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Dear Moms: Even When You Feel Invisible, We See You

Dear Fellow Moms,

Motherhood isn’t just a thankless job — it’s the thankless job. We’re on duty 24/7, ready and willing to leap out of bed at the first sign of a kid who needs us. We have sacrificed our bodies, the ability to sleep soundly, and the chance to have a hot meal or a hot bath for years on end. When no one else can find things, it’s up to us to know that the missing object was last seen, say, wedged between the mattress and the wall. We are the changers of diapers and sheets; the keepers of dates and schedulers of appointments; the rememberers of all the things, both important and trivial; the soothers of scrapes and broken hearts.

And we do all this for people who have zero grasp of the magnitude of our presence in their lives, and consequently, virtually zero gratitude.

Sure, once in a while the world throws us a bone with a holiday like Mother’s Day. But let’s face it — even the sweetest and most well-intentioned gestures typically come with some sort of thing we’ll have to deal with later. Like a lovely breakfast in bed … and a messy kitchen to contend with once we get up. Or some much-needed alone time … while our usual duties, the ones we do that go largely unnoticed, pile up in our absence.

It isn’t the accolades that we need, though. It’s simply for someone to notice. To sit back and think about it and be honestly grateful for the magnitude of what we go through on a daily basis to keep our households running. And it may feel like no one will ever really see us, but we need look no further than other moms for understanding. Because, Moms, we see you.

Moms of newborns, we see you. Trying to figure this new little person out, whether it’s your first baby or your fifth. Trying to meet their every need (and neglecting your own in the process). Trying to feel like yourself after nine long months of pregnancy, trying to reclaim your body even though it barely belongs to you any more. Worried you’re failing at something because they can’t tell you what they need — they just cry. Tired beyond belief. Leaking in places you never imagined leaking. Overwhelmed with love, overwhelmed with concerns, just … overwhelmed.

Moms of babies, we see you — and yes, that is spit-up on your shoulder. Bombarded by ridiculous pressure to “lose the baby weight” or “bounce back”, whatever that’s supposed to mean. Worried about whether your baby is reaching milestones on time because a baby you saw on Instagram looked about the same age as your baby, but this one was pulling up on things, and yours isn’t. Wondering if you’ll ever get the hang of taking care of your baby and yourself. Delighted by the firsts, and excited for the next first thing. Feeling simultaneously mushy that you’re the only one your baby wants, and so agonizingly touched-out that you can’t deal sometimes.

Moms of toddlers, we see you. Buying vitamins because your child is so picky you worry they’ll be two feet tall forever. Walking on eggshells because you never know when the next completely irrational meltdown will occur. Remembering the ever-changing preferences — the blue cup or the red one today? — to avoid said meltdowns. Being embarrassed because meltdowns happen despite your best efforts, usually in public where people give you judgmental side-eye. Being frustrated with your toddler … and then berating yourself for feeling that way. Wondering if you’ll ever get to use the bathroom alone (and at a leisurely pace) again.

Moms of elementary school kids, we see you. Busily replacing the clothes and shoes that they’re constantly outgrowing or wearing holes in. Trying to pack lunches that won’t get thrown in the cafeteria trash can. Learning to manage newly-emerging problems at school that require an IEP or a 504 or, at the very least, awkward meetings with teachers. Feeling like a mama bear when kids start to form cliques. Hearing the news of another school shooting and feeling an anguish like you’ve never felt before, because it could have been your child – and because it was someone’s, anyone’s. Coming to terms with the sinking feeling that you can no longer protect your child as completely from the influences of the world. Struggling to remember that you were ever anyone other than “Mom.”

Moms of tweens, we see you. Straddling the worlds of big kid and little kid. Catches glimpses of the attitude that you thought was only reserved for the teenage years. Hoping you’ve done enough to foster their independence, but afraid to actually let them be independent. Wondering if it’s time to let go or pull back. Navigating the bigger issues that come with bigger kids, and the life-changing reality that puberty is just around the corner. Knowing that their middle school experience will probably suck just as much as yours did, yet feeling helpless to prevent it. Marveling at how grown up they seem at some times, and feeling relieved at others that you can still see your baby in there somewhere.

Moms of teens, we see you. Doing things that would’ve once garnered a laugh, which now only gets you an eye roll. Retrieving moldy dishes from bedrooms. Struggling to walk the fine line between your kid’s privacy and safety when it comes to their phone and social media. Missing the days when your kid actually thought you were cool. Wondering if they’ll be stuck with this attitude permanently, and if other parents’ kids are this irrationally angry. Feeling each of their heartbreaks and setbacks as keenly as if you were experiencing them yourself. Offering up hard-earned wisdom, only to be brushed off like you don’t know anything. Worrying for their young adult years, which are hurtling toward you at speeds more rapid than you ever thought possible. Worrying because you know that while they’ll be out living their young adult lives, you’ll be missing everything about their presence (except the dirty dishes … maybe).

But for all these things we do as moms that go unseen — it isn’t the invisibility of what we do that stings the most, it’s the invisibility of why we do it all, day in and day out, endlessly. Because our children just don’t know.

They don’t know how much we love them, how it’s as deep as our soul and our bones and probably even deeper than that — we just don’t have the capacity to express the true depth, because words could never do it justice. They don’t realize how our hearts are held forever hostage by their circumstances, how much everything that hurts them hurts us too, how much we truly and genuinely mean it when we say we’d bear their pain themselves if we could.

They have no idea, not even close.

So we just fold socks, and chauffeur them back and forth to practice, and cook dinners that they turn their noses up at, and put them first — sometimes to our own detriment. We do these things with the blind hope that maybe someday these little gestures will add up to one big epiphany that this was all for them … that each minute of hard work, every time we kept going when we felt like stopping, was a labor of love. But not just an ordinary love: the all-encompassing, life-changing, mountain-moving love of a mother.

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