The snow had been falling for a week straight. My two children were on their fourth straight snow day, but my son's basketball practice wasn't called off. The kids and I were all going stir-crazy inside the house, so I took my chances. We all bundled up and escaped to watch my son play a little basketball. The second we walked through those doors and into the gymnasium, I regretted that decision immensely.
My son hurried onto the court to join his buddies shooting hoops. I pulled up two chairs for myself and my preschool-aged daughter. I came prepared. I packed snacks and her small book bag full of toys. But from the get-go, she wasn't having it. And the accumulated snow and time spent inside the walls of our house made both of us combative.
First, she started whining for "more stuff to do," then she didn't like the snacks I packed, and then came the full-blown tantrum.
"You're fine," I told her. "Play with what you have."
I smiled and shrugged my shoulders at the mothers around me, but inside I felt like I was melting. Sweat seeped from my forehead and armpits. I was a veteran mom; I knew that sometimes kids simply act like jerks, but the stress of it all got to me. I started to choke down my tears. Motherhood had overwhelmed me once again.
But as soon as I was going to cave and let those tears skip down my cheeks, another mother pulled up her chair.
This woman had two small boys with her and one more bouncing a ball on the court. She motioned to her preschool-aged son and said, "Can you share your crayons and coloring book with the little girl?" The boy smiled and walked over to my daughter. She smiled back and the two immediately began coloring together. A snow day miracle.
Right away, the other mother and I began chit-chatting. I didn't waste any time admitting my current feelings.
"It's just been a really hard week. The kids, the snow days, being stuck inside, and all they do is fight." I quite literally couldn't shut up. I started to vent and I couldn't stop. And she didn't mind, not one bit.
"Oh, I hear you," she said. "Don't worry. I've been there. Just because my kids are behaving right now, doesn't mean they do at home!"
With that one comment, this stranger was telling me, in true mom code, the one thing all mothers need to hear: Motherhood is hard—for everyone.
Her response quieted the stress within me that motherhood often brings. She allowed me to feel a lot better about the week I was having. I was doing better than I thought, after all.
This mother made me recognize that I am not alone—no mother is. And this stranger, she had far more to complain about compared to me. She already had three children (compared to my two) and was 37 weeks pregnant with another on the way. Now, that is a lot to handle. But you know what? She wasn't interested in making motherhood into a competition. Instead, she was in the business of building women up—not tearing them down.
So often we see mothers interested in competing against one another, especially on social media. But what goes unseen are the women who are in the trenches with other mothers lending out a helping hand—getting them out of their holes instead of pushing them in deeper. There are plenty of mothers out there, just like the lovely stranger at my son's basketball practice. And it's time they get the salutes they deserve.
When you see a mother sinking into a hole, don't pat yourself on the back and think what a great job I'm doing. Instead, remember the times you desperately wished someone had extended a hand out to you—and helped pull you up. Be that person for someone else—that person all mothers need from time-to-time.
Motherhood isn't a competition. It's a game to be played together.