I'm usually the "struggling mom," a few hours late to an appointment with stains on my shirt, my son throwing a tantrum because I skipped his nap time on accident and forgot to pack a necessary snack. However, I also consider myself a grown-ass mom, in that I'm still confident in my parenting abilities (usually) and not one to judge my fellow moms (or anyone else). So, while it doesn't happen very often, there are things every grown-ass mom does when she sees another mom struggling that I try to do whenever I'm not the one, you know, tripping and falling all over myself like the hot mess I am.
I've been on the receiving end of so many grown-ass moms' support and understanding and kindness, that it's somewhat difficult for me to buy into idea that the whole "mommy wars" culture is even a real thing. I mean, I know it is. I've been judged and shamed and publicly ridiculed via the wonder that is social media by other mothers, too. However, for every mother who will raise an eyebrow at you while you make one of what will likely be many mistakes, there's another mother who will be messing up right along side you, asking if you need help or simply reminding you that you're not alone. Those mothers, of course, are grown-ass mothers, and they're the ones you should try to surround yourself with.
So, if you fancy yourself a grown-ass mom and you see another mom struggling, I have a feeling you'll be doing the following things. #SquadGoals
She Doesn't Judge
It's easy to look at someone else who's struggling, point a judgmental finger and think to yourself, "Well, at least I've never done that before."
The only problem? As a parent, you probably have. If you haven't yet, you probably will. Having been a mom for a little over two years, I can tell you that I've messed up in a number of varying, almost entertaining but always sh*tty ways (and I know I will continue to do so for always). While time can be kind and usually helps you forget, it's import — as a grown-ass mom — not to be too removed from your own mishaps. After all, you're capable of messing up just as much as anyone else.
She Remembers That She Struggles, Too
Honestly, it's not that hard for me forget; I'm struggling on a regular basis as a full-time working mom with a vibrant (read: defiant) 2-year-old toddler. When I see another mom struggling I don't think, "Oh, thank god I'm not her." Instead, I think, "Oh man, I am exactly like her. Thank god I'm not alone." #GrownAssMom
She Doesn't Assume The Struggling Mom Is A "Bad Mom"
Dealing with a particular hard day (or week, or even year) isn't indicitive of your mom-skills or how much you love your kid or anything quantifiable about your parenting capabilities.
Just because you forgot a kid's snack and you're spilling your iced beverage all over yourself while you're running late to an appointment and your kid is screaming and throwing a tantrum, doesn't mean you're a "bad mom." It just means you're having a hard day, and there isn't a person in the world who doesn't know what those days are like (and how much they suck).
She Doesn't Consider Herself To Be A "Superior" Mom
Look, we all seek out validation and want to feel like we're being our best mom-selves. After all, parenting is hard and it's helpful to get a boost every now and then.
However, a grown-ass mom knows that "boost" shouldn't come at the hands of someone else's struggles. You don't need to put someone down in order to feel superior, and you don't need to revel in someone else's mishaps in order to feel better about your own.
She Offers To Help, If It's Appropriate To Do So...
When you see a mom struggling, I think it's important to assess the situation and the surroundings and her demeanor before you contemplate interjecting. If you think you can help — and you think it's appropriate for you to ask if she wants and/or needs help — then, as a grown-ass mom, you'll probably be the first to lend a helping hand. However, there are moments when interjecting can only make the situation worse.
For example, I was on a cross-country flight with a mom and her brand new baby. The baby wouldn't stop crying, and the mom was pacing back and forth at the back of the cabin, crying right along with her little girl. She looked exhausted and desperate and, well, like I looked for the first three months of my son's life. I took the environment and her demeanor into account, got up out of my seat and offered to hold her baby while she sat down to rest or at least take a break. She was grateful, and we ended up having a wonderful conversation about our children.
Then there was an instance at a grocery store, where I watched a mother try to wrangle her tantrum-throwing toddler. I knew (from experience, mostly) that trying to help would only make things much, much worse. Sometimes you can help and, well, sometimes you just can't (and that's OK).
...Or At Least Offers Some Solidarity
When you can't exactly help or better a situation a struggling mom might find herself in, you can at least offer her a look of solidarity that says, "Hey, me too. Hang in there, you got this."
I'll never forget the time a grown-ass mom gave me such a look, while I was struggling to get my kid into his carseat and spilling groceries all over the place and just genuinely wanting to quit my life. She didn't insert herself into the situation (there wasn't much she could do) but she nodded and gave me a nice smile and I knew that I wasn't alone. That, in and of itself, was helpful.
She Learns From Someone Else's Mistakes
I've learned more from observing other mother's than I have from baby books or online forums or hours of Googling. For example, watching a mother struggle to push a stroller and hold her toddler's defiant hand while carrying a baby bag and her purse was enough to convince me babywearing was going to be the name of my parenting game.
She Doesn't Take It Personal If The Struggling Mom Doesn't Want Or Accepts Help
If a mother who seems to be having a tough go of it refuses your help or says she's "OK," or just doesn't want to be bothered, don't take it personally. As a grown-ass mom, I'm going to assume you're aware that, sometimes, having multiple people try to insert themselves into a situation only makes the situation worse.
Plus, you have no idea what's going on in her life and in her headspace. Maybe she needs to finish this task — no matter how much of a disaster it's turned into — because it will give her a source of pride and a feeling of accomplishment that she so desperately needs. I know that sometimes I just need that "win," and I won't feel like I've had it if someone else essentially does something for me.
She Realizes That She's Not Alone In Her Own Struggles
Because a grown-ass mom doesn't think she's inherently "better" than the mom who seems to be struggling, she also knows she's not alone. Honestly, I think knowing that you're part of a tribe is way better than feeling like you're ahead of the game.
When I'm that mom struggling, I'll think about the other mothers I've seen in similar situations and take comfort in the fact that I'm not the only parent feeling like she can't get her sh*t together. I'll remember that I need to be as kind to myself as I was to that struggling mom I saw at the playground or the grocery store or on the airplane. After all, and in the end, we're all just doing our best.