With Love, from Panera: You’re Doing a Great Job

Dear mama at Panera.

You’re doing a great job. When your boys start fussing because the line is too long, you march them right up to the window to admire all of the goodies you are going to get. You scoop up the little one in your arms so he can see better, and when his big brother protests, you somehow manage to scoop him up too. Both boys so heavy in your arms but you make it look easy. When the youngest hollers, “MAMA. MAMA. MAMA. MAMA,” so loud it hurts your ear drums, you don’t shush him sharply or tell him to be quiet; no, you gently respond, “What, buddy?” and seem genuinely interested in what he is trying to show you.

Dear mama. You’re doing a great job.

Dear mama at Panera,

You’re doing a great job too. That baby girl is so new, she still feels clumsy in your arms. You are rocking her and bouncing her and she isn’t making a peep. You stroke her face and you cannot stop looking at her. When you do look up, you are smiling. Beaming even. Your grin is wide and it is real.

Dear mama. You’re doing a great job.

Dear mama at Panera,

You’re doing a great job. Even though you are in Panera alone, hiding from your kids. Even though you screamed when your toddler threw an entire cup of yogurt on the carpet. Even though you can’t let go of the guilt after you squeezed your toddler’s arm harder than necessary. Even though motherhood, for you, doesn’t feel anything like it *looks* for those other mamas at Panera.

Dear mama. You’re doing a great job. Even though you collapsed into sobs when your sister-in-law told you that you are doing a great job. Because you don’t believe her. Because it’s when you don’t believe it that you need to hear it most.

Dear mama. You’re doing a great job. Because as they say, bad moments don’t make bad moms.

Dear mama at Panera. I wanted to tell you what a great job you are doing with those boys on your hips. But I wasn’t brave enough to reach out. It would be weird, wouldn’t it? Dear mama at Panera. I wanted to tell you what a great job you are doing even if you are terrified of that tiny, new creature you know nothing about. [Yet.] But I wasn’t strong enough to stifle my own tears if I reached out, and crying in front of you would be weird.

Dear mama at Panera. Holding back your tears. I don’t have to tell you that you are doing a good job, because you… are me.

And I am doing a great job because I know when I’ve had enough. I am doing a great job because I know when it is time to hide from my kids in Panera and write love letters to the other mamas in Panera. I am doing a great job because I know I won’t (and don’t) always feel like I am doing a bad job. I am doing a great job because I know that sometimes I have to cry big, ugly, fat tears to purge all of the things I stuff down, and so I give myself permission to cry those tears… just not in Panera. I am doing a great job because I know I will be okay, even if I am not right now.

Dear mamas everywhere. You’re doing a great job. Whether motherhood feels easy and natural and right. Or whether motherhood feels hard and dark and suffocating. Whether motherhood feels all of those things at the exact same time. You’re doing a great job.

You are.

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About kneumair

Karen Neumair is a lover of God and a lover of words, especially when those two things come together. She has experienced multiple depressive episodes in her life, most severely after the birth of her second daughter, but is overwhelmingly thankful for how God has used her depression to teach her more about Who He is (and who she isn’t). Wife to Chris and Mommy to Hannah, Becca, and baby Lizzy.
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