Today I took my fourteen year old and my friend’s four year old for ice cream and as I watched them interact, I fantasized about having another child. Another go around, just one more baby.
My day dream was interrupted when I suddenly found myself right smack in the middle of a large group of young women and their high energy toddlers. I was surrounded like a bowl of warm milk in a kindle of stray kittens.

As I attempted to focus on the menu, I heard a young mom questioning herself, comparing notes and searching for affirmation. With a look of despair, an exhausted face, battling a bad hair day and sensible shoes, she confessed, (using her indoor voice, of course) “I just can’t keep up.” 

I call that stage of parenting being in the trenches. It’s just plain hard. Exhausting. These moms are searching for an instruction manual. Or a support group. Hoping that either one comes with wine.

I still question my ability as a mom and my youngest is 11! ELEVEN (is it like human years to dog years when comparing toddlers and teens? It has to be). 

Some days as I see my kids quickly approaching adulthood I honestly fear that I’ve royally screwed up this whole parenting thing. 

So it doesn’t get easier, ladies…it just gets…different. Kind of easier, yes, in fact much easier. And way more difficult, too. Complex. Not digging trenches, no…not at all. But wondering if you’ve dug the right ones in the proper order and with the correct tools. All while knowing that it’s too late to worry anyway. They’re dug. And the sun is setting.

Well, today for a very brief and oh so glorious moment I experienced what I think you might be hoping for…what I think I used to chase. Today as I looked at you, I felt like I had the answer key. The manual. For a moment I felt like a human producing Goddess. I never feel like that! I wasn’t jealous of your youth nor your ability to keep having babies…I wasn’t jealous at all. I was so hugely proud of you…like an older sister would be. Like a soul sister would be. Very impressed and proud. And, proud of me. Seriously…as I stood in this sea of estrogen, exhaustion and babbling babes I wanted to stand on a chair and start speaking to the group of certainly-not-yet-thirty moms and say “LISTEN UP LADIES. I’ve been there. The day to day stuff you’re struggling with and maybe more…I’ve done it. All of it. Brownie leader, wiping behinds, flash cards, cleaning toilets, clipping coupons and toe nails. Ear infections, tantrums and changing sheets after a middle of the night accident. Usually I feel like I’m getting it wrong, but in this moment as I see my former self in you, I’m looking like I know what I’m doing. Ask me anything. I have the answer. Ask me if you should use time out or spanking. Should you choose private or public school? Come on try me! But my response won’t be what you expect. My answer to all of your questions is going to be the same.

Consider the crazy notion that you’re actually doing an oustanding job. Consider that you’re doing it right. All of it. Just keep loving them. And then love them again. Love them big. Love them deep. The rest will play out just fine. Don’t question yourself. Love yourself.”

So for those mommas who are still in the trenches, just know that getting it “right” never really happens and at the same time, it happens every day. You are kicking ASS.
And you’ll be able to believe that just as soon as you accept that you likely never will. 

Jill Herman