Do you know that some of my days are the happiest I've lived? That after twelve years, my favorite date night is one spent laughing in bed with my husband?
Do you know that when I awake to the gentle nudge of a little hand attached to a young voice saying "Mama! Mom! Mommy! Are you up?", I shrug in the weighty haze of sleep, open my covers instinctively, and eagerly welcome into my nest one or both of my small offspring?
Do you know that I never tire of seeing my sons' faces as they first see mine in the pick-up line after school? Do you know that on the day they stay until 4:30pm because one loves chess and the other loves science, I miss them and dare the hours to pass more slowly?
Do you know that my boys saying, "I love you" is some of the sweetest music ever sung? That the notes they write me in awkward handwriting are perhaps the best love letters I've ever received? That I still smile when I hear my husband's key in the lock?
Do you know that in the moments I allow myself to consider what life would be like were something to happen to one of them, both of them, all of them, I can't stand it? Can't fathom it? Panic?
Do you know that I am sometimes crippled by tremendous anxiety? And that it is sometimes, or even often, brought on or exacerbated by my darling children and their love for me?
Do you know what it feels like to need a good deal of alone time but to push that need away daily? As if you're running a marathon in the summer sun but must eschew the rehydration stations along the way.
Do you know what it's like to have almost nothing left for your partner when finally he or she returns home?
Do you know about the challenge of finding good child care and of affording it?
Do you know about counting on the minimum sleep/days at school/you name it and being cheated of that? Do you know what that does to you? To your friends? To those you don't know?
Do you know the feelings of failure and shame all of that knowledge elicits in women who want to do best by their children? And who feel that the smallest slips set them back dramatically? Mar their children beyond what's "normal"?
Do you know the feelings of failure and shame and worry that knowledge elicits in me?
Do you know that each time someone like Sarah Silverman or Hayden Panettiere or Brooke Shields or Gwyneth Paltrow or Catherine Zeta-Jones publicly admits to depression or anxiety or postpartum depression, so many women breathe a collective sigh of relief and are saved by knowing they are not alone?
Do you know that this is all hard? That life is hard? That motherhood is hard? That unearthing and living as our truest selves is hard? That gilding those lilies is a profound disservice to individual struggle? That honesty would make individual struggles less solitary?
Do you know that in unabashed truth there is not only relief but joy? Connection? Empowerment?
I know all of these things now. I know them even when they're hard to accept. When they're difficult to say aloud. When loved ones frown or shrink away from what I know and say aloud.
I know that my friends know these things. That readers know these things. That strangers do.
I want to own them and share them with you because when others have done so in the past, I am strengthened and made more brave. I am comforted. I am normed. As are you.
And what better to know?