Hi, I've been there. I've bribed, I've given in, I've even left the store with nothing while our almost full cart stayed in the juice aisle because I wouldn't buy the juice boxes with Mike and Sully on them.
To the mom supermanning her baby onto her back to get him ready for wearing in the middle of the Costco parking lot while people look on concerned, some asking if they can help, some even commenting on your apparent disregard for the safety of your child: Hi. Go for it! Keep doing it! I've had onlookers clap for me in a food court while I back wrapped a baby. I've had people comment on how dangerous it is for his legs to be “spread apart like that” while I was mailing a package at the post office.
To the visibly exhausted dad at the dollar store doing his best to be cheerful with the cashier: Hi. I saw you in the parking lot with your wife and brand new baby. You're doing amazing. It's one of the toughest adjustments you will ever have to make but you'll get there. Your marriage will be fine. You'll both feel like yourselves again. Just don't give up.
To the nervous mom at the parenting group trying to do what's right: Hi. I'm so happy you're here. You know your child so well... better than anyone. Your heart is so full of love. I can't imagine what it's like to not see your kid every day. You go and read her that story, you go kiss her good night, and you keep helping her through this crazy time. You're a good mom and I'm proud of you.
To the working mom who feels guilty for being the working mom:
Hi. I can't help you feel less guilty, but I want you to know that I think you are awesome. It takes a village and if that village involves a day care or a day home, so be it. Whatever your reason is for having that job, good for you! Research says that the time you spend with your children should be quality vs quantity (I'll find that research and post it here later!)... frequent short amounts of time. You're doing a good job, both at work and at home. It's a balancing act and you are killing it!
To the stay at home mom with pjs still on at 3pm and this morning's oatmeal in your hair: Hi. It's ok to be tired. It's ok to lose your cool sometimes. It's ok to want to run out the door as soon as your partner comes home. You may feel that you have lost your identity... that you're only “Mommy” now. You're still in there. You're still you. Have a nice long shower, grab a book, and head to a coffee shop. It's ok to not be “Mommy” all the time.
To the mom sitting back while your toddler displays her full vocal range in the middle of the mall: Hi. Meltdowns. Ugh. You probably feel that everyone is staring and judging you and thinking that you are just a terrible mother or that this kid is a psycho. One or two might be, but the other 98% of passers by are sympathetic and compassionate and are wondering what they could possibly do to help. It takes a lot of strength to let those big emotions run their course through her tiny body. You're doing so much to help her develop resilience.
As parents, we go through a lot. A lot of joy, a lot of tears, a lot of rage, a lot of fear, a lot of frustration, and a lot of wonder. As good humans, we need to let each other know that we understand... that we've been there, we survived, and we don't regret having children. Not totally, anyway. When people cross your path and you find yourself thinking “Oh man, I remember feeling like that”, catch their eye and shoot them a smile, pat them on the shoulder and tell them you've been there, buy them a coffee and say “I remember, and I can tell you that it's going to be ok.”