"Oh my gosh, you scared me. I'm so sorry. I had no clue you were standing there."
I was changing the baby in the back of the car in the parking lot of Hobby Lobby, and I had my front and backside doors wide open, and well ... apparently, motherhood and five kids later have left me "non-aware " a lot of the time.
A woman was standing there smiling behind my front door, waiting to get into her vehicle beside me.
I couldn't yet tell if she was patiently smiling or annoyed and now smiling that I finally saw her, but I had no clue how long she was standing there for, and I jumped when I saw her.
"Don't you dare worry, sweetheart," she said in the most endearing southern accent. "I could stand here all day and listen to you talk and sing to that sweet baby. I remember those days. Changing diapers in parking lots. It's not easy. But I've never seen someone so joyful doing it. That sweet baby sure is lucky to have a mama like you. Don't you freight or apologize for one second. You take all the time you need."
I know I smiled but I don't remember exactly how I responded.
Knowing me it was probably a couple of, "Awe...oh my goodness. Oh, thank you. How sweet." Or something of that nature.
But I was taken with her words.
I needed her words.
I didn't even realize I was singing to him.
I had no clue I was being joyful while simply going through the motions and changing my 138th diaper this week. All I have felt this week was survival mode from having a sick baby and the majority of my emotions were felt with fear and anxiety and massive exhaustion and guilt from not being enough for my older four at times.
That is what I noticed about myself this last week.
I didn't notice anything passed the deep bags beneath my eyes and the unfavorable emotions or my reactions to high levels of stress.
But isn't that what we do, as mothers, all too often? We so easily can pinpoint everything we're doing wrong, what we feel guilty about. Little do we ever notice the good we're doing, and the most beautiful, refreshing thing about this entire situation in the parking lot?
I never would have stopped to think that I was joyful doing that. If I'm being real with you, I had zero clue I was singing to my baby while changing his diaper, and the most moving part about this isI'm sure there are so many other moments that while in "autopilot " survival mode, I've been cuddling and singing and giving smooches and being a really good mom even when I feel like I'm drowning.
I sent a text to a business partner this week, "Flying solo SUCKS."
I fell apart on the phone to the pediatrician that my fear and exhaustion for this precious baby boy had me anxious every moment, not knowing what was normal and what should have had me alarmed. And as I hurried through my young daughter's bath the other night, "Honey, we're not playing tonight. Come on, we're just doing what we've got to do and getting out. Let me rinse your hair, come on."
She looked me square in my exhausted eyes and said, "Mommy, do you know you're strong? I'm strong like you, too."
Motherhood is sometimes feeling 14 different emotions all at the same time, but due to being our own worst critics, never noticing all the good things we are doing and the massive impact we are having.
We're doing good even when we feel like we may not be. Moms, we've got this. Whether you want to believe this or not, you do. You've got this.
This essay was previously published here.