This past summer my family and I went on a road trip that meant many hours in a car each day for three days straight. With two kids in two you can imagine how many gas station bathrooms we saw. At one particular stop, I was waiting at the sink for my 12-year-old daughter when a mother came in with two rambunctious girls. Her daughters must have been around three and five and were clearly full of life and energy.
While this tired mom was attempting to wrangle one daughter into a stall, the other was pulling out paper towels and repeatedly pressing the hand dryer button. The entire time the mom was saying, “I am so sorry…CUT THAT OUT…I am so sorry…DON’T TOUCH THAT!” Anyone that has ever had a child in a public restroom knows this woman’s pain. Trying to help one child while the other is touching every surface…ick. Been there, done that, have the t-shirt—also the reason I travel with hand sanitizer.
My daughter was getting a kick out of the little girls and helped the one wash her hands while the mom was helping the other one in the stall. She came out, embarrassed, thanked us for helping her and made a quiet comment about “I didn’t know they would be so busy!” Clearly overwhelmed with travel and life, I just smiled and said, “I remember when my kids were that age. They would go to bed and it felt so nice to just sit and not be pawed at. I love them dearly but I was so overstimulated after dealing with them all day that I needed a few minutes to readjust.”
The mom looked at me and started crying. Saying that “overstimulated” was EXACTLY how she felt. That her husband did not understand and how she loved her girls so much but was just so tired. It broke my heart that this woman was so stressed that she opened up to a complete stranger (still in a gas station bathroom). All I could say was “they do get older and this stage will end.”
We left the bathroom, kids running ahead to play, before we got back to our respective cars and waiting husbands. We said our goodbyes, wished each other safe travels, and never saw each other again. I truly hope that this mom felt better knowing she was not alone in her feelings and that at least one other mom out there understood and listened.
Disclaimer: I have three children and I would walk through fire to save them, but I stand by my comment. I would hug and snuggle them whenever one of us needed it, through sicknesses and scrapes and everything in between. After long days of chasing, playing, reading, snuggling, cleaning, and cooking, I just need a pause button to center myself and feel like me again. Mommy-shame me all you want, this is my truth.