Going from believing I knew it all to realizing how little I’ll ever know hasn’t been easy, but my children continue to help me change.

I know what they say: It’s my job, as your mother, to ensure that you all grow to be kind, decent human beings. 

It’s my job to teach you things — like how to say “thank you,” and to hold doors for others, and to work hard and save your money. 

It’s my job to make you better people. To raise you to be part of a generation that will do better than the one before it, and make the world itself a better place for everyone.

But if I’m being honest here, children, the truth is — you have all made me better. 

Before I knew you, I admit that I was a woman who thought she knew it all. A woman who was going very important places with a very strategic checklist and lots of specific plans. A woman with no time for anyone or anything to stop her, thank you very much.

And then you came along. Well, the first of you, anyway.

You came along and you completely and totally turned my world upside down.

Gone were the plans I had made. Gone were the places I had wanted to go. Gone was the checklist for my life because instead, seemingly overnight, I was suddenly facing the title of “Mom.”

I wasn’t sure I was ready for it. As the babies kept coming, I just tried to cling on to the lifeboat to survive through the chaos of life with four kids, 6 and under. But with each baby came a lesson learned, a heart softened, a woman and mother and sister and wife made better.

So to you, my children, I just want to say — thank you for all the ways you have made me better:

I am better because all the late-night feedings with you have taught me patience and the wisdom to know that even the hardest stages will eventually pass.

I am better because the sleep deprivation so thick it’s hard to wade through has taught me humility — to realize my limits and to focus on what really matters.

I am better because I now know that the world really will not end if I don’t cook every single night. And also that cereal for dinner can be kind of awesome.

I am better because when I have felt the grown-up pressure to constantly be “on” — to be productive and busy and doing all the things — you have shown me the simple joys of being again. To sit on the couch and do nothing but laugh at how you can snap your toes like fingers, to lay outside and watch the clouds like when I was a kid, to read book after book and not once get the urge to check my phone.

And speaking of that darn phone, I am better because you have given me the freedom to remember what it was like to move through the world without my tether. To be aimless and creative and go full stretches of time without my fingers twitching for a screen to scroll. (Be honest: How long have you really gone without checking your phone?)

I am better because I have finally, finally learned that when mama ain’t happy, no one is happy. It’s an incredibly hard position to be in when the entire emotional weight of our family rests on my shoulders, but for now, it’s just the way it is. And it’s a responsibility that I’m finally owning up to.

It means that when I’m cranky and stressed, you all feel it. And when I pretend I’m fine and keep pushing through, only to break down? It hurts all of us.

So I am better because I have finally accepted my place as the emotional navigator in this family. This means admitting when I’m tired or overwhelmed or just need to make myself a gosh darn sandwich because I’m hangry.

I am better because I have watched you all do the hard things. I have watched you take on new schools and NICU stays and disappointments and dreams. I have watched you be braver than I’ve been.

I am better because I’ve learned what it means to belly laugh again, dance in the kitchen, watch a storm roll in, make cookies just because, camp out in the living room, and tell silly stories that have no real ending.

I am better, kids, frankly, because you’re all kind of the best.

So thank you, from a mom who will keep trying to be a better version of herself — because you all deserve it.

Chaunie Brusie is a labor and delivery nurse turned writer and a newly minted mom of five. She writes about everything from finance to health to how to survive those early days of parenting when all you can do is think about all the sleep you aren’t getting. Follow her here.