When mercy saves a broken momma.

Half listening to her list off dates, I squeeze the phone between shoulder and ear while my hands wave harshly at the two screaming. They use pencils as swords to poke the other, and I raise my voice over their screams so that my friend can hear me tell her that I have to call her back.

I near break the phone, slamming it down, my fury at the two whose sibling screams deafen. Five minutes of peace to make a phone call, can’t I even get that?

I barrel over, lips pierced, my rage burning my tongue so my hands do the talking. There’s no holding back, no prayer, no deep breath, no count to five. I’m a raging ball of fire and with the very pencils they held, I strike each on their hand, the sting rebounding past my flesh piercing through my heart.

They both wail tears and the lump leaps from my heart to my throat and I can’t swallow because I know that His ways speak love, gentleness and self-control. I’m a rancid piece of worm-infested rotten fruit.

My son’s eyes clear, his hand still pulsing pink from my strike, and I fall to his level, rage swallowed by guilt and the only words I can muster, “I’m so sorry.”

He collapses in my arms, his resilience resting in the safety of a broken momma, and his whisper sinks me to my knees, “I forgive you, Mommy.”

My eyes well up, the one who has only known five years of life teaching the one in her fourth decade the ways of the Cross.

My daughter, still holding her hand protectively, melts into our embrace, my babies overtaking my lap as my tears dampen their foreheads. I sigh deep as I drop heavy into the nail-pierced arms of a Savior, my desperation a prayer, forever enveloped in His mercy.

All the single mommas

Once a year, for one week, my husband's job demands a week of solid travel away from home. It's always in the dead drear of winter, and it's often met with January's culprits: weak immune systems, frozen temps, and a momma who needs Vitamin D or a cigarette. Except I don't smoke.

And so for one solid week a year, I fly solo without even the weather on my side.

And it's hard. Way harder than my ego would like to admit.

I usually spend a couple of days throwing myself a pity party, justifying more babysitters and fast food dinners than usual. And then somewhere around day three, a shift occurs. Amidst my desperation and exhaustion, I remember, THERE ARE WOMEN WHO LIVE THIS WAY ALL THE TIME.

Everyday. Every week. Every year.

They are the single moms. And they are my heroes.

As much as I struggle this week every year, I need it. Without this week to slap me in the face with all the support I miss when my husband is gone, I begin to think that I got this gig all on my own. And lemme tell ya, per evidenced by these last few measly mercy-laden days, I don't. (Not to mention, I have help! There are no words to express how graciously supportive our family is.)

And so I find myself in awe of the millions of women who parent day in and day out standing on their own two feet and their own two feet alone.

The women who coax their babies from bed before sunrise and cradle them to sleep after sundown.

The women who pour cereal, pack lunches, and cook dinner for mouths that rarely speak appreciation.

The women who rush to bus stops, work, daycare, and back home, and still never make ends meet.

The women who have been abandoned, forgotten, overlooked, and betrayed by men who offered false intimacy but never offered to share their last name.

The women who spend their midnights soothing nightmares, laundering sheets, and sharing their already lumpy pillow while never knowing a full night's rest for their own always exhausted heads.

And I know, there are men who are flying solo too - good men who value family and fatherhood even though the mother of their children don't. And there are men who are doing everything they can not to let another child live fatherless. So many of you men are the heroes of your families, and what's most endearing about you men is that what we see as heroic, you see simply as love.

But somewhere along the way, the cycle of single mothers became pandemic. Entire communities of women are carrying the weight of what was never meant to be carried alone. But they carry on anyway, because without them, we'd be a world full of orphans.

And so because my brain is dangerously fogged up and sleep deprived, I find myself doing all I know to do for these hero women - pray. As I ask God to give me the grace to get through another still dark morning coaching small bodies to get dressed and finish breakfast and why-is-there-toothpaste-on-the-wall, I ask God to send grace showers over the mommas who are doing what I'm doing - flying solo - except for one major difference.

Solo is all they've ever known.

A tired hallelujah.

I'm tired.

I’m tired of putting shoes on tiny feet that tiny hands peel off the second I turn to grab my purse.

I’m tired of layering bread with peanut butter and nutella only to have it fed to the dog. Why don’t I buy the cheap stuff?

I’m tired of greeting my husband collapsed in relief instead of with an open heart of blessing.

I’m tired of the whines, the tears, the screams, the fits, the tantrums, most of them theirs, some of them mine.

I’m tired of consoling the wounds of opposing children, both injured and at fault.

I’m tired of the dead-night jolt from a small strong voice screeching awake post nightmare.

I’m tired of showerless morning breath that seeps pungent into the next day.

I’m tired of midnight laundry, two a.m. cries for water, four a.m. out-of-bed falls, and six a.m. demands for breakfast.

I’m tired of time-outs, slammed doors, utensils turned weapons, and the inconsolable overtired.

I’m tired of passionate sibling blows and forced apologies.

I’m tired of fevers jumping from babe to babe, pediatrician trips accumulate in a single week.

I’m tired of hot dinners shoveled and cold dinners staled.

I'm tired of grocery aisle discipline while gawkers deliver judgmental glares.

I'm tired of all the toys. Oh mercy, the toys. And the socks divorced and the laundry laughing in my face and the half-eaten cracker crumbed into the carpet. It's all conspiring to destroy me.

I’m tired.

I’ve been tired. I don’t remember when I haven’t been tired. I’m too tired to remember.

This isn’t a pity plea, a help rally, a smoke signal. If anything, it’s a battle cry for us mommas who know exhaustion better than we know our last names. Our heads spin mom and mommy and MAAAAA!!!!! ringing tired ears. Remember those first congratulatory cards greeting the Mr. and Mrs. in your mailbox, the pride of your new last name applauding you from postmarked envelopes? Yeah, me neither. All I can remember is that the boy needs shoes that fit and the girl doesn’t like the way I cut off the tops of the strawberries and the baby’s bottle hasn’t been found since yesterday morning.

And I know. I know you whose tears stain your bedside, the unanswered prayers for life in your barren womb. You are tired, willing to max out every credit card the banks will grant just so you can have a chance at carrying life.

You would do anything to be tired like me.

And I would do anything for you to be able to relate. Because motherhood really is magical. It’s beautiful. It’s precious. It’s life-giving and life-loving. And it's exhausting.

This life. Where grace breathes with each exhale, salty grace pooled tears, life draining life. What one needs to thrive another loses to love. And it breaks a momma and a wannabe momma. And we’re tired. We’re all just so tired.