We can try as hard as we possibly can, but sometimes things are just messy.
It's amazing how the smallest thing can change your whole perspective on life. For me, it was the kind words of a stranger.
I was leaving a mommy-and-me gym class, on my way to pick up my preschooler, holding my toddler by one hand and the carseat with my newborn in the other. I opened the door and my toddler made a bee-line for the parking lot—just slipped out of my hand and bolted.
By some marvel of mama-power I was able to grab him before he got there, without dropping my newborn—but not without falling, tearing my pants and skinning both my knees.
I just sat down on the sidewalk and cried. I was relieved he was okay of course, but I just felt so tired, so defeated. That's when she came—another mom I hardly knew, from the class I just left.
She knelt down next to me, put her hand on my back and said, “You're not doing it wrong. It's just that hard."
In that one moment, with my hair matted to my tear-soaked cheeks and searing pain shooting down my legs, she made me realize it wasn't my fault. That I could try as hard as I possibly could every day, but sometimes things would just be messy.
As mothers, we often start to believe that if something isn't going right, that it's our fault.
'Clearly I am missing something that would make this easier.'
'Other moms seem to have this figured out, why can't I?'
'If only I was [fill in the blank]-er, this wouldn't be a problem right now.'
And so, dear mama, I want to say loud and clear—it's not your fault.
If you are trying so hard to limit your kids' screen time, but literally have no other way to make a phone call, cook dinner or get a moment of quiet—you're not doing it wrong, it's just that hard.
If you desperately miss your partner and wish you could spend more time together, but find yourself collapsing into bed—alone—because you are just too touched out to consider anything romantic—you're not doing it wrong, it's just that hard.
If you spend hours a day washing, folding and wiping, but every evening your floors are still covered with Legos, crumbs and tiny socks—you're not doing it wrong, it's just that hard.
If you would love to run a 5k, but can't even find five minutes to train, let alone get to the gym—you're not doing it wrong, it's just that hard.
If you've read three and a half books on sleep, tried everything and your baby still just won't sleep through the night—you're not doing it wrong, it's just that hard.
If you get so much conflicting parenting advice from every corner of your life that all you can hear is noise so loud it drowns out your confidence in the fact that you are the best person to make decisions about your child—you're not doing it wrong, it's just that hard.
If you lived on Pinterest for weeks researching baby's first birth party ideas, stayed up until 2 a.m. multiple nights in a row DIYing decorations and cupcakes, only to have to cancel it last-minute because the baby got pink eye—you're not doing it wrong, it's just that hard.
If every time you cross something off your to-do list you add two more to-do's—you're not doing it wrong, it's just that hard.
If you love your job but feel like you can't devote your attention to it the way you used to—you're not doing it wrong, it's just that hard.
If you really dislike your job but can't leave because you need the money/insurance/tenure—you're not doing it wrong, it's just that hard.
If you love being a stay-at-home mom but are sick of feeling like you have to defend your choice to everyone—you're not doing it wrong, it's just that hard.
If you thought you wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, but now that you're here, you find that it's really not what you envisioned—you're not doing it wrong, it's just that hard.
If you love your children so much it hurts, yet check the clock repeatedly to see if it's bedtime yet—you're not doing it wrong, it's just that hard.
In that moment when I felt like a complete and total failure, the stranger outside of gym class saw an exhausted mama who was trying so hard to take care of her kids, even when it left her bleeding and crying on a sidewalk. She saw me more clearly than I could see myself—as a mama who was doing a good job.
And so, darling mama, allow me to pay it forward—
Finding time when you are a mother is just hard.
Working on relationships when you are a mother is just hard.
Keeping the house clean when you are a mother is just hard.
Exercising when you are a mother is just hard.
Making parenting decisions when you are a mother is just hard.
Feeling like you can get stuff done when you are a mother is just hard.
Figuring out if and how to balance a career when you are a mother is just hard.
Sometimes it's all just really hard. Not because you are doing it wrong, simply because it is.
The fact that you keep going, keep cuddling, keep cleaning, keep planning and keep loving in spite of how hard it is, is your super power. You're doing the hardest job on the planet with dedication, grace and love—and there is nothing wrong in that.
Ask for help, be gentle on yourself and know that you are not alone.
This story was originally published on December 11, 2017.