I know you are older and wiser and more experienced than this young, struggling mother of small children. I admire you for all you have done, for the children you have raised, for the wisdom that you offer us less-experienced ones. I know that when you make comments like, "Forget about the laundry and just hold that baby" or "They grow up too fast, cherish these moments" or "You'll miss these days" or "Quit whining and count your blessings" they are meant to help. But really, they don't. They just make me feel worse than the already-lacking-mother that I already feel like.
Do you remember what it's like to not want to hold your baby because you've been holding him for 5 hours and he won't quit crying? Do you remember what it's like to lug 2 screaming children (one in each arm) out of Target (or the library or the grocery store or the zoo or whatever) with everyone staring at you? Do you remember what it's like to mop your floor only to have milk spilled all over it 2 minutes later? Do you remember what it's like to make a nice dinner only to have it complained about and then thrown all over the couch? Do you remember what it's like to not remember the last time you got a full night's sleep? Do you remember what it's like to have to think of 23,459 activities to do each day to keep your 3-year-old busy? Do you remember what it's like to feel so lonely because the only person you talk to all day whines for 75% of the time? Do you remember what it's like to not fit in any of your "cute" clothes and having to use all your clothes budget to buy stuff for your kids instead of yourself? Do you remember what it's like to listen to 3 hours of crying every day? Do you remember what it's like to not be able to keep up with the messes, laundry, weeds, meals, etc no matter how hard you try? Do you remember what it's like to live on a budget? Do you remember what it's like to try to keep your kids quiet in church only to have people glare at you when they're not? Do you remember what it's like to never have a free moment for yourself? Do you remember what it's like to have to watch the same Dora show over and over again? Do you remember what it's like to have your child refuse to hold your hand while crossing the street so you have to run after her before a car comes? While holding a baby in your other hand? Do you remember what it's like to not be able to eat a meal in peace? Or eat it before it gets cold? Do you remember what it's like to not get anything out of church because you are pacing the hall with your crying baby?
I really do try to take your advice. I really do try to enjoy the times I have with these children while they are young. I really do try not to stress about keeping up with everything. I really am trying to do the best I can. But I struggle. A lot. I'm sorry I can't do all of those things all the time. I'm sorry I complain sometimes. I'm sorry I just want a friend sometimes. I'm sorry I am not living up to your expectations. I can't do it by myself. I need help.
I used to be a pretty competent and successful person. I've taught hundreds of college students leadership skills and hopefully been a good influence on them. I've served in many church callings. I taught hundreds of people the gospel as a missionary. I've stayed out of debt. I made it through grad school and wrote a thesis. I've been published in several magazines, journals, and newspapers and presented my research and writing at conferences. So why can't I raise children without feeling like I'm going to lose it?
I hope that when I'm in your shoes and look back on these days, I will remember all the good times I'm having with my children. Because really, there are a lot of good times. But I also hope that I remember how hard it was, and I hope that I can help a struggling mother in a way that would actually be helpful. I hope I remember that maybe she could use someone to call her up and offer to take her kids for an afternoon so she could go get a haircut. Or maybe just stop by and talk with her for awhile so she can have some adult interaction. Or maybe I could go weed her flowerbeds or hold her baby during church so she can actually listen to the lesson. Maybe I could treat her to a date night with her husband or even a session at the temple. Or maybe I could just tell her she's doing a good job. Because she probably needs to be reminded of that.
So thank you to those of you who say things like, "Wow, your kids are cute....they must be a handful!" or "Here, let me get that for you." or "You look nice today". You will never know how much those comments help.