Your hair is in a messy bun for the sixth day in a row. You’re trudging to work sniffling because with all the germs your kids bring home from daycare, you just can’t seem to recover. You haven’t had a date night in four months, or has it been five? You stare blankly across the table at your spouse, his lips are moving but your brain can’t quite compute what he’s saying because the baby was up at least 10 times last night. You are just so tired.

On top of this, we add in holidays. A time of year when you are expected to go above and beyond your already thinned emotional and physical capacities. You recall someone in a social media video jabbering on about “self-care” and you snort laugh to yourself. Even if you understood what it was, how would you possibly make it happen? You’re fortunate if you get to use the bathroom without interruption.

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I have been you, mama. I sniffled and wore a messy bun with my sweatpants for many days on end. I yawned so many times in one hour that I swore it could be a world record. I wore clothing with spit-up, or snot, or some unknown substance in a public place. I’ve stared at a computer screen, not being able to remember what I sat down to do in the first place, thoughts of my children swirling in my head. These, my dear mama are the trenches.

I can attest to two things: this is a hard stage of life, and it won’t always be this way. It is incredibly challenging when you feel like you aren’t your own person anymore but instead must dedicate every moment to a small human. Sure, it’s beautiful and wonderful, but it’s also physically and emotionally draining.

Slowly but surely things will begin to change. I’m not certain you’ll be less busy, but you’ll have more moments that belong to just you. Your child(ren) will become more independent. He or she will eventually use a toilet unassisted, pour their own glass of water, and disappear into a book or a favorite show for an hour or two. Your child will be old enough to stay in the care of a sitter for a 3-hour date night. And in that time, you might just find a piece of yourself again.

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Please know I am not here to tell you “you’ll miss this.” Yes, you may miss this, but what I really want you to know is that you are seen. I acknowledge your sacrifice and the love you pour into your family each and every day. I know sometimes you feel less than adequate and other times you feel completely downtrodden. It is okay for you to feel that way. I want to remind you that you don’t have to be a perfect mom to be a good mom. You don’t have to love every moment. The important thing is that you love them.

I had a friend and mom of three whose baby entered high school. After that, she offered free babysitting every so often to a group of us with young kids and babies. When I expressed how kind I thought it was she told me this: “I wish when I was at your stage in life that someone had offered this to me.” I thought of all the moms who had helped me survive even on days I wasn’t sure I would. They fed me, they listened to me, and they were just there. Things were still hard, but I knew I was not alone. So, aside from validating your feelings as a mom in some of the toughest stages of motherhood, I want you to know this: when I leave these trenches, as inevitably one does, I will come back for you.

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Brittany Tryzbiak

Brittany Tryzbiak is an Army wife, mom of three, social worker, and fitness instructor. She believes that advocacy for mothers is best with a holistic approach and a side of humor.

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