Mama Blue hatched her first batch of eggs this Spring and five fuzzy youngsters joined our happy flock. But this week, the chicks are officially at that awkward “toddler” chick stage, and let’s just say I can truly relate to the look on Mama’s face in that picture.

Usually, the chicks just mill around pecking at things and peeping softly. They mostly ignore mama as long as they are in a safe radius. But two things will change that peaceful dynamic in a second.

One, Mama might try to peck at a snack that is JUST FOR HER that I throw in to the brooder run as a sign of solidarity. Immediately, it’s like a scene from Lord of the Flies. The greedy little fluff balls all swarm Mama demanding to have “just a taste,” as if they have not already been eating all. day. long. Mama usually just gives up and leaves it on the ground for them.

Secondly, Mama might fly over the fence for a few minutes of solitude or a dust bath or a nice piece of grass. The chicks are safe. She is still within sight. She just needed a speck of personal space. But all the chicks start throwing themselves into the fence trying to break out and chirp as thought they’ve all been left orphans and a monster is chomping at their heels. Mama looks at them like, “All I need is 30 seconds to go to the bathroom without someone looking and commenting on the color of it, mmk?”

I hear you, Mama Blue. I really do.

Yet, there are few things as sweet as watching those chicks dive under her fluffed chest for bedtime. And while Mama Blue was never the feistiest of my hens, I’ve seen her stand between her chicks and a taloned hawk.

Motherhood is powerful. Motherhood is physical. Motherhood is personal. And Motherhood is exhausting.

This year on Mother’s Day, it seemed like every blogger and journalist was trying to outdo one another in sensitivity to those who are spiritual mothers, non-mothers, infertile, “pet moms,” and everything other than a biological or adopted mother of children. Sensitivity is all well and good, but I want to just put this out there …

Moms, you do great work. And I don’t mean that in the sense of “great job, here’s a participation trophy.” I mean “great” as in essential, elemental, and profoundly meaningful. Over and over, you have repeated with Christ, “This is my body, given up for you.” And you are a source of comfort, a safe place for vulnerability, a healer, a sage, a teacher, a guide, and so much more for the little people in your life (and for your spouse, though in a different way!) Even in your weakest moments, you are still there. You are their mother, and no one can replace you.

So the next time you are sneaking chocolate in a locked bathroom and little fingers are rattling the doorknob and lips pressed to the crack under the door are saying your name on repeat like a mantra that will magically cause a rain of joy and snacks if they reach the magic number, … be brave. Take a deep breath. And then go back out to the ones who can’t express their love except through sticky hands interwoven in your hair as they tell you how “belootiful” you are. Ask God to shower you with His Mercy (it may be the only shower you’ll get that day) and to give you the grace to accept that Mercy and the reality of the present moment and to be merciful in turn.

God has real strength to offer; we just have to ask. He is so much more loving and faithful than we know.

Have mercy on yourself. If you need a few minutes, or a few hours to renew yourself through rest, prayer, exercise, reading, prayer, or whatever rejuvenates you, make that happen. The chicks will survive, and you’ll all be better for it.

Have mercy on others. Ironically, as I write this, my kids just began bickering, someone peed her pants, and another began crying because they think cleaning their toys is a punishment (it’s not, just a requirement so we can walk across the floor again), and another is avoiding responsibility in a more sneaky way. What is merciful? Helping them? Sticking to my guns and making them clean so they can experience the reward of a job well done? It’s not easy. But I never signed up for motherhood because it seemed easy. I felt called to this chaotic but often beautiful family because it is worthwhile.