Sometimes I feel like you must walk in the door and not even recognize me.

By the time you get home after a long day, sometimes I’m just so frustrated. Sometimes our daughter didn’t listen, or hits me, or screams for minutes on end that feel like years. Sometimes I don’t get the one thing done I needed to that day. Sometimes I have looming deadlines for work, but nap time didn’t happen which means I’m now staring down an evening filled with work and not the relaxation I need. Sometimes I’m so filled with frustration that I feel like I could burst into flames if I don’t let it out, and you become my unwitting target.

Does this sound familiar?

You come home after a long day of providing for our family to find me, exhausted and scowling, shoving a whining toddler into your arms. Before you can even ask how my day went, I’ve launched into the litany of how your (because she’s always yours at this point) daughter tortured me or the messes I’ve had to clean (and re-clean) or the work I’m behind on and need to do as soon as she goes down for the night.

Once she’s finally (finally!) asleep, you find me curled on the couch, staring blankly at the television or resting my eyes for a minute. You try to snuggle in next to me, and I jerk away. “I’m sorry, I just need one minute where no one is touching me,” I explain through exasperated breath.

Or how about this?

Before you’re even home, you sweetly call to see how we’re doing in the afternoon. But what you don’t know is that I’ve just engaged in a 20-minute standoff over picking up toys, and my patience is nearly gone. “What?” I huff as I answer the phone. “I’m a little busy right now, can we talk about this later?”

As much as I don’t like it, you often get the worst of me. The leftover bits devoid of joy and warmth because, quite simply, all my patience and willpower has been used up by the time you get home.

You try to check in on our weekend plans or what’s for dinner, and I snap. “I can’t even think about dinner right now. I’ll figure it out.” And then I have to go because our daughter is crying about putting on her fourth different princess dress of the day or because I won’t let her play with the letter opener she found in the desk.

As much as I don’t like it, you often get the worst of me. The leftover bits devoid of joy and warmth because, quite simply, all my patience and willpower has been used up by the time you get home. Or because motherhood can sometimes be this all-consuming thing that leaves me with next to nothing left to give anyone else.

This season of life, while so rich and flourishing in some ways, seems to be a cold winter for you and me. But you will always be the one I loved first.

So I want you to know:

I still love you first. I firmly believe that the best thing we can do for our daughter is continue to love each other and put each other first. Not only will it give her a sense of security that will shape the person she becomes, but it will also teach her the standard she should have for her own relationships—one of mutual love and respect that will bring her lasting joy.

So I will work harder to leave that reserve of love and patience for you, no matter how the rest of my day has gone.

I still love you first. By the time you get home, sometimes my affection feels so spent. I’ve kissed and cuddled and soothed and snuggled for literally hours, and sometimes I just feel overly touched, desperate for a few moments without human contact. But I beg you: Don’t give up on me. Because I need you in so many ways, including your affection, touch and kisses, too.

Give me a few minutes to decompress, and I promise I will always open up again.

I still love you first. I read once that willpower is a finite resource in humans. By the time you get home, my patience has often been maxed out. I’ve navigated tantrums and not listening and lots of sass for so long without cracking or losing my temper, sometimes you feel like a safe space to snap—even just a little bit.

As a result, you get the sarcastic remarks and the blowouts. I have no good excuses (and I’m not in the least bit proud of it). So I ask you for patience—to love me first the same way and give me the grace I sometimes forget to give myself.

(And maybe it’s time to schedule that weekend away together, so we both get a break?)

I still love you first. I know I take the world on my shoulders sometimes, but please know that I would never want to do all this without you. You are our moon and stars, and this family would not be complete without you.

Watching you become the man and father you are today—watching our family become what it is—has been incredible to witness, and I’m so happy I get to do life with you by my side.

So though you don’t always get the best of me, I hope you always remember: You loved me first, too.