Annabelle is really into belly buttons. If you come over to our house, there is a good chance she will attempt to pull your shirt up and squeal, “Bell-bean!!” Each time she delightfully discovers another belly button, I’m reminded of how a thin cord used to connect us. Her belly button, her first (and dare I hope only) scar will forever be a physical reminder of this incredible bond. But today, only 20 months after the doctor instructed Curt to cut the umbilical cord, Annabelle seems very much her own person. Determined and ever so persistent, her preferences about food, toys, clothing, and even which books we read before bed are crystal clear. And she wants to do everything on her own. She scoops oatmeal up with her spoon and feeds herself (or flings it to the ground!), brushes her teeth quite thoroughly, and even takes her clothes off by herself. Each day she seems to need me just a little bit less.

So now that Annabelle and Asher no longer rely on me as much to take care of their most basic needs, what is my role? How can I be a great mom to these amazing little people who have thoughts, hopes, and dreams of their own? How can I meaningfully connect with them now that our physical ties are fading?

These questions have especially been on my mind this month as we neared Mother’s Day. More often than not, I feel completely unworthy of being celebrated. Sure, there are the times when I think I’m really nailing this mom thing, but most days I look at my messy house, empty refrigerator, and ever-growing to do list and feel like a failure. I know that I need to be present with my kids, listen to them, ask open-ended questions, help them pursue their interests, and so much more, but . . . I’m tired. I’m distracted. I’m just trying to get through the day.

And if I feel this way with an incredible husband, wonderful friends, good health, safe community, and so many material comforts, I can’t imagine how the moms out there without all of this support feel. So what can we do? How can we become the the kinds of moms that are just the right combination of Lorelai Gilmore, June Cleaver, Clair Huxtable, Marge Simpson, and Carol Brady?

As I sit here and think about the kind of mom I hope to become, all I know for sure is that I am so thankful for the many women who are going through this journey with me. Unlike the TV moms that shaped our ideas of what motherhood is “supposed” to look like, these ladies share struggles that can’t be solved in 23 minutes. They make mistakes. They have bad hair days. They are real. If you haven’t found these moms yet, please find a way to connect with them. Put yourself out there and strike up a conversation with a mom at the park, go to that playdate, join a local parenting group. Motherhood is so hard — probably the most challenging thing many of us will ever experience. And like all meaningful pursuits, it is filled with more questions than answers. By coming together, I think we can help each other learn how to deepen our connections with our children.

I still feel a poignant ache for the little babies Annabelle and Asher used to be. Just like “they” all warned me, this stage of my life went by too quickly. But I am so grateful for the friends I’ve made along the way and the encouragement they will continue to give me as a new chapter of motherhood begins.