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Dear husband,

Long before I met you I decided I didn't measure up.


I spent most of my life disappointed with who I am. But do you remember that day you told me I was beautiful, in one of the hardest seasons of my life? I believed you.

I’ve worked so hard to order my world—to develop rhythms and strategies to be able to love you and the kids, do the work I love and not fall apart. I know my perfectionism made you feel at times like I cared more about the house than you, but it isn't true. I just didn't know yet how to make peace with imperfection and trust that my world would not come crashing down around me if I loosened my grip.

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I am so sorry for the times I yelled or freaked out—it had absolutely nothing to do with you, but was rooted in fear. I didn't know then how to ask for help, or even how to admit what I was really feeling, so all my grief and fear poured out over you and the kids.

There is nothing more important to me than family.

Here’s what I need you to know about my anxiety: for much of our marriage it made me feel broken and inadequate but I have decided to learn to love myself even as I learn to love you.

You don't understand procrastination, but I have fought it my whole life. I want to do well at everything, so when I doubt my ability to do so, I freeze and do nothing at all. I have slowly learned to face things head on and your understanding helps.

When you text me to tell me you are proud of me or to cheer me on, I feel affirmed and loved and remember I do not have to prove my worth.

The days you find me curled up in bed with Netflix are usually days I'm feeling small and afraid. Afraid of failure or afraid of my success. My brain never stops scanning for what needs to be fixed or what I ought to do better, and sometimes the way to shut this down is to numb out for just a little while.

When I forget something or make a mistake, I need you to be patient, forgive quickly, and remember that I am always doing my imperfect best. Otherwise, this feeds my hungry inner critic and confirms what I have known since childhood—I don't have what it takes.

Sometimes I wrestle with shame because I cannot do all the things some other women do and I've wondered if you wished I was different. But if I sacrifice sleep or nutrition for productivity, if my life is packed to the brim, I crumble.

Here’s what I need you to know about my anxiety: sometimes it lies heavy in my chest and takes my breath away and I wonder if everyone has to work this hard just to show up to life each day.

You see me craft mantras to guide me: I am enough. Don't try so hard, just enjoy yourself.

This isn't just a feel-good exercise but one of the ways I fight for life.

It is so hard and uncomfortable for you to talk about my past—but we need to be real if we are to grow old together and if I am to heal.

Sometimes you think I am mouthy or stubborn, and it is true. But what you might not see is how these fiery traits have helped me persist and fight for wholeness when I am in despair.

Your willingness to hold and touch me without expectation, even though this didn't come naturally to you, has been huge. Your touch is one of the best things in my life and I feel safe wrapped up tight in your arms.

Here’s what I need you to know about my anxiety: even though I have worked hard and come far I can’t always control when it shows up and I am always a little afraid of it.

As I build resilience and develop a healthy stress mindset, I love how you grow alongside me. You recognize that this is not only my journey; our lives are forever intertwined.

Your willingness to practice vulnerability by opening up about your own fears reminds me I am not alone.

When I tell you I need to quit wine because the numbing has gotten bad again, hear me. Do not downplay it and suggest I have just one drink; I don't know how to have just one drink anymore. If I have the courage to tell you the truth, then you need the courage to hear.

You see me as proficient and reliable, but I mask well. I have lived with chronic pain and anxiety so long that I deal with most of it on my own. I keep so much inside. So when I tell you my anxiety has spiked and I need help, I really mean it and I need you to listen.

I can't always advocate for myself when things get bad. I need people watching and speaking truth into my life. I need you to take me to the doctor or drive me for blood work. At that point asking for help feels like the straw that will break me and sometimes I can't see what you see.

Here's what I need you to know about my anxiety: I am still learning to heal and live with joy and I'm so grateful I get to walk out this messy journey hand-in-hand with you.

Love,

Your wife

Motherhood is a practice in learning, growing and loving more than you ever thought possible. Even as a "veteran" mama of four young sons and one newly adopted teenager, Jalyssa Richardson enthusiastically adapts to whatever any given day has in store—a skill she says she's refined through the years.

Here's what just one day in her life looks like:


Jalyssa says she learned to embrace agility throughout her motherhood journey. Here's more from this incredible mama of five boys.

What is the most challenging part of your day as a mom of five?

Time management! I want to meet each of the boys' individual needs—plus show up for myself—but I often feel like someone gets overlooked.

What's the best part of being a mom of five?

The little moments of love. The hugs, the kisses, the cuddles, the smiles... they all serve as little reminders that I am blessed and I'm doing okay.

Are there misconceptions about raising boys?

There are so many misconceptions about raising boys. I think the biggest one is that boys don't have many emotions and they're just so active all the time. My boys display many emotions and they also love to be sweet and cuddly a lot of the time.

What do you think would surprise people the most about being a mom of five?

How much I enjoy it. I never knew I wanted to be a mom until I was pregnant with my first. My desire only grew and the numbers did! I am surprised with every single baby as my capacity to love and nurture grows. It's incredible.

How do you create balance and make time for yourself?

Balance for me looks like intentional planning and scheduling because I never want my boys to feel like they aren't my first priority, but it is extremely difficult. What I try to do is not fit it all into one day. I have work days because motherhood is my first priority. I fit in segments of self-care after the kids' bedtime so I don't grow weary.

What's the biggest lesson you have learned from motherhood?

I have learned that sacrifice is actually beautiful. I was terrified of the selflessness motherhood would require, but I've grown so much through the sacrifice. There is nothing better than living for something bigger than myself.

When did you first feel like a mom? How has your motherhood evolved?

I first felt like a mom when I was pregnant with my first son and I intentionally chose to change my eating habits so my body could be strong and healthy for him. I didn't have to think twice—I just did what I thought would be best for him. That decision being so effortless made me realize I was made for motherhood.

My perspective has changed with each baby as I've realized motherhood doesn't have to be one-size-fits-all. With my first son, I was a by-the-book mama and it was so stressful. With each baby, I have felt more freedom and it has made motherhood so much more beautiful. I have evolved into the mother that they need, I am perfect for these boys.

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