Sweet Ella,

Two weeks from the day I write this, I will be getting up a little earlier than usual to go through a routine that your daddy and I practiced a few days ago.

I will apply waterproof mascara to my eyes and put on the outfit I laid out the night before.

I’ll double-check that I have a picture of you and spare pump parts in my purse.

Then I will snuggle you really close and breathe you in as deep as I can.

And finally, I will take a deep breath and walk out the door.

It may just be one of the hardest days of my life: the day I go back to work.

I’m going back to work because I want to set a good example for you.

I want you to see that work is a part of life and it is a good part of life.

And remember, just because a mama stays home with her babies doesn’t mean she isn’t working—she may have one of the hardest jobs on the planet.

Work doesn’t just happen at a job. It’s work to clean a house or do your homework.

One day you’ll have chores to do and papers to write.

These are good things, things that make you a productive, contributing member of your family and community.

They will give you a sense of fulfillment and purpose.

The challenges that come with them are the things that will shape your character.

You won’t always feel like doing that homework assignment or showing up to work on a Monday, but if you just live by what you “feel like” doing at the moment, you’ll end up uneducated, broke and unfulfilled.

I’m going back to work because I love my job.

I love the people I work with and the mission we are a part of.

I get to use and practice gifts I’ve been given to help others do their jobs well.

Girls are often told to sit quietly in classrooms and boardrooms, which does a giant disservice to the world by keeping their passions, talents and gifts to themselves.

I’m going to encourage you to live loudly and bravely in the unique way God made you.

You and I are so much more than a label, only good at what a stereotype or society will tell us we are good at.

I want you to shape the little piece of the world you’ve been given into a beautiful one.

Whether it’s through music or science or math or home decorating or finger-painting or folding laundry, I hope you find work that you love and do it with all your might.

I’m going back to work because I want to be the best mama possible.

As you grow up, you’ll find that you like doing a lot of things.

You’ll enjoy soccer and playing dress-up or competitive swimming and making art.

You’ll (hopefully) enjoy time with your family, time spent learning at school and time playing with your friends.

For me, I absolutely love spending time with you, your daddy and our puppy.

I also enjoy my job.

Since I know that I have a limited amount of time each day to be with you or at my job, that motivates me to make the most of the time I do have.

One day soon, I’m going to ask you to be brave, whether it’s brave enough to ask another little girl to play or brave enough to squeeze my hand as you get a vaccine.

But I can’t ask you to be brave without first showing you what it looks like.

I can tell you these things with words—and believe me, I will—but it’s so foundational to life that I want to show you with my actions as well.

I want you to know that your daddy and I will always and forever do what is best for you and our family.

I commit to you that the choices I make will reflect how much I love you and want you to grow up to be a strong, brave, beautiful girl.

So for this season of life, that means I’m going back to work.

I love you with a big, big love,