I’ve read essays by mothers getting truthful about motherhood – how it’s difficult, challenging, and damn-why-can’t-I-look-at-my-phone while my kids are playing in the park. I’ve read essays about motherhood not being cracked up to be all it’s supposed to be, and how it’s okay to say so. I’ve read articles about why we should stop saying why we don’t enjoy being moms sometimes and just love the time with our children. Why do we insist that we are either all in or all out? Why can’t we fall in the gray middle of things? That is life, isn’t it? Nothing is either just this or just that.

I’ve been all of those mothers. The one whose knees buckled under the weight of parenting. The one who has admitted to not always loving this gig that I chose on purpose, after much thought. The one who is craft-challenged, who isn’t the fun parent, who feeds her kids birthday cake for breakfast, who yells, who questions her decisions daily, who wonders if the kids know they’re loved. I’ve also been the parent who bakes cookies with the kids, who have not slept for seven years, who cleans up pee, poop, and snot without complaint, who’s in charge of everything but in control of nothing.

I’m also the mother who loves her children with her entire being and jokes that there are no favorites because “I dislike them all equally.” (I don’t.) I’m the mother who yells, and who whispers I love you. I’m the mother who begs her babies to sleep and misses them when they sleep through the night. I’m the mother who has breastfed four children for a combined 60 months (that’s five years!) but wanted her boobs back. I’m the mother who fails on many levels but is doing her best.

I guess I’m trying to say that even though I’d love to enjoy every single waking moment of time with my children, even though I KNOW that there are only so many days we each have on this earth, even though I have given them my heart and soul – I am only human. There are days when I want to retreat into myself – please don’t touch me, if you don’t listen to me so help me God, stop asking me for stuff, stop crying, play and leave me alone for one minute – and hell yes, I do, I will not apologize for that.

We are not just mothers and wives and friends and everything to someone.

We are human and women, and we want and need some of ourselves back. We need to hold that close to our hearts and let it go at appropriate moments (what those are, only you will know). We are people who need to be loved and cared for, too. We need breaks, a game of Candy Crush, a quiet moment on the toilet, a long shower, time to read books, one day a week to do what we love.

We must do all those things, and we must love our babies with every fiber of our being. We must not forget our mother-status, and we must not forget ourselves. We let these heart-lines to our children grow and strengthen, and we must look after our hearts.

How do we do it all? We don’t. We do what we have to at any given moment. Be present this day. Take time to yourself the next day. Yell, then let it go. Or hug it out, and give yourself a gold star for remaining calm.

We can be the mother who plays with her children. We can be the mother who trusts her children to have fun without her. We can be multi-faceted without losing one side or the other. We can live full, rich lives even as we search for ways to find a balance between taking care of the children and taking care of ourselves. The path is long and tricky. We will stumble, fall even. Some may not get up for a while. It doesn’t mean defeat or “bad mother.” It just means we need to pick ourselves up and try again.

That’s what it is, isn’t it, this motherhood thing? It is a paradox. It’s a winding path full of wonder and obstacles. It is at once heartwarming and heart-wrenching. It takes fortitude and vulnerability.

Fortify. Be your best self.

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