It's funny, sometimes, how a few simple words can change a person's entire outlook. For mom of three, Anna Strode of @bubs2bikinis on Instagram, that's exactly what happened earlier with week when she was approached by an elderly couple at a cafe. In fact, these words from a stranger is all it took to turn around this mom's stressful day.
On Nov. 2, Strode was deep in the trenches of parenting three young children, which in her case, consists of twin toddler boys and an infant daughter. One toddler was crying over a spilled drink, her other little guy was running around rogue, and Strode's cranky baby girl was strapped to her and fussing in a carrier — all while the frazzled mama attempted to clean the sticky mess off the floor and not completely lose her sh*t. “Part of me wanted to laugh but the other half of me wanted to sit down on the ground and cry while screaming ‘Help me, I’m exhausted and I just can’t MUM today!'” Strode wrote on both Instagram and Facebook. Hey, we've all been there. Who could blame this overwhelmed mom?
That's when she heard them, the eight words that changed her entire outlook: "They were the best days of our lives," an older man, who appeared to be in his 80s, told the outnumbered mom. "I turned and smiled 'REALLY?!' And the little old man and lady both nodded at me as mrs old lady said, 'The best by far,'" Strode wrote.
Strode continued, writing:
The chaos around me suddenly didn't feel painful or frustrating anymore. I wanted to bottle it up and STOP time because I realised in that moment that one day my babies will be all grown up with their own babies and they won't need me anymore.
This. So this. During the summer months, when my grade-schooler is home all day, every day, this is basically my mantra. My son is an energetic, curious little guy who Never. Stops. Talking. His constant stream of questions, requests, and general verbalization of every thought is exhausting for me, his introverted mom who craves silence. Then, when school starts back up in the fall, the house is eerily quiet — even with his two younger sisters in the house. I think to myself, "Is this a preview of what's to come, when he's grown? This feels so wrong."
In Strode's post, she comes to a similar realization. One day, she and her husband might be the older couple sitting at a cafe watching young parents with their little ones — wishing their babies hadn't grown up so quickly. "Those 8 words have been on replay in my head since I heard them 2 days ago," Strode wrote. "It really struck a cord with me." She continued:
Because you know what - it's SO TRUE! The catnapping, the tantrums, the getting up 100 times a night, the co-sleeping, the messy house, the endless washing, the constant exhaustion. One day we're going to miss all this...! Sure, these days can be hard, they can be testing, they can be down right challenging but I bet you a MILLION bucks, they will be the BEST DAMN DAYS OF OUR LIVES. Let's LIVE in the MOMENT and EMBRACE the CHAOS.
Strode's moment of clarity seems to have hit home for a fair amount of people. This is evident by the fact that her Instagram post has already attracted more than 6,500 likes so far. Not to mention, a slew of comments. "This made me well up, single working Mama of 2 here, permanently shattered," one Instagram user replied. "I need to remember these words instead of rushing through the days until bedtime." Another Instagram user chimed in with, "I have always remembered someone telling me, 'the days are long but the years are fast.' I can see my boys growing up so fast ... I so do miss them being little."
From time to time, I have the same embrace-the-moment-no-matter-how-much-it-sucks epiphany. "Enjoy it now, when they're young," well-meaning strangers have said to me when I'm struggling with three kids alone at the grocery store. "You'll miss this someday." Usually, I just smile and nod — even though on the inside I'm thinking, "Gee, thanks. That doesn't exactly help my current situation or alleviate my through-the-roof stress level." Nevertheless, I suspect there is a universal truth in this common tidbit of wisdom.
That's not to say the difficult parenting days don't drive me to the brink of insanity. No matter how hard I try to remind myself that "this too, shall pass," some days, all this mama wants to do is hide in the bathroom for a few hours with a bowl of chocolate. And earplugs. And a soft kitten purring in my lap. Because even though I strive to exist in the moment as much as possible, this whole parenting thing is hard. And it's okay to acknowledge this, too.
Still, there's no doubt in my mind that one day, I too, will look back at this time while confessing to a complete stranger, "They were the best days of my life."