It was a bad night last night. The two-year-old woke up around 5:00am, certain it was time to start the day. I was incredibly exhausted when I went to bed and, after waking several times between 10:00pm and 5:00am to nurse the four-month-old, I was feeling more tired than when I had gone to sleep. I was not my ideal self. I was not the version of mother I prefer to be. I did not treat my child or myself with the full respect I believe we deserve. It was a bad night. You’ve had them, right?
And then, this morning, while I was having five glorious minutes of quiet time in the shower, I made a connection that I am really hoping will save me the next time I’m overly exhausted and my son is being a two-year-old (which will probably be later today). I was pondering some of my mom friends and thinking about how many things I know about them that the average person they encounter doesn’t know. I’ve held a lot of stories over these past two years – stories from moms who wake up 4 times at night to pump breastmilk for their baby who can’t nurse from the breast; moms who feel intense shame about their postpartum bodies; moms who confess to yelling at their kids at their worst moments; moms who aren’t sure that they want to stay married anymore; moms who are having a hard time conceiving; moms who are worried about re-living the trauma of their first birth the second time around; and on and on. What I’ve learned from my mama friends is that moms are incredibly good at carrying on. We can put on a happy face and just keep swimming, swimming, swimming – sometimes for days on end.
But those of us who have held these stories know the truth: everyone you meet is fighting a battle. Beneath the surface, everyone’s got something going on and it’s not always pleasant. So the best course of action is to be kind. In mama circles this often means to we should stop being such a bunch of judgey-judgersons. Because we don’t know why that other mama is doing what she’s doing. We don’t know what battle she’s fighting.
And as I was standing there in the shower this morning – exhausted from being awakened at 5:00am, I realized that I should be remembering this very thing when I am interacting with my children. The bumper sticker works for two-year-olds, too.
Be kind, mama. Everyone (even your two-year-old or your four-month-old) is fighting a battle.
Maybe next time I’ll muster up some patience and remember that even though he may not be able to explain to me what’s going on, there’s a reason that he’s awake and out-of-sorts at 5:00am. He’s fighting some kind of battle. And even if I don’t ever find out what it is, I can at least remember to be kind.