June 2016 was one disaster after another for me. I was happy to say “Bye, Felicia” and usher in July. You see, in the course of a month, my HVAC unit needed replaced, the hot water heater went out, and my car broke down (on the way to my son’s birthday party). I wish I were making this up — my life felt like a comedy of errors, except I wasn’t finding any of it funny.
I was stressed.
About getting to t-ball games and kindergarten meetings.
About doing it all alone.
My hair was going gray at a faster rate than normal, and I was without the money or car to remedy it. My usually bright and cheerful disposition turned solemn and sour. I was snapping at my kids more often. Did they listen to anything I said? I felt tired and weary and slightly crazy.
And I felt like I was failing as a parent.
July 4th rolled around, and the kids went to their dad’s for the day. I had walked into standing water in the kitchen the night before (water heater again?), so I knew I wouldn’t be much fun to be around anyway. I kissed them goodbye and took myself back upstairs to bed wondering if July 2016 was going to be just as bad.
I slept for a few hours, cleaned, did a couple of loads of laundry, watched some grown up TV. Then I waited. When would they be home?
I texted their dad, “Are the kids coming home soon? Too quiet here.”
As tired as I get and as often as I wonder if I’m failing and as flustered as they make me sometimes, those babies are my world. And everything feels off when they aren’t with me.
They finally returned home. I had their pajamas ready, and we turned on a movie and snuggled on the couch. My son asked if he could have a snack (all day, every day). I told him if he got something out of the pantry I would open it for him.
On his way to the kitchen, he stopped and said, “Mommy, you’re the best mommy.” He was so sweet and sincere. Tears welled up in my eyes.
I hadn’t been my best self or parent the past month. I was weary. I was in survival mode. But that’s not what my son saw. And tired single mama, that’s not what your baby sees.
She doesn’t see the gray hair and worry lines.
He doesn’t see the home improvements you think need done or the bills from the ones you’ve checked off.
She doesn’t see the tears you cry after bedtime while you pray you’re a better parent tomorrow.
He doesn’t see the twenty pounds you would like to lose.
She doesn’t see the floors that you need to sweep or the kitchen table with crafts all over or the dishes in the sink.
Instead, they see a home where they can play and learn and be themselves. They see a place that they are safe and well cared for. More importantly, they see a person who is beautiful because she has made it her life work to give them the best life possible. While they cannot comprehend the dedication and sacrifice (can anyone really until she is a parent herself?), they know who is always there for them — from tucking them in to getting them ready for their first year of school. Not just the fun stuff, not just what is convenient or fits into a tidy box. But they see a strong person who is there for all the messy and wonderful parts of parenthood.
Chin up, tired mama. They see the love. Most importantly, they feel it.
This article originally appeared here.