Mockingbird’s latest book—“Unmapped” by Charlotte Getz and Stephanie Phillips—is now available to pre-order! Free shipping on all orders made before its official release day, May 7.

The following “Message in a Bottle” will give you a little taste of what you’ll find in this hilarious and (mostly) true story of two long-distance friends who found hope and grace in unexpected exile.

To Whom It May Concern,

First and foremost, whoever you are, SEND HELP. There are eight of us stuck on a small lifeboat. We’ve been out here for a week. Our coordinates are approximately THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE but we think the sun is setting to our west, if that helps.

Once you’re done flagging down the coast guard, consider this: if you are a male, or a mother already, or a small child, then the rest of this note is really unnecessary. Leave the bottle on the beach. Move on. This is not for you.

Now, to the young woman who is certain to eventually find this, you’re welcome. Being on this tiny boat for a week, fighting for our lives alongside our kids, has given us a sort of sage glow. It seems a shame not to let some of our wisdom rub off on you.

Here’s the thing, gurl. Sometimes you are physically displaced—like in the case of a refugee or, say, a dutiful wife following her precious husband’s career pursuits. And sometimes you become someone completely different than you were. As in, you were an artist, you are a homemaker. This can happen overnight. It’s terrifying.

We used to be the most impressive moms. You know, before we had kids and everything.

Our pretend kids ate all their vegetables and never embarrassed us in public. They potty trained immediately, and until then, we carried their accessories in the cutest designer Coach bags, which never emerged from a bathroom with smears of poop.

Oh, and our marriages were perfect, sexy like in the movies, because fighting over stupid things and being too tired for sex is for losers. And our careers? Fulfilling! So there we were, these women (much like you) who had managed to #haveitall, smiling beatifically and non-judgmentally down at the rest of the world from our skyboxes of perfection. Our imaginary kids slept through the night from eight weeks until forever; we deftly managed our part-time jobs with the type of work/life harmony that most only dream of; our marriages were like a tasteful porno, and our identities were super likeable and founded in all the right places (Jesus, duh).

Then…we actually had the babies.

I don’t think either of us expected to engage in hair-pulling fights with her two-year-old. Or to put a decade-in-the-making career on the way back burner so that her husband could take the reins on her student loan repayment and she could stay home with her kids. Which sometimes feels a lot more like indentured servitude than a cherished and time-honored tradition to uphold. It’s even possible that while her kids were at school today one of us ate lunch in her car after a shopping outing just for the sheer quiet solitude of it.

This is not a good look, by most standards: picking through a takeaway box inside a car, hair unwashed and unstyled, gym clothes mocking the lack of an actual gym visit, and the unmistakable scent of unshowered flesh (combining with food) to create an atmosphere of general stank.

But this is, for us, more often our picture of motherhood than the one we (and you) planned, which looked more like this…(cue swirly dream screen):

IDEAL BODY:

  • Pilates
  • Smoothies
  • Tanktops
  • Razors
  • Bikinis
  • Soul cycle
  • Self-control

ACTUAL BODY:

  • Cheese
  • Wine
  • Stretchy pants
  • All the hair
  • Repeat

IDEAL STYLING:

  • Appearance of professionally applied airbrushing
  • Mascara
  • Self-tanner
  • Eyeliner
  • Daytime lipstick
  • Concealer
  • Hair blown dry and smelling delightful

ACTUAL STYLING:

  • Forgot deodorant
  • Google: “contouring” (as seen on teenage girl’s hit YouTube channel)
  • Stretchy pants

IDEAL CAREER:

  • Full-time career woman
  • Kids in daycare
  • Pant-suits
  • Meetings
  • Conference calls
  • Headset phones (is that still a thing)
  • Power
  • Control

ACTUAL CAREER:

  • Stay-at-home/work-from-home mom
  • Multiple-boss situation
  • No-wage situation
  • Constantly slammed for slacking on the job
  • Stretchy pants

IDEAL CAR:

  • Two-doors (baby sits shotgun because, #coolmom)
  • Sleek
  • Leather
  • Shiny
  • Always newly washed
  • Interior clean and smelling fresh because
  • No food or drink allowed in car
  • Latest hip music wafting through speakers
  • No noticeable dings or dents
  • Windows down

ACTUAL CAR:

  • Huge scratch on side from run-in with pillar in parking deck
  • Small animals foraging in trunk
  • Unidentifiable crumbs scattered throughout upholstery and underneath mats and ESPECIALLY buried in crevices of car seats
  • Roach infestation
  • Windows up because three-year-old “doesn’t like wind”
  • Mixture of body odor/dog odor/a little pee/and Chinese-takeout-smell ever-lingering (because windows are up)
  • Sticky remnants of spilt OJ in cupholder
  • Raffy tunes blaring from speakers because it’s never loud enough
  • Appropriately-sized SUV because we just can’t with the mom-van

IDEAL FASHION:

  • Form-fitting and freshly washed jeans
  • Silk tunic
  • Dangly earrings
  • High heels
  • Designer bag

ACTUAL FASHION:

  • Stretchy yoga pants that have never actually been used for yoga, and if they had, would likely have been see-through in certain poses (we’re looking at you, “Happy Baby”)
  • Old, unwashed-for-weeks t-shirt with remainder of kids’ breakfast and possibly vomit on the sleeve
  • No jewelry other than wedding ring (usually, unless forgotten) which some days resembles tiny handcuff
  • Sneakers with hole in toe
  • Backpack you got for free at the gym you never go to (filled with diapers, Ninja Turtle undies, hand sanitizer, wipes, Legos, unidentifiable crumbs, and emergency Imodium)

IDEAL PARENTING:

  • Baby will sleep, all the time
  • When baby is born, maternal instinct will go off like a grenade and we will just know what to do
  • Lunch dates with baby
  • Life will be exactly like it is now, but add a baby
  • Baby will just crawl up to boob and teach itself how to nurse
  • Will read more
  • Lots of down time while baby entertains itself and sleeps more
  • We will be, like, really good at this

ACTUAL PARENTING:

  • [Insert laugh/cry emoji]
  • Disney Jr.

IDEAL GENERAL DEMEANOR:

  • Calm
  • Assured
  • Fun
  • Spontaneous

ACTUAL GENERAL DEMEANOR:

  • Still recovering from the shock
  • Not sure if we’re effing these kids up
  • Frazzled about finances and whether or not to save for the kids’ college or their therapy
  • Remember to breathe
  • Remember to blink
  • Stop sending the husband SOS texts throughout the day
  • Women have been doing this since the dawn of time
  • So why are we so bad at it?
  • Go on a date with your husband!
  • Have sex with him!
  • Stop talking to yourself!

This is a bitter tonic to taste. We know. You’ll recover in a minute.

The weird thing about our Future-Self vision is this: we were never really all that swanky to begin with. Our inner selves have long betrayed our actual selves: high strung, messy, wine-loving, comfort-loving, TV-loving, SUV-driving wackadoos. Oh, and go figure, we were actually made for this mom stuff. So what if it looks like a five-alarm-fire in Russia most days? That’s just how it is okay?! We need reminding, every minute of every day, that our kids aren’t the rotten ones—we are.

Somehow, remembering this—how pitifully in need of God and grace and love and rescue we are—actually fuels our own tanks to rescue and give to and love our kids. This is a weird identity that feels new because, in some ways, it has robbed us of the possibility to be anyone different: calm, well-fed, in control, and sober. There’s no time or energy left for self-salvation projects like a vacuumed car (or a Clorox-wiped lifeboat).

So who are we now that we are stuck in our exactly-as-we-are-ness?

We’re a lot like our kids: bossy, needy, helpless, whiny as hell, growing like weeds, and loved. What doesn’t God do when our hands are tied?

You can pre-order “Unmapped” here! Shipping May 7.