I saw you tonight—twice, actually—but you didn’t see me.
The first time, I was on a mission, acutely aware of my dwindling child-free erranding time remaining. I glanced over as I was scurrying through the mall courtyard, and noticed you in the corner of the play area, gaze trained on your young son as he slid down the plastic turtle. “She looks as tired as I feel,” I thought as I brushed by.
A few minutes later, I saw you again. This time, you were outside the cordoned-off area, hissing into the play area through clenched teeth. “Shoes. NOW!” you instructed as your son gleefully ignored you and scampered off to the rocking horse.
I watched you out of the corner of my eye as I fumbled with my phone. You cast a furtive glance around the deserted courtyard, another back to your unruly son, and smacked your hands down in frustration on the makeshift wall with a grunt. “Fine! I’m leaving,” you called to your son.
I watched your shoulders slump and your spirit sag as I turned the corner, the scene slipping from my view.
I wish I’d been brave enough to walk over and wrap my arms around you instead.
Because I saw what you were thinking in those trying moments when your patience was low and your weariness was high:
Why is he acting like this?
What am I doing wrong?
Why is this so hard?
What I should have done is given you a long, hard hug, pulled back to look you in the eye and said, “You’re not doing anything wrong. Sometimes, motherhood is just this hard.”
Sometimes, you haven’t slept a whole night through in months—maybe years—and you’re walking around in a perpetual fog that clouds everything in self-doubt.
Sometimes, the thought of strapping a wiggly toddler into his car seat for the fourth time that afternoon while you schlep between Target and school pick-up lines and soccer practice sounds like sheer torture.
Sometimes, you’ve heard the word “mom” so many times you wonder if your ears might actually be starting to bleed.
Sometimes, the eyes of your pre-teen roll one too many times for your liking and you spit out a reprimand that drives an ever-threatening wedge the slightest bit deeper.
Sometimes, you hit up the drive-thru again when you know you should be cooking one of those healthy, “family-friendly” meals you pinned weeks ago
Sometimes, you cut the grilled cheese into squares when they clearly should have been triangles and the ensuing tantrum leaves you speechless.
Sometimes, you raise your voice when gentleness would have been best.
Sometimes, you curse in place of kindness.
Sometimes, you stamp your feet in the middle of an empty shopping mall and threaten to simply walk away.
None of it makes you a bad mom.
Sometimes, it’s just this hard.
But you know something else I see when I look at you?
I see a mom who does it anyway.
Day in and day out, tantrums and thankless servitude, you do it anyway.
You take a deep breath, turn around (even if it’s in a completely rightful huff), collect your disobedient son in one arm and his Spider-Man shoes in the other, and you move forward.
You take deep breaths and apologize for short tempers and harsh words.
You teach lessons about manners and gratitude over grilled cheese and French fries, find redemptive ground with the child inching closer to adulthood.
You brush wispy hairs from angelic sleeping faces as you squeeze your tired eyes closed in thankful prayer for a job that’s both utterly exhausting and absolutely incredible.
Motherhood really is as simple and as complicated as that. We weather the hard moments because we know there are countless others ahead and behind that are so very, very good.
So hang in there, mama. We both know—it’s all worth it.
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