Some years ago, I was running around in a cleaning frenzy, trying to do it all before the baby woke up. Piles of laundry were scattered throughout the bedroom .

Clean sink, matching socks – all these were distant memories. I was deeply irritated.

With myself for not having more energy, with the baby for waking me up not three but four times the previous night, with my partner Rony for being at work, with the day itself.

A bus screeched by and, this being Guatemala, an angry cloud of exhaust seeped in through the cracks around the window.

I was tired and hot. I wanted a shower. I had 10, maybe 15 minutes before my daughter woke up.

The doorbell rang.

I felt a wave of irritation boil up in me as I swung the door open.

It was Andrea, one of the most spirited, generous, unpretentious women I’ve ever met. She, her husband and their six girls live in a tin shack with a dirt floor. She weaves belts and makes tortillas for a living.

When she smiles, two gold stars catch the sun and make her front teeth wink.

Andrea’s stars. Photo credit: Mariano Darío

The gold stars were winking now. “I have a chicken for you,” she said in broken Spanish. I looked down, and sure enough, the burlap bag at her feet was moving.

A live chicken, then. I blinked.

“You’re a good friend,” she continued. “I bring you a chicken. You pluck the feathers, you boil it, you have it for lunch tomorrow. Make you strong for your baby.”

How could I refuse?

Something strange happened then: it was as if a spell had lifted.

I felt lighter, more relaxed. I took the lemonade out of the fridge, put two glasses on the table, sat down.

When the baby woke up, Andrea bounced her around so that I could fold some laundry. I didn’t finish, but it didn’t matter.

Yes, friends, motherhood is hard. It is probably the hardest job you will ever have. Sometimes your child will whine all day long. Sometimes you will go to the bathroom just to shut the door and breathe quietly for a second or two.

So here, without further ado, are 4 tips I learned that day:

    • The dark mood will pass. You won’t feel like this forever! Remember that. Repeat it, even if you don’t believe it in the moment.‌
    • You need to let someone in. Open that door – it’s worth it! Even if you don’t feel like it. Even if you have tons of chores that seem so important. Even if the last thing you want to do is let someone see your messy house. Human contact is necessary. It puts things into perspective.
    • Your stress might make you more empathetic. According to a recent study, being under stress may make you more compassionate. When you’re under stress, the part of your brain that gets activated may also be associated with empathy.
    • You don’t need to finish it all right now. If there’s one thing I know for sure about chores, it’s this: they’ll still be there! So here I am advocating breaks. If you need one, take it! Don’t beat yourself over it.

So I say open the door, pull up a chair, and bring out the lemonade.