You can’t see it in this photo, but this is the face of a mom with a whole lot of tears in her eyes. It’s a mother who is holding back the sobs at middle school pick up line.

You see, I like to think I’m laid back, but the truth is I’m a hyper-overachiever. Those close to me know this. They know I spread myself too thin and overschedule and try to be all the things to all the people. I usually thrive in chaos and love the frenetic pace of our life.

I know that this time is fleeting and I try to make the most of it.

What a lot of people don’t know, however, is how easy it is for me to go to the dark place, how quickly I can retreat into those doubts that consume us as parents. It’s those words that constantly swirl through my mind like “Am I good enough?” or “I’m messing everything up” or “My kids are so going to need to go to therapy as adults.”

I’m no different from nearly every other mom I talk to.

I may put different pressures on myself, but I know we all have moments where we sink into the abyss.

And that’s where I was at 3:58 pm the other day. I was berating myself for missing my daughter’s doctor’s appointment because in my head it was Wednesday and not Thursday. I forgot to email one of the high school teachers about a schedule change. I was replaying an argument I had with one kid and worrying about another. I wondered what I could make for dinner with a refrigerator full of nothing and how could I help my mom more and why did I skip my workout this morning? Why didn’t I finish that work project that I now was going to have to stay up late to complete?

Why couldn’t I just be . . . better?

And as I sat there in my minivan moving faster into a tailspin of mom doubt and despair, a knock on my window jolted me out of my own thoughts.

“Hey there, I hate to be weird, but are you the mom of the 8th grader who did the cello solo at the concert last week?” a woman asked me.

I replied, “I am.”

“I just have to tell you, I thought she was awesome. What a great sense of humor she had and she played beautifully, too! You must be so proud!”

I gave her the biggest closed-lip smile I could muster and a low-pitched “thanks” and she waved as she walked to her car with what looked like a sixth-grade boy carrying a violin.

Then I sat in my car for the next two minutes and cried, realizing yet again just how lucky I was in this life. I cried until that same daughter bounded into the seat next to me, gave me a kiss on the cheek, and we drove home.

I needed that reassurance in that exact moment. I needed someone to knock me out of my own thoughts. It was a gift.

And as day turned to night, I tied up all the things I screwed up earlier. I sent emails and cleaned up messes. I gave hugs and said kind words. I finished projects and wrote out a grocery list. I rescheduled and rejigged and recalibrated my mistakes but more importantly my soul.

I did these tasks with a smile on my face and peace in my heart because another mom reached out to me and pulled me out of my dark place when I needed it most. She reminded me what was important. She gave me assurance when my confidence was low.

She extended a hand when I needed it most—when I didn’t even recognize I needed it myself.

And that’s what the sisterhood of motherhood is all about. It’s about the people who show up on your doorstep with a cup of coffee just because they know you’re going through a rough time. It’s the moms who bring meals to strangers. It’s the woman who stops by your minivan to say a kind word about your kids even though she feels awkward.

It doesn’t matter if you are a mom with a newborn or an empty nester worried about your grandkid, we have to keep reaching down and pulling each other out of the dark places.

Feel free to start with that mom wearing sunglasses in her minivan. She definitely needs it.

Whitney Fleming

Whitney is a mom of three teen daughters, a communications consultant, and blogger. She tries to dispel the myth of being a typical suburban mom although she is often driving her minivan to soccer practices and attending PTA meetings. She writes about parenting, relationships, and w(h)ine on her blog Playdates on Fridays.