It was 7:25 a.m. on a Wednesday morning when my husband bounded into our room after his shower to tell me that the fridge had stopped working and all our food had to be thrown out.

He was was drying off, all clean and smelling nice, and was rushing out the door. Away from the problem.

I sat there, our 7-month-old daughter resting in my arms—feeling drained after a night battling her stuffy nose and fevered forehead—praying for whatever plague this was to evaporate in the sunlight. I could deal with no food in the house for a day, I thought, though I would like to trade him for that shower. Water on the skin would feel so good.

When I got downstairs and noticed a leaky sink (along with the broken fridge), with my baby fussing in my arms and the dogs yapping at my heels—I felt like my day was going downhill fast. While I sat tapping my foot, waiting for the plumber—there was a sick baby to care for, an under-the-sink cabinet to keep from flooding, dogs to take out, a house to maintain, my own body to dress and feed…it was already exhausting.

Does this sound like your morning?

I know how hard it is.

Some days I want to scream and cry. Some days the pain of having a baby, from childbirth to their first cold to fussy late afternoons rips through me and I can hardly bear it. I want to bury my head in my now-cold pillow and cry for the days when sleeping in wasn’t a distant memory and when chores were manageable and husbands could leave the house without being missed as desperately as breathable air at the top of a high, desolate mountain.

I know there are moments you would rather not get up and deal with the day—but that’s not an option. There are mouths to feed and homes to care for. There are times when you feel like a castaway. I know because I feel it, too.

In the process of bearing and caring for children, we fill our boats with water and then pail them out, spilling the salt back into the ocean.

Some days, it looks like the boat will sink—torrential water pouring down from the sky and the sea leaking in through small cracks in the timber, and you’ll have to pull out your life vests just to keep your heads above water.

Some days, the sun shines and your boat is dry and bobs on the waves.

Some weeks are spent with a capsized boat, and you sit on top of it, safe but life upside-down.

It’s hard to constantly fill and empty and fill and empty. But in the eye of the storm, try to let the water bring life. The ocean heals, too, despite tsunamis and storms.

On the days when I feel overcome, like I need a bigger pail or a new boat or even a desert to find myself in the center of, I try to embrace the water. Knowing the waves are going to hit, knowing there will be days when I don’t think I can empty my little sea craft, but also knowing that I will always find smooth water again.

So to you, mama, I say: let the moments of absolute despair show you how strong you are, even if you think the current is stronger.

Leaky-sink-broken-fridge day was not a great day. But as it came to a close and I watched my daughter’s eyelashes flutter in dreamland, I was filled with gratitude that despite the rockiness, the storm had passed and our boat had not sunk.

If having children is a voyage into uncharted waters, we would do well to learn how to trim our sails in whatever the weather. At some point, we will all take on water, and at some point, we will all need our life vests. But the well within you is deep.

Despite the rolling, ever-changing ocean—you will find your sea legs, mama. I promise.