Parenting isn’t a thankless job though it feels like one most of the time. There is no paycheck or instant gratitude, no one really tells us we’re doing a good job. The work piles up at home, and a mother is a quadruple tasker, but it isn’t entirely thankless. Hear me out, tired mama. 

I know this because I’m being thanked in the best way.

God sure knew what He was doing when he created you, my boy. Babies are all-consuming and put us into a whole other world of stress where we are riddled with thoughts we are doing a poor job. It’s absolutely exhausting, and we feel like there’s no end in sight for all the work. Where is the reassurance?

Then I see it. It’s 2 a.m. and the faint light of the kitchen light creates a glow strong enough for me to see your tiny face. It’s a smile. A beautiful sideways gummy grin from my own flesh and blood. For a moment, the stress dissipates and my heart rate and blood pressure normalize. I feel overcome by happiness as I hold you tightly whispering, “Must be doing something right.” 

As time (slowly) goes on, you giggle and grow bigger grins simply by looking at me. You start to crawl to me and hang on to my legs and show affection in the most pure ways. It’s easy to overlook when I want to have a few minutes of alone time, but that tugging? That fussing? It’s love. It’s a “thank you for being with me,” a “thank you for loving me,” from my child who cannot speak yet, to talk me out of my self-doubts by saying, “I love you, mama.”

Lately, you have been showing me something so innocent, so sweet. Such a small gesture from a small little boy but the effect is massive. 

After a day that feels like it was 600 hours of tantrums, 20 different meals cooked,  diaper changes that resemble wrangling a bull, a sea of tears, and brain-frying screaming, I’m just about ready to give up. My eyes fill, ready to cry, and I’m not sure if I can take it anymore. I’m failing. I feel so lonely and empty and defeated.

And then your tiny, warm hand grabs mine.

You hold my hand and walk with me to show me your toys. You want me alongside you. You want to hold my hand! “I am so lucky,” I can’t help but say out loud. My heart fills with happiness I didn’t even know existed. I’m brought to my knees with such a purpose in life and feel accomplished beyond all educational possibilities. 

You have now begun to hold my hand in your car seat, the high chair, while you’re drinking milk at bedtime and many times during the day when we walk side-by-side or while you’re sitting in my lap. It’s your thing. You refuse to continue walking unless we are holding hands. You look back for me with your hand out, and I know no paycheck can compete. 

In the future, you will make me noodle necklaces, offer kisses and hugs, and learn to create adorable hand made cards for Mother’s Day, but for nowyou hold my hand. There will come a day when work keeps you busy, you will have your own family and wife to think of, but you’ll remember to send me flowers for Mother’s Day as a token of your love for me. 

But today at 20-months-old that token is holding my hand.

I feel purpose when you hold my hand. I feel thanked when you hold my hand.

I feel strong when you hold my hand. I feel worthy when you hold my hand. 

Dear son, I feel so special and so loved by you when you hold my hand.

Jennifer Bailey

Stay at home mom enjoying one little boy and navigating parenting one trip to Target at a time.