Parenthood is full of tears, from children and from the grownups, too.
Aly Brothers recently shed some tears after taking her two young boys to the grocery store to grab some milk. She ended up with a shopping cart’s worth of temper tantrums and harsh shade thrown her way by customers.
In the store parking lot, from the safety of her car, Brothers snapped a picture of herself trying to make the most of the experience, offering up a hopeful smile, some insight and some advice in a Facebook post that has since gone viral.
“This is motherhood. No fancy filters, no good lighting, no new lipstick. It's messy hair that's wet from the rain, yesterday's makeup that I was too tired to wash off, and tears. Motherhood is HARD. Single-motherhood is HARD,” she wrote. “These tears started as the cashier of Giant Eagle handed me my receipt and continued for the entire drive home.”
She went on to explain how her younger son, 20-month-old Levi, fussed from the moment they stepped foot in the store. He didn’t want to be buckled into the shopping cart, from which he started throwing things — a shoe, groceries, his mom’s wallet.
“And he cried. And people stared. That was fine, I could handle that,” Brothers wrote. She also could handle her energetic 3-year-old son Bentley wanting to play Superman by standing on the front edge of the cart.
“I told him to hold on and stand straight. He did not. He fell off, he leaned backwards and knocked things off their displays. He leaned back and bumped a stranger,” she said. “Then I made him get down and he walked too far ahead of me and opened all the freezer section doors telling me all the things he wanted to get. I tried to handle that. I stopped multiple times and composed myself and my children.”
But people around her glared as her children continued to behave like kids. They fought over $8 balloons they wanted and refused to share. They pushed the buttons on the electronic payment keypad, and picked up items from the candy aisle.
“The people in line behind me glared. The cashier glared. Everyone's eyes were on me as if to say ‘can't you control your own children.’ One older gentleman whispered, ‘she's pretty young for two kids’ and I lost it,” she said.
In her Facebook post, which has received more than 34,000 reactions and 15,700 shares since it went up on Aug. 21, Brothers described the difficulties of being a single mom who left an abusive marriage and the silent judging she constantly feels from strangers unaware of her story.
"I handle my kids very well. Normally, they're great kids and I wanted to tell that guy, 'You’ve seen them for 15 minutes in a grocery store. I’ve seen Bentley for 3 1/2 years. So I know him way better than you," she told TODAY. "Don’t judge me, don't judge my kids. We’ve all been here. You acted like this when you were 3. Be compassionate. Show kindness."
Brothers ended her Facebook post by urging people to show kindness when they see a parent like her struggle with a fussy child.
"If you see a kid throwing a tantrum, if you see a mom on the verge of tears...please say something nice. Please don't glare with judgement (sic),” she wrote. “And to all moms out there having a day like mine...I see you, I know you, I love you. You are strong and you are doing just fine."
Her post has generated more than 3,700 comments, nearly all of them expressing support.
"I've been a single mom of my 11 year old daughter since she was 11 months old. It's the hardest, scariest, yet most rewarding job I'll ever have! Thank you for being honest and putting this out there," one parent wrote.
"Oh my God, how I needed this, thank you. I'm having one of those days right now," said another. "I can't seem to stop crying today and get mad at my boys today. After reading your post I feel I can stop crying and be nice to the kids again. I feel you, I love you for this post and even though I don't know you I know you are the best mom your boys could wish for."
Brothers said she's been overwhelmed by the response her post.
"It's insane," she told TODAY. "I am so blessed and humbled because I’m a nobody — a single mom, two kids, small town in West Virginia, and all of these people all over the world are messaging me with words of encouragement."
She also laughed at the idea that some people may now think her boys are "monsters" because of what she has written.
"I had no idea this post would go viral," she said, clarifying that her kids are "angels" most of the time.
"They’re great kids. They listen well. They have manners. They love their mom," she said. "But they have bad days. I still have bad days, and I’m 22, so it's to be expected."