Hey Mama, You’re a Good Mom No Matter What You Can Afford to Put Under the Tree

Hey mama,

I know it’s been a long day. A day of trying to be cheerful and forcing smiles and cooking favorites. And, the whole time, trying your hardest to swallow the guilt you feel for not being able to give your kids the presents you so wanted to.

Maybe this year has been particularly hard. Or, maybe, it’s been hard just like all the years you can remember have been hard. As a mom, you work hard all day every day to do things for your children that keep them safe, happy, and healthy now. You’re also always working towards the bigger picture: helping them become good grown-up people who know how to take care of themselves, the people they care about, and the world. The days are often exhausting. You’re up from dawn to dusk and often you’re up again before you even have the chance to truly settle into your bed.

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{ MORE: Ever Wonder Why Parenting Is Just So Hard? }

The work of motherhood is exhausting. But, of course, it’s always worth it. When you see your kids learning new things, helping others, or smiling their one-of-a-kind smiles, your heart swells and memories of the hard stuff drift away. Those little smiles full of love and joy and are often earth-shattering in their beauty. The happiness you see in those smiles is what makes it so hard when you feel like you can’t give your kids what they want.

Whether their lists were long or short, I know how much you wanted to give them the things they wanted. I know you tried to save up and that you’ve been thinking about it, worrying about it, for months. I know that as the days until Christmas ticked down you got more and more stressed. You were hoping you’d find a way, you were looking for a way but, this year you just couldn't get them what they wanted.

Here’s the thing. This ache you are feeling isn't their ache. Sure, they may have been a little disappointed when they didn’t find what they had been hoping for under the tree but, I promise, no matter what presents they got this year, they valued your presence more than anything else.

When you saw them unwrapping what you could get them and held your breath, praying they would like it, they saw you. They saw you in your comfortable pajamas, sitting with them, watching them with eyes filled with love. They saw their mama, the one who wakes them and feeds them and helps them with everything they need help with to feel safe and loved.

When presents were done and you stepped into the kitchen to pull together something to eat you worried that they’d think back on this Christmas with disappointment. They saw their mama step into the kitchen to cook them another meal and they thought about all the things you make that are their favorites. They remembered the yummy cereal at breakfast, the lunches packed with care each day, and the warm dinners they find each evening.

Later in the day, as everyone lounged around, you worried that they were bored and still thinking about what was missing under the gift wrap. They were happy though. Happy to be spending time together. Happy for the chance to sit and talk and do nothing at all instead of rushing around like normal.

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And at night, when it took everything in your power to keep smiling and not break into tears and apologies as you tucked them in, they were cuddling up next to you, feeling safe and warm and grateful to be your kiddo.

Today was a good day for them. And when they grow up, it won't be what was missing under the tree they remember but, instead, all the love they could find just by looking into your eyes.

So mama, let go of the guilt. You’re a good mom, a great mom, no matter what you could or couldn't put under the tree. Dry your tears, get some rest, and get ready to get up tomorrow your best mom self. Your kiddos are going to be waiting for you!

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Hey Mama, You’re a Good Mom No Matter What You Can Afford to Put Under the Tree

Julia Pelly has a master's degree in public health and works full time in the field of positive youth development. Julia loves hiking after work, swimming during the summer and taking long, cuddly afternoon naps with her two sons on the weekends. Julia lives in North Carolina, with her husband and two young boys. You can find more of her work at JuliaPelly.com ... More

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