She noticed me standing there frazzled.
She’d probably seen me like that after our workout classes before. She didn’t have her kids with her that day, but I did. She saw that one of my children was climbing up the stairs away from me, and my other child was in my arms twisting and thrashing and screaming to get down.
The woman said something to me, which I don’t remember — I was way too deep into my overwhelm and exhaustion and just wanted to get the heck out of there — that I couldn’t process. I started to cry, right there in the lobby of our workout studio.
She was a mom too. She saw me. She saw my struggle. And she went straight into helper mode.
She quickly walked up the stairs to my kiddo, saying “Hi” and asking if they could count the stairs down together. My 3-year-old was delighted with the attention and counted away. My daughter listened, came down the stairs, and we all calmly left.
It was nothing short of a post-workout miracle.
At that moment, my children listened to someone — someone they hardly knew — more than they were listening to me. At that moment, I stood back and watched someone — someone I hardly know — show me support and validation in real-time. At that moment, I admired someone — someone I hardly know — for her kindness and compassion.
That woman was who we need to see more of out in the world.
The non-judger, the one who will cheer us on or offer a helping hand. The one with the understanding smile, the take-action attitude, the open mind. The kind heart.
I needed kindness at that moment, and that’s exactly what I got.
She didn’t know what she was going to get by putting herself out there and trying to help — someone she hardly knew — in a delicate situation. But my guess is that she’s been there before — except in my shoes. And maybe she remembered how lonely it can feel sometimes. Or how self-conscious public defiance and tantrums can make you.
Maybe she just wanted to do what she thought was right.
To her, I say: thank you.
Thank you for taking the time to look at me and see me. In a world where everyone says, “How are you?” but hardly anyone bothers to actually say how they’re feeling for real — she didn’t need to hear me say anything. I wasn’t OK at the moment, and she knew. So she decided to do something without being asked and without having to ask.
Because that’s how moms are. We just know.
And when we have a second for our brains to slow down and process information in our ever busy and chaotic schedules, there are things we can do that we know will help another mama.
Recently, I helped my friend prep freezer meals for when her twins get here so they will have some easy dinner options. I made a batch of lactation cookies for another mom friend who just gave birth and dropped them off at her house. And I always make sure to hold the door for parents with strollers and pass down hand-me-down clothes to friends with kids who could use them.
Even though all of these things may seem small in the grand scheme of life, I know they’re not small to the person on the receiving end of them, because I’ve been that person.
I will never forget a new friend who dropped off muffins to me after I gave birth. Because those weren’t just muffins. They were another mother saying to me, “I know what this is like, and I want you to know I’m here.” The time I broke down crying to a friend about a challenge we were having with one of my kids, it wasn’t just a good person listening to me. It was another mother saying, “This is hard for me too. You are not alone in this.”
I find strength within myself when I am able to overcome hardship. I find strength inside when I realize the growth I’ve gone through over the past six years of motherhood. I find strength inside when I am able to surrender and say, “I need help.”
And I find strength inside when I receive the help I need — most often from another mother.
In a way, mothers know each other’s hearts. When you strip away labels or titles of any kind, our hearts have the same core values and mission: keep our babies safe and loved. And while that may sound easy, it is anything but. Because it truly does take a village to keep our babies safe and loved.
A large part of how we do that is by making sure mothers are feeling safe and loved too. That’s how we know we’re OK. That’s how we’re able to lessen (or eliminate — imagine?!) our anxiety and overwhelm, that’s how we’re supported through obstacles and frustrations, and that’s how we are able to receive love and empathy instead of competition and judgment.
That’s how we know we’re not alone.
We all need someone, and sometimes that someone is someone you hardly know.
Let’s stick together, moms. I promise you, it’s better that way.