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