Hey Mom: I see you there. And I know it isn’t always easy.

Photo above by Hollie Santos via Unsplash.

Have you ever imagined what it would be like to be invisible?

When I was a kid I daydreamed about walking through school without anyone seeing me — opening up lockers, throwing papers into the air from the teacher’s desk or tapping on everyone’s shoulders as I sprinted down the hallway — just to see everyone’s reaction.

That FREEDOM! Oh, that freedom to be where I wanted to be and do whatever I wanted to do. It would have been so fun, even if for just a day.

I won’t lie. I’ve imagined it as an adult, too. But while I can imagine the fun I could have (sneaking on to a plane to fly somewhere tropical, maybe?), these days it’s more about getting a chance to vanish when everyone around me seems to be tapping on MY shoulder because they need something.

I imagine the freedom to just take a second to breathe. And yet as a mother, especially when my kids were small, there are too many times when I’ve FELT invisible when all I wanted was to be seen.

Have you been there?

In my toughest days – while raising a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old, plus a newborn — I honestly felt like you could see right through me.

When people came over to visit after I had my baby, I felt like pieces of me were scattered all over the floor in anxiety and exhaustion. But people were stepping right over them to get a glimpse of the tiny human I brought into the world. All I needed was someone to see that I had become a shell of myself — and start helping me pick up the pieces.

Or when I walked through the grocery store with a carseat in the cart, a toddler in the seat and another holding on to my hand because we ran out of milk. People simply passed by me just like they walked by an aisle with items they didn’t need. All I needed was for one person to see that I was on the verge of tears from the amount of effort it took to make it there.

Or when I was rocking a newborn for the fourth time in one night, looking out my window into the darkness of my neighbors’ houses imagining how amazing it must feel to sleep through the night — and wondering if I ever would again. I needed someone to look into the windows of my spirit, see it was in quicksand and offer their hand.

Or when I posted a smiling selfie before going out on a walk with all three kiddos in tow — and everyone commented about how cute they all were and what a rockstar mama I was.

All I needed was for one person to notice the hint of struggle in my eyes.

Not many did. And no one meant harm by it.

In fact, I imagine many of them were walking through their own lives wondering if anyone could see the real them, too. But I was so focused on surviving that I wasn’t looking at them, either.

But oh, the freedom when someone DID see me.

When someone stopped holding the baby, and then came over and hugged me. When someone at the store looked up from their shopping list, leaned over and said, “You’re doing a great job. I know it isn’t easy.” When a family member stayed overnight, and took over the 3 a.m. rocking duties so I could rest. When a social media friend called my highlight-reel bluff, and texted and asked how I REALLY was.

The freedom. The relief. The LIFE it gave me. The way my shell felt like it had fewer cracks and my spirit still had a glimmer underneath all the exhaustion.

April is “The Month of the Young Child,” and as this month ends I’ve been thinking about the many women in Pittsburgh raising young children and trying to take care of themselves in the process. I think about that freedom and relief that they could get if someone really sees them and sees all that they do.

It’s a feeling we can give to each mom we know, if we just take a second and make sure she knows we see her there.

Because as kids, we dreamed of being invisible. But for young mothers — invisibility is no superpower. The superpower actually lies in the friend, family member or stranger who sees through the life she thinks she has to portray and uncovers what’s underneath.

It lies in the one who chooses to tap a mother on the shoulder and say, “You are seen. You are supported. And you are not alone.”