I saw her and her three kids, all under 5-years-old, in the parking lot of the warehouse club. She had one attached to her in a sling, one scurrying away from mom’s held out hand and headed directly into traffic, and one standing frozen at the store’s exit, sobbing frantically while wailing out the words “I’m not gooooooooing with you.” Alone, I slowly pushed past her with my cart, my heart aching a little and my mind full of encouraging words she probably really needs to hear. Gentle words and inspiring phrases, calming anecdotes and heartening narratives were all ready to dance off my tongue and into her heart, all in the hopes to get that weary mom through what was looking to be a rotten day. But nothing came out. Because what I know she really needs to hear is not a bunch of “It goes by so quickly. Enjoy these days with little ones. There is joy in mothering,” but rather, a big ‘ol dose of truth. Truths of great things to look forward to, truths of just how much better things will eventually get.
So to the all the moms miserably schlepping through parking lots with a mother lode of helpless kids, and yearning to just throw in the towel, I have some truths for you. Don’t worry, they have a happy ending.
1. It’s gonna keep on sucking for a few more years. Like majorly sucking. No getting around it. It’s a rite of parenting passage, so hang tough.
2. Your toddlers may watch TV all day, sometimes. Their faces may be in tablets so you can take a shower, and smartphones may be in their hands so you can make dinner. Let the guilt go. They will not need therapy in 10 years because of it. As a matter of fact, they’ll be able to quickly change your home’s IP address and illegally access Europe’s version of Netflix as teenagers. You know, the whole technology natives thing. It’s awesome.
3. You will not like your husband for a while. I mean, you will really not like him. Resentment will fester like weeds in a summer lawn. But you will fall back in major love with him because of the amazing father he will grow into. And I promise you will have great and lusty sex again. But this time, using birth control. Which makes it even better.
4.The first day all of them are in school will blow your mind. It’s the ideal time and perfectly acceptable to embark on an entire school year of “It’s all about me.” Go for it. Hit the selfishness hard, momma! It will make you a better mother.
5. The ship you’re currently running everyday isn’t actually sinking. Now it feels like it takes on enough water to drown the entire crew, but one day it will sail like a newly christened cruise ship. Your deck hand days will be long gone. And it’s good to be the captain of an inefficiently run and badass family ship. Damn good.
6. All those people telling you teenagers are from hell? Okay, so they’re a little right. But they forget to add that teenagers have electric and highly entertaining personalities—and they sleep a ton. And they drive themselves to stuff. Hallelujah.
7. Shopping alone is just as blissful as you think it will be. Having lunch out alone is even better. And a midday, midweek movie? Orgasmic.
8. The day will come when you’re the been-there-done-that mom in the parking lot. You’ll be helplessly watching a younger version of yourself corral a handful of small and unruly kids. If you feel moved to go tell her something encouraging, by all means do it. But if you decide to just say a silent prayer for her and enjoy the peace and quiet you’ve earned, well, that’s just fine, too.
Happy ending time. Yes, you will in fact, be that mom walking alone in the parking lot someday. And it will happen a whole helluva lot quicker than you can ever imagine. Trust me.