This is a confession to you, my kids, an apology of sorts. I am painfully aware of the ways I fall short. Even though it’s not possible to be perfect, I still wish I could be. Even though I know that perseverance produces character, and character hope, I ache to will my weaknesses away so I could be the perfect mom.

Instead, I walk around demanding that the world conform to me. Like my irritations should be the rest of the world’s grievances. As if everyone else should bend and flex to my preferences. My fuse can be shockingly short and my responses startling loud. Sometimes I let my frustration and anger and tiredness come out too strongly in ways that confuse you. I know that I often expect too much.

In the mundane, ordinary of each day I too easily trade relationship for orders. For telling you what to do, what not to do, and how to respond. But I’m desperate for you to know that you are safe, warm, recognized, affirmed, and secure. Yet so often, I find myself functioning in the “getting it done” mode. I demand perfection from us when we are all unfinished, in process, incomplete, flawed, and needing daily, abundant grace.

Yesterday was a rare day. Instead of being jolted awake by your kid chaos, I woke up to the quiet murmuring of you playing trains together. We made a big fruit salad for breakfast and enjoyed it together. Our yoga cards made for heaps of fun, laughing, and posing in all the wrong ways. You enjoyed a few of your favorite cartoons. I reveled in unhurried devotions and writing. Before lunch we played outside and afterwards we all napped. Later you built forts and played cars, and normally I’d freak over the mess and inconvenience. But I said yes more than no and my patience ran long and unfiltered. We enjoyed one another and I didn’t stress too much about the small things.

That day, this mom, is what I want you to remember. These are the threads I want stitching your life together.

But, truth be told, there have been far more days that I wake up on the wrong side of the bed, grumbling, fussing, and stumbling over everyone. Where breakfast is scrounged up and eaten with barely even looking each other in the eyes. When I trudge from one mess to the next, between one fight or the other, and look up only to see it’s time for lunch. The breakfast dishes and crumbs and sticky are still strewn across the table, dribbling to the floor, smeared across the chairs. I heave sighs and fling reprimands and stack up critiques until the room is overcrowded with my anxieties and frustrations.

When I finally saw the strain of my anxieties hanging like a cloud over our family, I called Sue and told her we needed to talk. After some thoughtful conversation, my therapist looked across the table and uttered the “D” word. Depression? I knew I was struggling but, really, depression? It was similar to the moment the doctor told me that our first baby was in distress and needed to be delivered by emergency C-section. I knew things had not been progressing well, but this news brought everything into sharp, panicked focus. Similarly, Sue’s diagnosis of my depression brought almost immediate, intense clarity, like the last piece of a challenging puzzle finally clicking into place.

Over the past several years, my personal mantra became “I can do anything for just a little while.” Say yes to all the opportunities (because I want people to know I’m capable). Push through piles of work that keep me up too late (because it’s only for a season). Scroll through Facebook for everyone’s perfect pictures (because I really need one more reason to feel like I’m not measuring up). Endure a travel schedule that kept my husband gone nearly every weekend March through June (because it’s just for a few months). Get through Reed’s multiple hospital stays (because some families have it so much worse). Buck up. Show up. And just keep going.

The problem is when anything piles up into everything and just a little while becomes all the while—you break.

So I’ve spent the months after my depression diagnosis learning again how limitations and boundaries can beautifully landscape my life. How to say no, because though yes is possible, no is life abundant. How to be at soul-rest because I am deeply loved by God. How to stop and listen long enough to know what my soul is thirsty for. And now here, even in this space of uncertainty, searching, yearning, and not fully knowing, I understand that tending to my soul is the greatest and most beautiful act of love I can do for you, my children.

Originally published on the author’s blog

Allison Byxbe

Allison has been writing and journaling and playing Scrabble since she was 9 years old. She lives in Columbia, SC with her husband, three kids, and two dogs, teaches college writing courses, is slowly learning to appreciate coffee, and loves nothing more than a good road trip with her family.