Yesterday I met a friend for coffee. It was one of those rare days when both of us had a window between school drop-off, errands, work and school pick-up, so we jumped on the opportunity. And then we spent the entire precious hour talking—no, scratch that—venting about our children and how hard this motherhood gig is.
Afterward, I walked away thinking I should have asked her where she got her shoes (which I’d subconsciously noticed upon arrival because they were lovely) or what she thought about what had been on the news that morning or where she and her husband had gone on their last date night. Or really anything that made me feel like we were actual grown-ups enjoying a coffee together, rather than exhausted, automated parenting machines close to burnout.
Truthfully, I left that coffee date feeling better than I had in ages. Refreshed. Relieved. Lighter and better able to parent for the rest of the day. I felt less like an automated parenting machine than I had in a very long time.
Because in that short precious hour, all of our walls came down, all pretensions of having our lives in order were left at the door and we were free. We gave each other unspoken permission to be imperfect. Together, in that short stolen hour, we were able to bare our ugliest secrets, our silliest insecurities, our pettiest worries and our darkest fears about life as a mom.
We opened up about how much iPad time had really been consumed in our homes while we were parenting solo over the weekend. We told the barefaced truth about how we feel about our almost-3-year-olds when they kick off their rain boots before jumping in the muddy puddles, and we commiserated over how many dinners we had cooked this week that didn’t get eaten.
We lamented how well-behaved every other toddler seems to be in comparison to our own and then reassured each other that, of course, that isn’t the case.
We openly admitted to the shameless administration of lingering Halloween treats as bribes and to promising we would ban screen time as threats (all the while praying we wouldn’t have to).
And we found that in the last week we had both crawled exhaustedly into our toddlers’ beds late at night after a day of shouting—and cried guilty, remorseful tears into their hot, sleepy little necks.
We laid it all bare. And it was bliss.
What I came away with after that coffee date was so much more than a much-needed caffeine fix. It was more than an idle hour of chat without interruption from our children. It was more than good company of a like-minded friend.
On that morning, it was a hand reaching out into the chaos and pulling me to calm. It was an affirmation that I’m not going mad and that everybody feels like this sometimes. It was camaraderie in the trenches of motherhood.
It was knowing there is a safe place where somebody will say, “Hey, me too.”
By admitting our weaknesses to each other, we are making ourselves—and each other—stronger.
In a world where we’re hard enough on ourselves every day, we empathize with one another—because we’re all doing our best but sometimes we need a friend to tell us so in order for us to actually believe it.
When we have the courage to admit our imperfections, we always, always discover we are loved in return, not despite these imperfections but because of them—and because the expression of them made somebody else feel less alone.
To every mama out there, I hope you have a friend—or many—that you can be your completely imperfect self with. A friend—or many—who will assure you that you’re the only one judging your mothering skills. A friend who will remind you that your children love you anyway.
I hope you have this friend and that now—right this moment—you will pick up your phone and schedule that coffee date. Because life is hard enough and you know what? You deserve it.
A version of this story was published February 12, 2019. It has been updated.