A photo of my disgusting car went viral. And sorry, but I’m not sorry.

A couple of years ago, I posted a picture of what the seat of my car looked like after I had removed a car seat. The rest of my car was actually not too bad, but underneath that car seat was a scene of sheer destruction and horror that only someone who has had to move a car seat could possibly understand.

Ladies . . . it was a hot mess: 

messy seat in a car, color photoThere were crushed up crackers, puffy Cheetos, and Cheerios. There were crunched up Goldfish sprinkled around, and, inexplicably, a Bubble Guppies sticker attached to a popsicle. I had never seen so many orange snacks at one time, but for some reason, there they all were, collected on the underside of my daughter’s car seat.

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And honestly? I thought it was hysterical and oh, so real. So I shared it on our Instagram page.

It wasn’t long before the thing blew up, and with it, so did my confidence in myself as a mother and a reasonably clean person.

Certainly, there were lots of people who related to the image. Many jokingly asked how the sites that shared the image got a picture of their car. Many shared laughing emojis, tagged their partners, and clearly commiserated with what I had found underneath it. There were thousands of shares from people who totally understood where I was coming from.

And then there were the others.

Some simply stated this was the exact reason no one should ever let their kids eat in the car. Others said pictures like this were the reason they didn’t have children. Many questioned why there was so much junk food under the seat and asked what kind of mother would feed her kids so much processed food.

I was called a slob, a mess, and a disaster. I was told I was an embarrassment to mothers everywhere. Some even questioned if I should be allowed to keep my kids, seeing as how my life was so disgustingly filthy.

I was, naturally, taken aback. But the one thing I never was, was sorry.

My car may be a mess, but my life isn’t. Every day I experience the ups and downs of motherhood. Some days are beautiful, full of sweet treats and forehead kisses. Some are a disaster, filled to the brim with thinly-veiled bribes and desperate pleas for the kids to just behave.

But the image of the car seat, messy as it may be, will never make me ashamed. It tells the story of this season, and of the messy, wonderful life I share with the two delicious little terrors entrusted to my care.

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Those crackers represented times when I kept my daughter entertained while her baby brother snuck in his only nap of the day.

The Goldfish kept them from ruining their naps on a long drive home from Pretend City, my daughter’s favorite place in the whole wide world.

The lollipop was from Paul’s, our favorite outdoor restaurant and one of the few places we could take our two kids to eat without causing a scene.

The footprints on my console are where my children stood so they could see out of the sunroof, dancing and cheering like rock stars as we waited for the library to open.

The cotton candy stuck to the seat was from a family trip to Chuck E. Cheese where for three scary minutes we couldn’t find the baby. We found him safe and sound, right where we left him, but I was so shocked and disrupted I used a cotton candy bribe to end our trip early.

The Bubble Guppies sticker was from the time my daughter received a flu shot and felt so betrayed she instantly burst into tearsnot from the pain but from the shock. That sticker-on-a-stick was how I brought her back into my arms and showed her that even in the worst of times, we were a team.

I’m not saying I love the fact that my car was–and is–a mess. Far from it. But I wouldn’t change those momentsthe road trips, the sleeping babies, and the hard and beautiful work of mothering these little onesfor the world. 

Someday my car will be clean again. Someday these kids will be grown.

I’m sure I won’t remember the embarrassment of having a dirty car, and I’m sure I’ll even forget exactly how to get stuck-on cotton candy out of upholstery. (Boiling hot water and a dish scrubber for the inquiring minds that need to know.)

And long after the cotton candy is gone and the windows are clean, I will be left with the memories of these messy, complicated, and truly beautiful days. I will remember the road trips, and the dancing, and the unique mix of joy and exhaustion that described this season.

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I will always remember this brief, shining period when my kids were little and my life was the most beautiful of messes.

Jaymi Torrez

Jaymi Torrez blogs at TheSaltyMamas.com with her bestie and blogging partner Christine. She has two small children and a super cool husband. Jaymi dreams of five minutes peace and going to the bathroom alone, but can more often be found holding a two year old on her lap while writing about the ups and downs of parenting.