There are so many things in life that you just don't "get" until you have actually gone through them yourself.
Driving a car for the first time, losing your virginity or losing a loved one for example. There's no way to really replicate any of those things or to explain what it feels like to go through them to someone that's never done them before.
Motherhood is like that.
You can tell another woman that doesn't yet have kids of her own what it feels like to birth a baby or bring a child into your home via adoption, but she won't truly understand it until or if she walks that path herself.
I know before I had kids other mothers would tell me how when you lock eyes on your new baby your heart breaks open like an Easter egg and your whole soul comes rushing out and you know that for the rest of your life you would do anything to keep that little creature safe from anything that would harm it. I knew I'd love my kids, but until I had them I didn't know what a mother's love really meant, at least not on the mother end of it, only the child.
My dearest friend and I recently had a conversation about this, she welcomed her first child a year or so back. I told her over the phone when she was pregnant how her life would change and her heart would be softer and more complete. I knew over the phone she had no idea what I was talking about, but now, when we talk I can hear it in her voice - the exhaustion, the knowing, the confidence and the gigantic love that only a mother can carry inside of her for her child. She finally got it.
There's no shame in those that haven't walked this path. None at all. Whether you are praying for a baby, have no desire to have kids, or are on the fence, please don't feel that I'm trying to make you feel bad. I, myself have been in your shoes, we all have at one point. I even struggled to become a mom and struggled to have the two healthy children I do have so I do "get it."
However, I think among all things that women are judged on even more than our looks, our station in life or our background, we are most judged on the way we carry ourselves as mothers. We get it from all directions. From the school, society, doctors, our families, our friends and heck, even ourselves. We are criticized, pointed at, and talked about.
To the outsiders, just know that the vast majority of us are really trying our best. We are taking this mom thing day to day. We give our all to our kids and our partners. Sometimes we fall short at our jobs and in our relationships outside our immediate family because that's just what happens when you have one or multiple tiny humans relying on you for literally everything.
So you, the friends without kids or the bosses that don't want any, cut us some slack. Give us a little grace when we are late to work sometimes or don't want to go out drinking on your birthday this year. Meet us halfway.
To the mothers that feel the need to judge other mothers, do the same. Don't assume the worst out of another woman that loves her baby just as much as you love yours. Just because her style of parenting looks different then yours, doesn't mean it's wrong. Just different.
Until you've held your own sweet little baby in your arms or welcomed a 9 year old foster child into your home or had to say goodbye to your stillborn angel, keep your opinions to yourself. And even then, look at other mothers the same way you would want someone to look at you. With grace, compassion, and kindness.
This article originally appeared on These Boys of Mine by Britt LeBoeuf