It’s 5:30pm and I just braved at least 30 minutes of the world’s most frustrating traffic before stopping to pick up my daughter at school. I still have a significant drive home with a planned stop at the grocery store. I’ve been up since 4:45am and am pretty sure that loading her into the car and breaking the news that we have to swing by Stop & Shop is not going to go over well. We’re rapidly closing in on age 4 and her ‘tude has been full force. And my patience just ain’t what it used to be.

So, walking back to our car in the parking lot from the school, holding hands with me and full of chatter, CP and I run into one of my daughter’s classmates and good buddies. I’ve spoken with the little girl’s mom, let’s call her Em, at school birthday parties and a couple of school functions. I’ve seen her struggle with her daughter during pickup, sharing an empathetic look and pretending to not notice her frustration.

Our girls throw their arms around each other, even though they just spent the last nine hours together. Off they run while both Em and I load their backpacks into our respective cars. I open my car door and both kids clamor in. *Sigh*

Em is totally embarrassed, but really, it’s funny. And we both laughed as her daughter has jammed herself behind the back seat head rests and back windshield of my car and my daughter is walking around on the front seats, narrowly missing stepping on my glasses. We were apologizing to each other while trying to rein our kids in and maintain a conversation.

Finally, I was just like, “This age has been really tough. I feel like CP is just not listening to me and tests all of my boundaries. I’m exhausted sometimes. I feel like I’m doing it all wrong and I’m loaded with guilt because I’m working full time.”

Em looked at me with one of the most truly relieved looks I’d ever seen. Like two women lost on a sea of confusion and exasperation in a storm of pre-K 4 madness, we began to share about the guilt and fear involved with second-guessing our parenting methods and balancing work and, well, life stuff. When I’d seen her in those frustrating situations prior to then, trying to get her daughter focused and loaded up, all while successfully keeping her shit together but clearly wanting to just pop off, I felt like I knew what she was going through because that could have been me on any given day. Well, it was so nice when that wall came down. I wasn’t concerned about being embarrassed or looking like a bad mom, and I suspect she wasn’t either. We laughed about the horrible behavior that our daughters demonstrated at home and occasionally in stores — the behavior that had brought us to near tears and caused us to shriek at them to “KNOCK IT OFF!”

There are so many times that I don’t want to admit how confused I am by what I’m doing, or how much I feel like I’m failing by what I’m not doing. But sometimes confessing my shortcomings and fears to another mom makes me feel just a little more human, and a little less lonely. And when you feel like you’re on an island, like you’re just doing it ALL WRONG, please know you’re not alone. This stuff is hard. Sometimes all you need to do share it with another mom.