Cierra Fortner was in Walmart with her two kids when a cashier made a throwaway comment about her family. What the stranger said affected Fortner so much that she went home and posted her story on Facebook. She was soon a viral sensation.
Fortner is a mom from Oak Grove, Missouri. She and her husband, Brett, are parents to two kids already, and soon they will add a set of twins to the family. From the outside, their life may look idyllic, but the reality tells a different story.
In 2010 Fortner had a particularly tough time. She lost her mom to cancer and started attending counseling sessions to help her through it. Fortner was suffering with both depression and anxiety, and then in 2011, she fell pregnant with the couple’s first child.
Once their first son, Jayce, arrived, Fortner came up against a bout of postpartum depression. Then, just a month after giving birth, Fortner tried to end her life. She was unsuccessful, but in 2014 she had another attempt at committing suicide.
Again, Fortner didn’t succeed, but in the years that followed, the mom of two continued to battle with mental health issues. That’s why, when someone approached her in Walmart and made a comment about her family, Fortner couldn’t help but react.
It was January 2017, and Fortner was in the store with her two children. She was doing a big grocery shop for the entire week, as she usually did on Fridays. But then a member of staff said something to Fortner that caught her off guard.
The cashier complimented Fortner on how well she seemed to be doing. “I see you in here all the time – your kids are always dressed cute, behaving, and you just seem to have it all together,” the Walmart employee said to her out of the blue.
Fortner thanked the cashier and went home, but she couldn’t stop thinking about what the employee had said. While the comment was perfectly nice, Fortner felt that it wasn’t correct. And so she decided to do something about it.
When Fortner got home, she decided to go online and share her story. In a Facebook post, she shared some intimate details about her life as a reaction to what the Walmart employee had said to her that day. She wanted to put the record straight.
The cashier had said that Fortner seemed to “have it all together,” but the mom of two wanted the employee to know how incorrect that statement was. “I want her [the cashier] to know I battle a personality disorder everyday with anxiety and depression mixed and I’m a two times suicide survivor,” the Facebook post read.
From then on, Fortner continued to share some poignant and private information about her life. “I want her to know that I can’t always get myself up off the couch to feed them anything more than frozen pizza and cereal,” she admitted.
“I want her to know that my son is late for school three out of four days because I regularly forget what day and time it is, despite the toddler size calendar in my kitchen,” Fortner said, before going on to explain how she sometimes gets emotionally overwhelmed.
“I want her to know I have those ‘I’m losing my shit’ moments when I have to lock myself in the bathroom and cry,” Fortner wrote. Not only that, but she also confessed not to have been “the most active mom” over the years because of her work commitments.
Fortner described other scenarios that demonstrated that she wasn’t a perfect parent. “I want her to know that I hadn’t washed my hair in three days, and my kids hadn’t had a bath in two,” she wrote, before adding that on the day they met at Walmart she had actually left the diaper bag at home.
Even though Fortner might have given the impression of having everything together that day, one of her kids almost hurt themselves in the parking lot – and Fortner blamed herself for not concentrating. But her message wasn’t intended to be one of self-deprecation.
In fact, Fortner wrote the Facebook post to get an important message across. She wanted to tell other moms that it’s okay not to be perfect. “I don’t know a mother out there that has it all together but everything we do is done with love for our children and that right there makes you the perfect mom,” she wrote.
The heartfelt social media post ended with the following words, “From one exhausted mom to another, you’re doing great, have that meltdown, let your kids eat the crap out of that cereal and take care of yourself always.” And with that, the post went totally viral.
With more than 100,000 shares, Fortner’s uplifting message reached plenty of other parents all over the world who might have needed a little encouragement. “This is so real,” commented one mom, while another wrote, “Thanks for these beautiful words.”
After her Facebook post snowballed online, Fortner spoke to HuffPost about the intended message behind it. She explained that other moms should not “sweat the small stuff” because, in the end, their kids will only remember how much they were loved, rather than how “perfect” their mom was perceived to be.
Sadly, there was a time when Fortner felt like she was “the worst mom on the planet,” but thankfully, she has come to understand that it’s okay not to be perfect. There’s no doubt that being a parent is hard, even one without anxiety or depression, but let’s hope that Fortner’s inspirational words bring some strength to others who might be struggling.