Smack dab in the middle of Sam’s Club, motherhood broke me.

Little sleep, an embarrassment of pregnancy hormones, and one poorly-timed toddler meltdown left me sobbing into my best friend’s shoulder, listening to the sound of my wildly tantruming toddler mix with the hustle and bustle of shoppers passing by. When I finally gathered the courage to lift my head, I hoped to find a few sympathetic faces. A soft smile from a mom who had “been there, done that”. A compassionate nod from a cashier who had no doubt seen this kind of thing before, perhaps.

Instead, I saw only irritated stares, pointing fingers, and even a few eye rolls, all cold enough to rival the freezer section just down the aisle. 

Ouch.

I thank God for my friend and her warm shoulder, but I couldn’t help but leave feeling incredibly let down. By my child. By myself. But more than anything, by every stranger whose tacit response left me craving that benevolent village I know is out there.

My drive home was filled with silent sobs as I let the situation begin to melt away. I loved on my child, extended the grace I knew he deserved, and sent him out to play. But a striking thought began bouncing around in my head that day and hasn’t stopped since.

I hope I never forget how hard this is.

So often we feel the judgment of others like a hot iron scorching into us. How easy is it to let an unkind comment or over-the-top sigh ruin our day and destroy the value we hold as mothers? How often do we hide that formula-filled bottle or cover up that nursing baby, terrified of the comments and glares we are bound to receive?

I’ve come to realize that most people, well-meaning or not, who pass unfair judgments onto mamas like me should be forgiven and forgiven quickly. If only because they don’t know how hard motherhood is. 

Or they’ve simply forgotten.

May we never forget how hard it is to wake up every hour on the hour, only to be expected to function like normal the next day.

May we never forget how hard it is to care for little lives while constantly being reminded to give that same care to our spouse, our home, our job. Even ourselves.

May we never forget that each age/child/situation is different. No two parents will ever have the exact same experience.

May we never forget that parents of teenagers need just as much support as parents of toddlers. Maybe more.

Finally, may we never forget that motherhood is nothing more than a series of rocky roads littered with beautiful flowers and remarkable scenery. And when we see another mother broken down, stopping to help will always be better than just driving by.

It’s easy to let the passage of time wipe away the memory of the rough days, the tough nights, and everything in between. And while I no doubt want to hold onto the good memories of motherhood over the bad, I know I can’t let it all be completely forgotten. Because in forgetting the dark times I run the risk of making another mother’s struggles that much more challenging.

And that would be a very real shame.

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Kayla Runkel

Kayla is a former marketer turned stay-at-home-mom to two sweet boys. You can follow her blog, The Rustic Hideaway, or her writing page, K.C. Runkel. When she is not writing, Kayla loves teaching fitness classes, reading books, and spending time with her husband and sons exploring her favorite place in the world, Wyoming. Or as she simply calls it: home.