I've been the mom holding the newborn baby, absolutely overwhelmed with love and simultaneously terrified because of everything she doesn't know.
I've been the mom half-awake for midnight feedings, watching skincare infomercials and PBS documentaries about hot dogs.
I'm been the mom whose entire day has been made by game of peek-a-boo.
I've been the mom spending her workday breaks in the utility closet pumping breast milk, then storing it in the fridge next to her coworker's tuna sandwich.
I've been the mom who fills the sippy cup with chocolate milk every night for her toddler, which consequently rots his front teeth and costs four thousand dollars to fix.
I've been the mom sitting outside the nursery door, waiting for her firstborn to "cry it out" and crying along in solidarity.
I've been the mom of the second born, covering her ears with a pillow while this one learns to self-soothe in his crib, knowing it will be worth it.
I've been the mom who carries her extra baby weight for over three years, until she happens to step on a shipping scale at work and nearly loses her breath at the number it displays.
I've been the mom dropping her kid off at daycare, walking away from his cries and outstretched arms, then driving to work feeling like the worst mom ever.
I've been the mom who freaks out and says exactly the wrong thing when her kid accidentally breaks her laptop, wishing a thousand times she could take the words back and replace them with, "It's OK. I know you didn't mean to. It can be replaced."
I've been the mom who refuses to correct her kid when he calls it the "Vampire State Building" and stops anyone who tries.
I've been the mom in the car who, pushed to her limit, throws the chocolate chip cookie that was causing all the trouble in the first place squarely out the window.
I've been the mom who bribes her kids with a new toy at the mall if they will promise to stay in the stroller just a little bit longer.
I've been the mom who inadvertently begins rocking back and forth on her feet during conversations with adults, a phantom baby in her arms.
I've been the mom who bakes fresh loaves of banana bread for the school bake sale, tying them with a pretty ribbon.
I've been the mom who looks at the flyer announcing the school bake sale and chucks it in the garbage with a, "No way, not happening."
I've been the mom who decides to go back to school and finish that degree -- even though it means precious time away from home -- keeping her fingers crossed that it will be worth it.
I've been the mom who tries to explain tragedy, disease and death when it hits close to home, while trying to understand it herself.
I've been the mom secretly skipping pages during the bedtime story because, seriously, this is the stupidest book ever and how did it get published and why-oh-why does he insist on it every night?
I've been the mom trying to steal a nap on Sunday afternoon, only to be interrupted every five minutes, trying to imagine the day when they won't need her constantly.
I've been the mom who steps on Legos and as a result, teaches her kids expletives.
I've been the mom who orders Happy Meals and charges a "fry tax" before passing them to the back seat.
I've been the mom who wipes away tears and says, "I know it's scary to move away, but we're going to make new friends and everything will be OK."
I've been the mom who gave up on the uneaten packed lunches for the ease of lunch money and a don't-ask-don't-tell policy about what ended up on their trays.
I've been the mom who refuses to pass by a photo booth without forcing the family to take silly pictures. (OK, I'm still that mom.)
I've been the mom who talks them through a first crush, a first heartbreak and a first stick of deodorant.
I've been the mom who says, "BECAUSE I SAID SO!"
I've been the mom who cheers too loud at the Little League game and doesn't actually know what she is talking about.
I've been the mom who totally overspent on Christmas and doesn't realize how ridiculous it is until Christmas morning, then secretly begins shoving unopened packages behind the couch because good grief, what was I thinking and I am definitely taking half of these back.
I've been the mom who gets teary at every single school performance because look how he is standing so straight and tall with his hair parted so deliberately.
I've been the mom who can't help herself but add a few helpful sentences while typing up his term paper, but then feels guilty and takes them back out.
I've been the mom who records her kids' height inside the pantry door, assuring them that they are bound to hit that growth spurt any day now.
I've been the mom who says no to things that, "seriously, all the other kids get to do," and second-guessing herself for it afterward because, really, do all the other kids get to do that?
I've been the mom who threatens to get rid of the dog because AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN HEAR IT BARKING AT THE DOOR, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD?
I've been the mom who does not actually want to watch that YouTube video of the guy describing video games as he plays them, but says she does because her kid thinks it's the funniest thing in the world and she remembers what that feels like to share.
I've been the mom who drops her kid off at the party and says, "If there's anything sketchy or illegal, you promise to call right away for a ride and I promise you won't get in trouble," met with an eye roll that says, "I know. Jeez!"
I've been the mom who Googles things like "foot odor remedies" and "how to get puke smell out of carpet."
I've been the mom who tolerated rap music and then slowly discovered that Eminem was her spirit animal.
I've been the mom in the passenger seat with her teenage driver, pushing an imaginary brake pedal, saying, "Yes, you are hugging the line and stop arguing with me, I am the one with the license and you are the one with the learner's permit."
I've been the mom who opens the bedroom door, sees the spectacular mess, closes the door and decides to pretend it never happened because we're having such a nice day and why ruin it?
I've been the mom who gets college recruitment ads in the mail every single day, as if she needs a reminder that time is flying at warp speed and that he'll be leaving soon and there are still so many things she needs to teach him. (And also, waaaaaaaaaaaa!)
Sometimes I wish there was a way to tap all of these moms on the shoulder, each of these unsure well-intending iterations of myself, look them in the eye, smile and say, "I know you're giving it your all, and you know what? It's good. It's real good."