To the mom in the grocery store

I saw you struggling today, pushing 2 toddlers in the stroller, both of them screaming alternately… or at the same time. I felt the desperation in your words as you tried to reason, bribe and threaten. I felt your shame, as your raised voice betrayed your fraying nerves.

Sweet mama, I have been in your shoes. I have been in charge of multiple little needy ones that are screaming, crying, tantruming, needing, asking, demanding…. in meltdown mode. I too, have been beside myself with shame at those meltdown moments in public places – those places where humiliation pierces your soul a thousand times with each sideways passing glance from someone in the aisles. You imagine their words, their thoughts, their judgements and you see harsh condemnation in their eyes.

You feel humiliated and embarrassed, aware of everyone watching your ‘ineffective’ parenting.  You work as fast and as furiously as you can to get.the.heck.out.of.there. You just want to be anywhere but there… you want away, away from the stares, from the glares, away from judgement that you feel from every side.  You wish the ground would open up beneath you so that you could just disappear.

I wanted to let you know that I was not judging you. I just ached to help you. In the moment, I struggled with knowing how to help. I wanted to offer to push that heavy stroller and distract those crying little ones so that you could focus on figuring out the groceries that you needed. I wanted to cup the small bare hands (were they cold?) and the little socked feet (no boots?). On a day when the temperature was -8 with added windchill, I hoped that you had a car to get you and those little ones home. My heart ached… because I have been in your shoes, sister.

Those exhausted, depleted, out-of-ideas-and-energy-and-patience shoes. That place where you just desperately need some space of your own and you can’t find any. The place that you are continually smothered by the constant needs of your young ones. The moments when you are so exhausted from life and yet you have to keep going. You have to… because there isn’t anyone there to catch you when you fall.

I actually waited near the entrance with my own sack of groceries after I was done, hoping to catch you on your way out. I wanted to offer what meagre encouragement I had… from one mama to another. I wanted to let you know that I have been in your shoes. I wanted to let you know that those moments are really hard. I wanted to let you know that you are in a tough season of motherhood and that it is anything but easy. I wanted to show you my soft eyes and my kind words.

Mostly I wanted to pour cool water on the blazing fires of shame.

I delivered groceries to my car and then waited some more, keeping a watchful eye out for you. But I didn’t see you. My heart hurt for you and for your littles. I know that you needed a time out. I wish I could have been a lifeline for you in that moment. I wished I could have waited long enough for you. I wished that I could have showed you grace.

So… I hold you in prayer this evening. I still feel the sting of tears behind my eyes as I recall you and your crying little ones today. And I think of other sweet mothers today who are at the end of their ropes.

I feel you. I ache for you. And I believe that the heart of the Father aches for you as well.

Sleep well, sweet mama. May tomorrow be a better day.