We moms all have dark days. Days that start at 5 a.m. and don’t even end after our heads hit the pillow. Days where we can’t listen to one more demand for food, can’t wipe one more butt, and can’t be touched for one more second.
Days where our exhaustion isn’t just physical, but mental, too, where it feels like the weight of the world—and the happiness of everyone in it — rests squarely on our shoulders.
It’s a lonely darkness, a melancholy that is often mixed with anger and fear. But it’s normal. All of us moms have felt that way at times.
We all need different things on days like that. But what we don’t need is advice for how to snap out of it, how #blessed we really are, or how unappreciative we are acting.
On the dark days of motherhood, we don’t need to hear “you are not alone,” because no one is with us now, our kids on the floor fighting over a miniature red truck, the sounds of their shrieks like tiny needles pricking our skin.
Don’t tell us that “this too will pass,” because we are in it this very minute, standing over a child who is refusing to do their homework even after we’ve asked and bribed and begged, the anger in our throats rising, the sounds and words coming out of our mouths freaking us out — actually scaring the shit out of us — because we sound just like the mother we never wanted to be.
Please don’t say “enjoy every second,” because we can’t make ourselves enjoy our existence right now — greasy, unwashed hair in a messy ponytail as we trudge behind the baby, who insists on eating rice directly out of the Chinese takeout container, leaving a trail of sticky rice all over the house as he toddles along.
And don’t follow up with “but a messy house is a normal house,” because we are not you, and some of us get so clenched and anxious when the house is covered in toys from end to end. For some of us, clutter and messes trigger anxiety and maybe even rage.
For most of us, the dark days don’t come every day, and we are grateful for that. But when they are here, the last thing we want is advice. The last thing we want is some sugar-coated offering to try to numb our pain.
The pain is real when we’re in the thick of it. The dark cloud is over us, and we don’t want fake light shining over our lives. We want commiseration. We want understanding. We want solidarity, and someone to say, “I get it. I’ve been there too.” We want to dwell in the darkness a little, feel the hell out of how shitty things are right now. And then move on.
As moms, we always tell our children to talk about their feelings. We understand that their feelings are BIG, real, and deserve care and attention. We work with our kids to get in touch with their feelings, name them, work through them — and then, hopefully, let them go.
It’s the same for us. We need validation too. So often we are the ones playing the martyr, sucking it up, and putting our most difficult feelings on the back-burner, to be addressed at some other time, sometime when everyone doesn’t need us all at once. Which is never.
We can’t bottle up our feelings. It isn’t healthy. We need to be heard too. Even the most painful, angry, miserable feelings need a platform, a voice.
Most moms love their children deeply, relentlessly, to the moon and back, and are just about the last people you would hear complaining, begrudging their lives as moms. Most of us realize that our children are precious gifts and that we are abundantly lucky to spend our days with them.
But on those dark days, we need to be real — with others and with ourselves. And too often, it seems like there is very little room for true honesty. If we speak the truth, we run the risk of sounding ungrateful, mean, or whiny.
But can’t we just be human?
Parents need less advice and more listening. True listening, without judgment, without an agenda. Without someone trying to make everything all nice and tidy, all Pinterest-perfect or Instagram-ready.
Parents need to hear “Yeah, some days motherhood sucks. Yes, you are totally fucking alone sometimes.”
And they don’t need to follow up with “But you’ll miss these years after they pass.” Of course we will miss it all. We know that already. We don’t need to hear it again.
The dark days do pass. We get that. But when we are in them, we need to be able to sit in the darkness without pretense or guilt. It’s therapeutic. It’s healing. It’s how we move through the darkness into the light.