Yesterday I told my husband sometimes I regret having kids.

So just in case you were feeling bad about your mama self today, like you’re in the running to win the “Worst Mom in the History of Forever” award, you can go ahead and let yourself off the hook. I’ve already claimed the award and am working on my acceptance speech.

Because seriously, what kind of mom says she regrets her own children? Well, I’ll tell you.

A tired mom.

A mom who has been awake at odd hours, every single night for years and who drags herself out of bed every single morning, praying for the patience to deal with the kids.

A mom who has been pulled in a million different directions and feels like she’s failing in every one of them.

A mom who has cleaned the same rooms, washed the same clothes and picked up the same toys over and over and over and over again.

A mom who lies in bed at night, filled with dread because she has to get up and do it all again tomorrow.

A mom who knows she needs to take care of herself and make time for herself, but feels guilty asking for help.

A mom who is burnt out.

My frustration had been building all day and it was in the heat of the moment that I spouted off the words to my husband. I instantly regretted saying them, not because I didn’t mean them, but because that’s not the kind of thing a good mom is supposed to say. No, a good mom keeps those kinds of things to herself. And then drives herself completely insane trying to act like she’s got it all together.

Newsflash: Because I’m a mom too, I know you don’t have it all together.

I know you constantly question yourself and your decisions, that there are many times you feel like giving up and you lie in bed at night wondering if you are enough.

And you know what? That’s okay.

It’s okay to feel like you have no idea what you’re doing because none of us do. We’re all just taking it day by day and doing the best we can. And I’d like to know who set this standard of perfection we’re all trying to live up to anyway? Where is this “perfect mom” we’re all secretly measuring ourselves against?

Seriously, can we just give ourselves a break sometimes?

My oldest son can be completely crazy. He talks back and doesn’t listen and can be downright mean. Most days (okay, every day) I’m convinced when it comes to him, I’m completely screwing up. But you know what? I’ve never raised a toddler before. I’m new to this stage, as I will be for every stage he goes through the rest of his life. And that’s where I need you, mama. I need you to tell me how you managed to make it through the toddler years or how you’re surviving those years at this very moment. I need you to encourage me and tell me it won’t always be this way, or that it will. That it will get better, or it won’t. But what I don’t need is for you to put up a front and pretend you made it through those years completely unscathed, and then look down on me because I’m barely surviving.

I need your empathy, not your criticism.

So if you want to sit down with me and chat about the time your kid was a complete jerk, I’ll buy the coffee. I’ll even throw in a story or two of my own, so you know you’re not alone. No judgment and no “mom shaming” here. Because, you know, I am the one who said I sometimes regret having kids.

After mulling over my words and the situation, I think what I was somehow trying to convey to my husband was this:

Being a mom is hard.

Because once you become a mother, every single minute of every single day requires you to die to yourself. We can handle the small, little sacrifices we’re forced to make here and there, but sacrificing our needs, feelings, wants and dreams day after day?

That’s the most challenging part of it all.

As it turns out, it’s not my kids I regret, but my inability to give up control. After six years, I still haven’t been able to reconcile the fact that I went from controlling almost everything to controlling nothing. Absolutely nothing. I’m the one who makes life so much harder than it has to be, all because I simply can. not. let. go.

Six years ago, I would’ve given anything to be where I am now. I made more bargains, deals, and pleas with God in the years we struggled with infertility than I have in my entire life. I will never forget the sheer joy we felt when we found out we were actually going to be parents. Now here I am, a mama to two strong, healthy little boys, forgetting most days to see them as the miracles they truly are.

But I have my days. Days when I sit back and look at them in amazement and I can’t believe they’re really mine. That I get to be the one to raise them, the one to laugh with them and the one to love them.

And my perspective changes.

Because kids may make life hard, but they also make it rewarding. When my son wraps his little arms around my neck and gives me kisses, it makes me forget the tantrum in the grocery store. And when he looks at me out of the blue and tells me he loves me, it makes all the challenges of the day seem a little less important. It’s all about the reward.

Because the reward is what makes everything worth it.

And the reward is something I won’t ever regret.

Lindsay Stauffer

Lindsay is married to the most supportive husband in the world and momma to two adorable rascals, who have turned her into a caffeine addict. She writes about marriage and motherhood on her Facebook page, Life Off The Record.