Mom, I called you to come over today because I felt overwhelmed. You didn’t hesitate to say yes, you’d be down as soon as your load of clothes in the wash was finished. And you came with lunch for me and the boys. Just your presence put me at ease and I could breathe again. Why does everything feel so safe when you’re around?

I’m 31, and I still get that feeling to go running to you sometimes.

You always know what to say to me to make everything feel better. You’re the only one who hears everything I don’t say and sees everything I try to hide.

I feel like I’m finally here, standing in your shoes. During the hardest of moments, I realize this is what you did for me. Some days I feel like no one hears me. No one sees me. At times, I feel like I give and give, and I’m demanded to give even more. And it goes unnoticed.

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My husband unintentionally makes me feel like what I do isn’t as important as what he does, because I have nothing to show for it at the end of the day. The house is still messy. The sink is full again. The bathroom floor is covered with water and wet towels, and I can’t even remember myself what I got done during the day.

Sometimes I feel like you’re the only one who sees what I do.

You’re the only one who understands how much of myself I’m giving, and how much I’m loving.

During the most giving of moments, I have flashbacks of you giving to me. The grapes that I don’t eat so that the boys can have them, because I know how much Dacky loves them. I remember there always being grapes for me growing up. I don’t know if you liked them or not, but I assumed you didn’t because you never ate them. Even now, you’ll tell me to go ahead and eat the last of anything I want—you “don’t need to eat it anyway.” I’ve always believed you, until I became a mother. Now I know you’re giving it to me, even if you want it, because you’d rather your child have it.

During the most sacrificing of moments, I realize how much you still sacrifice for me. All day, I listen to everyone else’s stories, their exciting news and achievements. I look at Lego castles, jumps off of steps, and karate kicks in the air. I watch trees climbed and slides scaled the wrong way. I’m asked to watch and listen to what everyone else does, and after everyone is in bed, I have a sliver of time to remember me.

Sometimes I feel like I do the same thing to you.

I call you and I can’t get the words out fast enough—all the things I want you to hear about my life. You’re the only one who listens attentively to my every word and feels excited for me like no one else does. Or at least you do a dang good job of making me feel that way. When we hang up the phone, I so often realize I never asked how you were doing.

You’re my safe place.

You mother me even when I don’t know it. You make me feel so special, so heard, and I never appreciated it until this time in my life when I come last so often. Until I realized how it feels to be on the other side—to be the safe place for someone else.

Thank you doesn’t even come close to expressing how I feel, but I just want you to know I see you now.

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I used to think I had stopped needing you a long time ago, that I was blazing new paths you never took. And you let me believe that. Yet all the while you’ve been following along on the side, right out of eyesight—always there to help me get back up when I’ve fallen, just like you’ve done since I was a little girl. Thank you doesn’t even come close to expressing how I feel, but I just want you to know I see you now. I see you all day long, in my darkest hours and in my most blissful moments looking into the faces of my children. I see what you sacrificed and how much you loved.

I finally see it, Mom.

Everyone is born with a guardian angel

And on her wings she’ll let you soar

Higher than you thought was possible

She’ll love you and protect you like no other

And your guardian angel has a name

You can call her mother

The sacrifices that she will make

To put you first when everything’s at stake

How all that she’s devoted

Until now you never noticed

She was showing you

How to be a guardian angel too

—Leah West, “Guardian Angel”

This article was originally published on Pig and Dac on March 13, 2017. It has been updated.