I was sitting in the park the other day with my two youngest children. I couldn’t help but smile. I saw another mother in the park trying to put her 1-year-old into the stroller. I could tell that this was a first-time mother without having to ask her.

I knew that battle too well. She wanted to go home and was trying to put the toddler into the I don’t doubt she wanted to crycarriage. The child was having none of it; she refused to be strapped in and put up a screaming-kicking fight. The mother was doing an incredible job at being calm, but I don’t doubt that she wanted to cry. The child eventually won ... the mother took her out, carrying her with one arm and pushing the empty stroller in the other.

Why my smile? It was really to myself. The smile was knowing that soon the child would grow a bit bigger and would want the mother to put her in the stroller, but then the mother would want her to walk. No doubt the child would win that battle, too ... and the mother would probably be pushing a heavy toddler in one hand and, G‑d willing, carrying a baby in the other.

Before she left the park, I stopped her. I complimented her sincerely. “You are doing such a good job! All my kids do the same. It feels so hard in this stage. It will pass ... ”

I can’t describe to you in words the smile on this woman’s face when I empathized, “normalizing” the situation for her and validating her hard work.

Today, it was my turn to need those words of encouragement.

I had one of those mornings—you know the kind, where you just want to curl up and go back to bed. A morning after a night that for one reason or another didn’t allow any sleep, followed by the domino effect of one thing after another. A morning where I was just so tired and cranky.

By 8 a.m., I was wiped out. But my morning was far from over.

I took out my prayer book, opened my mouth and poured out my heart. The prayer went something like this ... “G‑d, I feel so alone right now. Please just help me to want to want to keep going. Help me to want to want to connect. A few hours later, my prayers were answered. but not the way that I imagined. They came in a text from a dear friend, also a very busy and most likely tired, hard-working mother.

“Elana, I am thinking of you.”

How did she know?

“You looked so tired last night when I saw you. I can only imagine. I hope you can get some rest.”

And then an emoji with a big kiss.

I felt her care, her love and her understanding. I felt connected. I felt supported. I felt normal.

In the past few years, I have coached and mentored many women, and I am seeing a common trend among many—the fear of being judged, the fear of appearing “not normal,” fears of imperfection, and feeling misunderstood and alone.

I can’t explain the weight lifted off so many shoulders just to be told, “What you are feeling or going through is normal.” To listen and not judge is a tremendous gift.

To walk into a home with kids, see a mess and give off a vibe to the parents that they’re doing a good job and have a healthy home. To see a child throwing a tantrum in the supermarket and know that it’s not poor parenting, but that the kid is just being a kid. To see a person make a mistake or take a wrong turn, and understand that you have done it as well. To see these things with an eye on the half-full and not half-empty. It’s such an act of kindness that can give a person the strength to go on when they feel like giving up.

I have come to realize that in talking to women in the park or on the bus over the years that the only normal thing is the cycle on the washing machine. Everyone has ups and downs. Most people really are trying the best that they can.

That said, I now understand why in the Torah we are first commanded to judge our fellow with righteousness (Leviticus 19:15) and then you shall love your neighbor as yourself (ibid 19:18). To love someone as yourself, you have to judge them from a place of understanding and compassion. From a place that says, “I have been in your place and know how hard it is.” Or, “If I were in your place, I don’t know what I myself would do.”

Later in the afternoon, I found myself in the park and, once again noticed a young mother. She was I remember the feeling of being lovedwith a toddler and a baby, and she saw me sitting calmly watching my children and asked how I was managing. I remember the feeling of being loved, understood and cared for from my friend earlier.

I turned to this young mother. I closed my eyes for a moment to put myself in her place, to remember what it was like to be a young and new mother, and then and only then do I open my mouth to speak with her. I listen to her, empathize, validate her.

I explain to her with sincerity how wonderful she is and how holy her role is in caring for her children. I express my genuine admiration for her. I also explain to her the importance of taking care of herself. I am so many years older and reassure her without negating her feelings or thoughts.

I never met her before and don’t know if or when I will run into her again, but I can tell you that when we parted, I knew she felt better.

Isn’t it amazing how we can show love to someone just by understanding them and putting ourselves in their situation? Isn’t it amazing how good it feels to be understood?