you are wild about how she’s wild for them.
Tell her her eyes are oceans and you still drown in them even if she hasn’t shaved her legs in two weeks and has swollen raccoon eyes.
Tell her you see every facet of her, but you know there are more brimming beneath the surface and it’ll take a lifetime to discover them all.
Tell her thank you for always pressing pause on herself. For letting her coffee get cold every morning because she tolerated one more interruption. For forgetting to eat lunch because she was so lost in her kids. For using her hands to fold towels and scrub plates and swaddle your children instead of swiping mascara through her lashes or doing much in the way for herself.
Tell her on the days she’s on an upswing. Tell her on the days you see her believe in herself. Reaffirm to her that yes, actually, she’s doing this mom thing. It isn’t some misplaced idea that she’s actually pretty great. It isn’t a fluke. She’s amazing and a miracle held together with Target clearance clothes and the patience of a fire-tested saint.
Those pleasing thoughts that are a whisper in her head on the OK days can become a chorus when you help her see how they’re nothing but the truth.
Don’t save those life-giving words just for when she’s broken. Tell her because she needs them even on the days most things go all right, muddy footprints on the sofa notwithstanding.
Tell her because she is your mate, but you’re actually her helpmate and no one will see her like you do. No one will see her doubt. See her struggle. And still see her succeed.
Tell her she’s everything your family needs. So really, what else could there be?
Previously published on the author’s Facebook page