I’m Tired Of Being Called the Strong Mom

One mother explores how complimenting a mother on how 'strong' she is gives people permission to let them struggle.
In this essay, a mother explores why all moms need help, and how certain phrases like 'you're strong' discount the struggle of parenting.

“I don’t know how you do it, mama!” a well-meaning lady mused as I struggled to open the door to the pediatrician’s office while holding both sleeping twins and their backpack. “You’re stronger than me, for sure, that’s why God didn’t give me twins!” 

She continued to stand there and admire how strong she thought I was instead of helping me with the dang door. 

Meanwhile, my arms were shaking, my heart was racing, I was sweating, I was worried I would drop one of them and I wasn’t sure if the door was going to open before I passed out. 

It wasn’t that I was strong. It’s that I was alone and they were asleep and I had two options:

The first was that I could wake them up and then I could have two crying kids in the waiting room while I filled out paperwork alone. 

The second was that I could try to keep them asleep for as long as possible even if it meant carrying them inside at the same time. 

I went with option two. It had less to do with being strong and more to do with being exhausted and unwilling to interrupt naptime. 

I was so freaking tired in the first five years of their life. 

I am still so tired. 

Do you know what would have helped at that moment? For that lady to open the door I was very clearly struggling to open. I wish I could say that was an isolated incident, but it wasn’t. 

I can vividly recall the faces of at least five strangers who expressed being impressed with my strength, while I tried to hold a door and push a giant stroller through it on my own, while I carried two babies and tried to open a door on my own, or while I tried to navigate a shopping cart full of groceries as well as their stroller out of the grocery store on my own.

“You’re such a strong mom,” they’d say as they walked past or stood watching. Usually, they follow it up with compliments on how cute the twins are and questions about whether they are identical or not. All the while still not offering to grab the door. 

If you knew, I would think to myself.

If you knew how many nights I cried myself to sleep.

If you knew how many play dates I declined because it’s too hard to carry them both to the car.

If you knew how many times I’ve had to increase my anxiety medicine.

If you knew how much mom guilt I carry for not wanting to leave the house unless I have to.

If you knew how little sleep I get to make sure it all gets done because I’m only one person.

If you knew how many times I have thought about just giving up.

If you knew how hard it was to force a smile at a well-meaning stranger.

If you knew. 

Now I get the, “You are so strong,” sentiments when the twins are diagnosed with a new something or other. 

Autism. Epilepsy. Anxiety. Pneumonia. 

Or when one of them is rushed to the hospital.

“You’re such a strong mom,” and “I don’t know how you do it,” come from the most well-meaning places. But it isn’t helpful to be called a strong mom. I’m not a strong mom. I’m just a mom who has to show up at emergency rooms more than school events. A mom who has to make time for appointments with specialists because if I don’t my kids aren’t taken care of or healthy. 

I’m not strong.

I’m tired and defeated. 

When people decided I’m strong they also decided I don’t really need help. They decided subconsciously, not maliciously, that, “She’s got this.” While it’s true that I will do whatever it takes to “have this”—it is also true that to do so I’m often doing so at the detriment of my own health. I love my kids more than life itself—so it isn’t about being strong, it’s about not having a choice but to show up for them.

Recently I told my dad that I wish I hadn’t set a precedent in their early years that I could handle whatever life threw at us—because if I hadn’t, then maybe more people would step in and help me daily. Instead, sometime in the beginning, I earned a reputation as a strong mom. 

Sometime between 115 days in a NICU, a nasty divorce, a custody battle that involved a restraining order to keep them from an abuser and multiple medical emergencies for the twins, people decided I could do anything because I was strong

I can do it because I’m stubborn and because I love them. 

I can do it because I know if I don’t, nobody else will. 

I can do it because I have to. 

Desperation and necessity have more to do with my ability to get things done for my children than strength does. 

Telling someone they are a strong mom feels like telling a mom she can do it by herself, congratulating her for that, and then leaving her to it. 

I’m forever thankful for the handful of people in my life who have always known I’m not strong enough to do it alone and that have, at every opportunity, made sure to offer help and remind me that they are there for me.

And maybe more people would if they saw me crying on the couch at 2 a.m. because I’m so overwhelmed or pacing in doctor’s offices worried about them or holding back tears in hospital beds after they fell asleep next to me. They might not let me struggle with heavy doors while they tell me how strong I am. 

They would hold them open for me, help me through them, and then tell me I was doing a good job even if I needed their help. 

The next time you see a strong mom—open the dang door for her. 


  • Victoria Grace

    Victoria Grace is a full-time photographer who wishes she was a writer—so when she gets to write she focuses on sharing her personal accomplishments and struggles with authenticity. When she's not working or writing you can find her deep in the trenches of twin motherhood, traveling when she's able, or most likely at a local Mexican restaurant sharing a bowl of queso with her twins and Nick. Follow Victoria on Instagram. and visit her website.

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