To The Mum Who Had a Meltdown In Stroud Leisure Centre Toilets

It was August and many months have passed but I still think of you from time to time and wonder how you are. This is my open letter to you, maybe by some magic you will read it and if not then I am sure that many other mothers will relate because let’s face it, a meltdown in a public toilet is just part of the 21 years initiation into motherhood!

I had to run into the ladies at Stroud Leisure Centre, leaving my dad outside with my 5 year old and baby. My 2 year old had just announced she needed a wee and as we all know I had no time to waste.

cf16c66f-63aa-497d-9945-04974031a67b

As I walked in I saw your one year old son first, he was sat on the floor screaming, loudly. He had no nappy on and was sat on one of those plastic fold-up nappy mats. The floor was wet, I guessed it wasn’t water. I caught a glimpse of a girl possibly 4, standing awkwardly in the cubicle doorway. You snapped at her to get out of your way. You seemed to be rushing between the loo and the floor, I assumed you were cleaning up his wee.

I had to rush past; I got my daughter on the loo as quickly as I could. Your sons’ screaming was so loud I couldn’t hear what my girl was saying while she peed. We went back out and I had to walk past you again to get to the sinks.

You had given up trying to clean the mess. You stood there with your back to your son (whose incessant crying hadn’t even begun to settle) and you held you face in your hands. Your shoulders were slouched and your body was quietly shaking. You were on the verge of either full blown hysterical tears or shouting.

I know how you felt in this moment because I have felt that way too.

As I washed my hands I noticed a few people come and go. I wanted to say something but I worried that if I approached you I would look patronising or judgemental.

But I couldn’t just walk out.

I picked up my toddler and stood right in front of you.

“It’s Ok,” I said in the gentlest non patronising tone I could muster.

You looked up and I saw in your eyes that you didn’t believe me.

“You are a good mum” I said.

Again, you did not look convinced.

As small tears began escape you told me you were sorry.

You told me your son just refuses to have his nappy changed.

You told me you wish you could just stay in but you have a daughter who wants to go out.

You told me you were sorry, again and again.

You are a good mum,” was all I could say at this point as tears welled up in my eyes too.

Ridiculous right! Why were tears in my eyes? This wasn’t my son, this wasn’t my melt down. I felt so emotional seeing you like that because it could have so easily been me. In fact it had been. Different day, different place, different battle but essentially I was looking at myself.

I told you that you were a good mum because in my meltdown moments I felt like anything but. I had just felt overwhelmed with an enormous sense of failure. I had been convinced I was a terrible mum and that everyone else knew it too.

All I needed in those moments was reassurance and so that’s what I tried to give you.

11261407_10153148333217353_1366181959186872882_n.jpg

We put ourselves under ridiculous pressure to be perfect and anything less than that is failure. You will have breakdowns you will face challenges but what makes you a good mum is that no matter how tired of it you are, you keep on going.

The nappy phase passes, as does every other. Where ever you are now you are probably dealing with a new challenge but I hope you are doing it with the knowledge and understanding that you are a good mum.

I hugged you and then we cleaned the floor together. You went your way and I went mine. I saw you briefly outside playing with your children in the park. Smiling and proving that these moments pass and the beautiful simplicity of motherhood is never far away.

We never saw each other again. I don’t think we ever will. I will never forget you though, without realising it you helped me see that I am a good mum too.


The contented Family offers one to one coaching and workshops to empower parents to take back control of their emotions. Stop reacting to your children’s behaviour or any other uncontrollable condition and learn practical mindful tools and techniques which you can use in the everyday madness of motherhood.

Our next workshop, Finding Peace in Parenting is in partnership with Emma Burns Complimentary Therapies and will be held on March 5th in Caerphilly South Wales.

For any information on the upcoming workshop, booking a free Contented Family coaching consultation see the contact form below.

51 thoughts on “To The Mum Who Had a Meltdown In Stroud Leisure Centre Toilets

  1. It’s all we have, the belief that were doing our best. I’m 46 now my kids are much older but there are new challenges. I do remember those moments though feeling isolated and out of control I learnt 2 words during that time though “everything passes” sadly that applies to the good stuff so take what’s good moments you have and believe that the bad WILL pass to all us mum’s good luck xx

    • That is so true. Everything does pass and then before we know it we are wishing the time back again. That is the motivation behind The Contented Family – finding happiness now and not finding excuses to wait for it all the time. Thank you for your comment xxx

  2. I wish I had you in my town. Too many judgemental looks. I’m pretty sure you’ll have made her year, let alone her day. Well done you!

    • Yes there are lots of judgemental people about but in my experience I just expect everyone to be judgemental because I am judging myself. I am sure there are lots of nice people in your town : ) thanks for your comment xxx

  3. And then we become grandmothers and have these moments all over again! What I want to say to young mums is – don’t assume that older people are judging you, some have short memories, yes but for the rest of us , we have been there too and for some of us: only yesterday. No one will judge you as severely as you judge yourself!

    • I totally agree with you. In my post you will notice that no one judges this woman at all, people passed by but I think many just didn’t know what to do or worried that they might offend the woman. When I have had those moments I have thought that others were judging me but only because I was judging myself! Thanks for your comment xx

  4. This particular story rings so so many bells for me. Wanting to throw my child in a very big park lake(it was a very big park) many many times thinking of strangulation,and very nearly doing it. Before everyone reaches for their phone to ring social services,she is now in her thirties with children of her own.There are times now I still feel like throwing her in that lake but she has girls of her own now.so to all grandparents out there we can now be the good guys who our grandkids run to when being told off by their parents. Ah revenge is sweet!!! Am I still a good mom for thinking that,maybe not but I am human and so are all you great mother out there.

  5. Such a poignant post. And thank you for being kind enough to help that other mum out. As you said, we have all been there. A different time and a different place. But we are good mums and we need to remember this. We also need to stick together more and help each other out in these situations. Because on some days this kindness of strangers can make all the difference. Hugs Lucy xxxx

    • Thank you for your kind comment. I have been touched by the kindness of strangers myself so I know how amazing it can be. I just really hope the good mum in question sees this post and knows that in a funny way she helped me that day too. : ) xxx

  6. Oh my!!! In tears reading this. I hope the lady reads this. I’ve been this person too and question whether I’m a good mum almost constantly. You did good in helping her. I think I would have done the same. xxxx

  7. Bravo!….. I concur, I have been that person, I have learnt and am still learning that these things pass. Second time around now and still I question my sanity, and my ability to raise my two girls, keep them safe, keep them entertained, keep them happy, well fed and clean and most of all feel secure and loved. The biggest lesson I have learned is to take a deep breath, keep calm and remember I was once a tantrum throwing toddler once too! I am so pleased you stopped to reassure and help the poor girl and I hope I would have too.

  8. This is so lovely. I’ve been this mum many times but usually managed to stifle my own meltdown, until I have returned home. This lady clearly couldn’t and you were there at the right time. What this has reminded me of, is that it’s important to step in, even if you’re not sure what the right words are. Walking past and pretending you can’t see what’s going on is infinitely worse. Well done. x

  9. This brought tears to my eyes. We’ve all been there and the fact that we think, in those moments, we’re terrible mums, probably proves we’re not. How lovely of you to help this lady and reassure her. I hope this finds her.

  10. Dear contented82,

    Your message has reached me.
    I am that lady from the toilets, and thank you, I am feeling much better!

    Of course, I remember the day quite clearly. It was a day of two halves, it started with the incident you describe so beautifully. It finished with sunshine, duck feeding, a chance meeting with a friend and impromptu picnic.

    We absolutely were in a terrible state! My son was a wriggling, kicking, screaming 12 month old with a nappy full of poo. Having cleaned the poo with some degree of success he subsequently refused a fresh nappy and had taken an intense dislike to the change table. I popped him on the floor and of course, bare bottom + cold floor = lots of wee! The more I cleaned the more he weed and the more upset we both became.
    I didn’t know where to start.

    And then you came to my rescue! You calmed me down, helped me clean up and encouraged me to pick up my son who so desperately needed a cuddle.
    ‘See?’ You said, ‘see how much he loves you.”

    And you were right, he loves me and I am forgiven, he has forgotten the incident already.

    Shortly after we played and laughed and smiled, my children were happy and we did have a lovely day. But had it not been for you I might have got back in the car and gone straight home.

    Reading your letter has made me think about that day again.

    We put enormous pressure on ourselves as parents, always believing that everyone else is coping so much better than we are.

    And I also thought about the way we try and raise our children. Our children make mistakes and they get things wrong. And we forgive them without question. We don’t compare their talents and achievements with those of other children, we want them to try hard for themselves and do the best that they can. I wonder why we find it so hard to apply these rules to ourselves as parents.

    We get things wrong and we make mistakes, and our children forgive us. Our children don’t compare us to other parents and judge how well we are doing. So perhaps we need to give ourselves a break, we’re doing fine. We just need to be reminded once in a while.

    So thank you, nice lady in the toilets for teaching me and so many others such a valuable lesson, and for reaching out and offering help when I needed a hand, and a hug.

    • Wow. I am gobsmacked. The power of the internet is truly awesome I am so glad it found you! Thank you so much for your kind words. This post has gone a little mental today, the current amount of views is over 34000 which for a little blogger like me quite amazing. I guess the reason it had such an impact was because people relate. We have all been there!! Its also so lovely to hear that you went on and had a good day. These meltdown moments only define us if we let them. Motherhood is so much more than cleaning up spilt wee lol Sending you and your beautiful children more hugs. xxx

  11. Well done fellow mum, to putting aside hindering fears and reaching out to another mum in need. How we need each other in the motherhood ‘village’, to reassure and support. So helpful in our time of need, to know that we’re not alone. I’m so delighted that the mum you wrote about has read your post and replied. How altogether so beautiful, to see the best of mums together. 🙂 #Facebook

  12. Oh this is such a lovely supportive post, and the fact that the lady commented too makes me all the better to read. This is what us Mums need support and understanding, I am so glad you were in the right place at the right time that day x

  13. Reading this at 4am after boobing my toddler back to bed – a tear in my eye. I am still in awe of mothers who can have more than one child when the elder/ eldest is not yet at school.

    • I would have said the same Ida, I actually found baby number 3 the easiest to adjust to. Baby 1 is sometimes the hardest because its the biggest shock to the system. If you choose to have no more or 10 more you will cope just fine. PS Keep on boobing : )

  14. Aw, this actually made me tear up reading because I’ve been there too. When the baby’s screaming, and there’s mess everywhere, and you just don’t know where to start. It’s so true that we all need to remember that the perfect parent of this moment is the one sobbing in frustration the next, and vice versa. x

  15. What a lovely post, and what a lovely, kind (and very brave) thing to do. We all have those moments and I know how much it would mean to me to have someone say something like that in that moment. However much you can tell yourself you’re a great mum in normal life, it’s impossible to tell it to yourself when you’re in ‘that’ moment. And the fact that the lady found this post has made my day – amazing!

Leave a Reply