I looked up. She stood there holding a capless marker, feverishly gripping it with her whole hand, pushing the tip down so hard it was breaking the orange color down as she drew lines across my coffee table.
In that instant, I snapped, screaming out loud, “NO!” feeling the words vibrate in my own belly. My mouth wide open and my eyes wider, I could see myself through her little face as she looked up and was equally taken aback by my anger, bursting into tears.
But, I did not feel the pang of remorse for yelling as I have before. Times when I reprimanded her and she dropped her head and cried. Those times, I would rush in and scoop her up and kiss all over her buttery face, feeling bad for yelling or scolding, and apologizing as I wiped away the tears.
No, this time, the anger stayed in my gut and I placed her in timeout exclaiming, “We color on paper, not furniture and things.”
“You’re mean!” she cried out to me pouting and red-faced in the living room loveseat, arms crossed over her and anger in her little voice.
My soul felt oddly cold as I turned to gather up the many markers laying on the living room floor, reuniting them with their caps. She screamed in the background, and I quickly tuned her out.
We have entered a new stage in toddlerhood. A stage of fierce independence, boundary testing, and declaring one’s many wants and needs. I am new to the stage, as she is my first child. And, while I like to think I am a good mom, on this day, I did not feel like one.
Not because I yelled at her for doing something that was clearly wrong, and not for providing a punishment such as a few minutes in timeout—but for feeling so desperately burned out that I had no feeling at all.
I texted my husband, asking him to come home. I texted my own mom, “I am having a mommy meltdown,” and then proceeded to cry as I sat in the middle of my daughter’s bedroom floor.
At that moment she came to me, and while I try not to let my daughter see me cry, I felt so depleted that I cried upon her shoulder. I did not hide the tears, even though I tried. Instead, they ran effortlessly down my cheeks.
“Don’t cry, Mommy,” she said, holding my face.
I whispered I was OK, but clearly, I was not. I really was having a “mommy breakdown.”
When my husband arrived, he offered to take her to give me some time, which I did not turn down. As I closed the front door, I turned to the living room and sank into the couch feeling the nothingness churn inside me into a pit of sorrow. It was a broken feeling. A pain of failure.
Motherhood is a 24/7 duty that we cannot clock out from. Just like any responsibility, there is a sense of highs and lows, and that day was a new low. But, I am learning that it was and is OK. While we want so badly to be our best and deliver our “A” game, sometimes the cards are just not in our favor. We have to learn to muster through the messiness and do the best we can—even if that means feeling empty or crying on your toddler’s shoulder.
A feeling of helplessness as a mother. A feeling of sorrow and failure. A brief feeling of not feeling at all. Reaching a moment in your life when the piles of stress just build one layer too many and leave you feeling so weighted down. It can all leave you feeling broken.
If you are reading this and feeling this pain, know you are not alone. You are never alone. Many, many, broken mommies are out there at this very moment. But, you will push through and have better days. Sometimes, it simply takes just knowing this to get through.
You may be broken in this moment, but the reality is it’s just a moment . . . and you are still great.