“You are a good mom.”

My eyes were glued to the intersection in front of me, waiting impatiently for the traffic light to turn green. Yet these five words from my husband settled in my spirit like a parched plant soaks up water in its roots. It was a thirst I didn’t realize I had.

“You are a good mom.”

Did I really doubt that? I generally think of myself as a good mother – I feed my daughter healthy food, she’s on a regular sleep schedule, I am mostly patient with her tears and whining and irrational toddler logic. And yet the way these struck my soul in the midst of the chaos of driving my husband to work that morning suggested otherwise.

“You are a good mom.”

I wanted to hear them again and again and again. I didn’t need any explanation or elaboration, just these few simple words of affirmation.

How does doubt and guilt creep into our spirits so easily as mothers? We’ve all read the blogs; we all know that we’re not supposed to compare ourselves to other moms. We do our very best and then some to love our kids more than making a gourmet dinner every night or keeping up a impeccably clean house (though I’m sure for some moms, that is the way they express their love to their kids, and all the more power to them!)

And yet there I was, soaking up those five words like a lifeline and wishing I could hear them said to me every day of my life.

The Bible says we ought to “do to others what we want them to do to us.” It’s a good principle of love to follow and, so, one I want to employ right now:

To my mom friends everywhere: you are a great mom.

No one but God knows how many times you hold your breath to avoid snapping at your toddler who spilled their snack all over the floor again right after you told them for the hundredth time to set it down so they wouldn’t spill it.

No one but God knows how many times you watch the clock to see if its nap time yet, and then turn around in the same moment and tickle your littles until they gasp for breath from all their giggles.

No one but God knows how many times you offer your toddler your last bite of dinner that you’ve been saving to savor until after bedtime because you know that food always seems to taste better when its shared with your favorite people.

No one but God knows how many times you get up in the night to comfort them from nightmares, real and imagined…or to change the wet diapers…or the wet sheets…or to check that the bump you heard wasn’t them falling out of bed.

No one but God knows how many times you pick up that book and read it to them for the umpteenth time when all you really want to do is collapse on the couch and fall asleep.

No one but God knows how many times you wipe their bottoms, kiss their boo-boos, and hug them when they’re scared, or overwhelmed, or too tired to manage anything else in their little lives.

Motherhood is this strange mixed bag of selfless, sacrificial love all jumbled up with frustration, impatience and anger. It is as if God hard-wired it into our souls to somehow know what it means to be willing to give up everything for someone, and at the same time, to experience our own sinful selfishness and inability to love unconditionally. We taste the sweetness of grace and the bitterness of sin, sometimes even in the same moment.

It’s not clear. It’s not black and white. We are never doing it all right all the time.

And the road is long, exhausting, mundane yet difficult, and sometimes seems never-ending.

In this marathon called motherhood, we need supportive ears and even greater cheers along the way. We need to look one another in the eyes and say, “You are a great mom.” And we need to let those words sink in until we believe them.

Because we’re not going to get it all right. But where we fail, God’s grace prevails – and only in those moments do we have the opportunity to showcase that grace to our children.

And in the end, to those of us in Christ, we can rest assured that some day, when all is said and done, despite all our short-comings and failures and faults and mistakes, we will hear those words spoken from the One whose voice matters the most: “Well done, good and faithful servant. Well done.”