I saw you today in the grocery store. I saw the fatigue on your face and the glimmer of a tear in your eye as you told your busy toddler “no” for the fifteenth time.
I saw you wince, then adjust the baby sling on your shoulder. I noticed that your steps were slow as you pushed your cart down the aisle, probably because just being outside of the house felt like a treat.
I saw you today and I remembered. I remembered struggling through that stage with two children of my own. When the days seemed endlessly long, and the tedium threatened to overwhelm me.
I saw you today, and I want to tell you: it’s okay.
Some days, you will be doing well to just get through the daylight hours with everyone alive and fed. Those are the times when the baby fusses, your toddler rebels, or you feel like you are drowning in laundry and kid-created messes. During those times, it’s okay to leave the TV on all day and never change out of your pajamas. And if your partner returns home from work in the evening to find pizza delivery on the table instead of a home-cooked meal, that’s okay too.
Some days, you will awake with a plan for the day. You are going to clean! Cook! Complete a project from start to finish for once! Sometimes you will accomplish your mission. But more often, your plans will be destroyed by a diaper explosion, followed by a toddler dumping a bag of cereal on the floor, topped off by both kids refusing to go down for a nap. If you yell on those days, it’s okay. If you take a little longer than usual to fold clothes in the laundry room while polishing off a package of Oreos, it’s okay. If you put both kids to bed and hide in the bathroom to get yourself together, that’s okay too.
Some days, you will browse Pinterest or Facebook and compare yourself to those picture-perfect parents who post projects and advice. Suddenly you will think that you are clearly not providing enough educational activities at home. Why haven’t you created a sensory bin for your toddler or introduced your newborn to classical music? And instead of purchasing your nursery layette at a chain baby store, you now wonder if you should’ve sewn your own, or ordered custom bedding and decor created for your baby by an Etsy seller. Really, your kids and their rooms are okay.
Some days, another mom’s comments and suggestions will make you feel terrible. When she observes your child eating Cheerios off of the floor she will remind you of the toxic chemicals you use to clean the linoleum. Her children go straight to bed every night without argument, she will inform you. And when you put your toddler in time out, she will boast that her children have learned to listen, so that she hardly ever needs to give her kids consequences anymore. If you momentarily hate her, that’s okay.
Some days, you will find yourself feeling irrationally angry with your partner, all because he or she gets to leave the house to work and you don’t. Then, when you finally go out with friends, you will sometimes find it hard to enjoy yourself because you are so tired, and because you feel unexplainably guilty for leaving the baby for a few hours. That’s okay, too.
Some days, you’ll hear or read a variation on one of these quotes: Enjoy every moment!l Before you know it your kids will be grown and gone! You’ll miss this someday! Those comments might make you feel both angry and guilty. Angry, because you are already tired of advice from well-meaning grandparents. And guilty, because some days you really don’t enjoy being at home with your children. That’s okay.
The best thing I have to offer you right now in the frozen food aisle is to tell you that this parenting thing does get easier. And that even on those days when you feel like you are failing, you are enough. It’s okay.
Someday, you’ll say that too.