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Recently I saw a post in a mom’s advice group on Facebook that pulled at my weary heartstrings. The mother of a 2-year-old wrote that she was on the brink of losing it. She said she feels like all she’s done lately is tell her child “No,” that she has no help or breaks; she’s exhausted, overwhelmed, and feeling so alone in the relentless stresses of motherhood. Probably, she was just having a rough week. We’ve all been there, right? I certainly have.

The open-ended “Am I alone here?” would have been best met with some mom-to-mom support. Camaraderie. Cheerleader-style enthusiasm. Anything that made it clear that no, she is not alone, and that despite how she feels right now, she’s actually doing a great job. She cares. And we, as fellow moms, care. As I scrolled the comments planning a response of my own along those lines, I noticed a particularly alarming trend: The very last thing she needed to hear in this particularly moment was being said again and again.

One mom wrote that in these moments, we as mothers should remember that our children will only be young once. We shouldn’t complain but rather, should embrace the struggle because life with little kids at home is fleeting and we’ll miss these moments when they’re gone. That we shouldn’t feel sorry for ourselves or resent our kids for their bad behavior. Her comment was met with lots of agreement and I was baffled. And not at all surprised when the original poster disappeared off the chain and stopped responding to comments.

You know what? Sanctimommy was right. About all of it. But in moments of particularly difficult struggles as a parent, what I need, and what I assume this mom needed when asking if she was alone, is comfort. Not guilt. Because here’s the thing: None of us want to have these moments, these days. No mother ever struck out with the hope of feeling overwhelmed and stressed out. None of us wants to spend an entire day disciplining an unruly toddler or crying out of frustration when we can’t get them to sleep, eat, or to stop acting like hooligans.

We already know these days are fleeting. We already stay up at night, long after they’re tucked into bed, and mentally unpack our days, feeling terrible about losing our tempers or resenting them even for a moment. In fact, I believe that at the heart of these moments of mom-desperation is the very deep-seated pain and guilt about just that: here I am, resenting my unruly toddler and exasperated with my own reality, when I know that one day soon I’ll miss this. That underlying guilt is what makes the hard days so much harder.

We already know we’re supposed to cherish the moments. We are painfully aware that one day, not long from now at all, they’ll push us away. They won’t reach for us like they do now. We will no longer be the center of their universe, or at least we won’t feel like it. This crushing truth is what makes those moments where we feel like we’re going to lose it, so much worse.

As for me? I told her what I thought she needed to hear. That she isn’t alone, that we all have those days (weeks), that she should treat herself to a babysitter or fork the kid over to a family member for a couple hours this week to get a manicure or simply drive around in her car alone listening to non-kid-friendly music. I told her that she’s actually doing a great job (even though I have no idea if that’s true, but I know she needed to hear it), and that she’d feel better soon. Because I know all too well how she feels, and I refuse to be one more person to make this poor woman feel worse than she already does.

I get that we all want to help. But I think as moms we need to be a little more sensitive about how we’re helping. Tough love, perspective, weepy memes about what a blessing motherhood is — these all have their place. But when a mom is on the brink of losing it and just needs to vent, I don’t think that’s the place. I had a moment like this myself a couple months ago.

Working 30 hours a week from home and taking care of a toddler on my own all day was wearing me down. After a week of nonstop tantrums and nap refusal, I found myself in full breakdown mode on Friday afternoon. I finally put her in the stroller and took her on a walk into town to get us both some much-needed fresh air. As soon as we got to the checkout line at the drug store, she pitched meltdown number 922 of the week, and I felt like I’d cry myself, right then and there, with a basket full of berries, diapers, and teething remedies.

I braced myself for some kind of heavy-handed warning about time flying from the grandma-type behind the counter. But instead she told me exactly what I needed to hear: “I’ve been there, honey. It isn’t easy. You’re doing a wonderful job. Take a break this weekend and you’ll feel better on Monday.” And you know what? I did just that, and she was absolutely right. Come Monday I was re-energized and ready to tackle another crazy week in Momville. It’s a place I love to live in, but I’m getting used to the fact that I won’t be happy here all day, every day, and that’s totally okay. The one thing mothers don’t need is guilt from outside forces — after all, we’re moms. And we have enough of that as it is. Overall, the love weighs outweighs the rest. Sometimes we just need a moment of peace to recharge and remember that on our own.

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