Hardworking moms across the United States are joining together for a cause: they're pushing back against the idea that moms should behave in a certain way and embracing the fact that motherhood is messy and imperfect.
The turnout for the "#IMomSoHard: Mom’s Night Out" event in Des Moines, Iowa, is a testament to this mission. The sold-out show — there are 2,700 seats — is hosted by Kristin Hensley and Jen Smedley, the comedic duo behind the viral web series "#IMomSoHard."
Most, if not all, of the women who attended "Mom's Night Out" were moms in need of a break from their busy lives, and the show provided an opportunity for them to laugh about their daily struggles.
"We noticed that, like, online, no one was talking about how motherhood is kind of a s--t show," Smedley said during the performance.
Later on, Hensley spoke about using the bathroom by herself — for once. "I didn't even know I could do it without someone staring at me," she said.
"They're so relatable — just relatable to everyday mom things," one mom said of the #IMomSoHard comics.
Hensley and Smedley were making YouTube videos about motherhood long before the 2016 film "Bad Moms" hit theaters. For some, however, it began with that movie.
"I feel like that movie nailed it," Smedley said. "Like they're all trying their best and failing in different directions, which is what we're all doing. It was ... very accurate."
The two moms first met randomly after a comedy show in Los Angeles in which Smedley had performed.
"Jen was performing with a couple of friends of mine and then we had beers in the parking lot," Hensley said.
As conversations among the group overlapped, Hensely said they both realized they were from Nebraska. They became friends quickly, Smedley said. Later on, they each got married and had kids, and as they began to face the challenges of being new moms, inspiration struck.
Hensley said it started on a normal night during which Smedley, her husband and their children visited Hensley's house. She said Smedley was breastfeeding her 4-month-old daughter, Delilah, "all the time and not sleeping," and that Hensley also had a toddler.
"Then my son was getting in trouble in preschool and we just felt like we're failing on all fronts, and then there was a rare moment where our husbands took the kids outside and we got to just talk to each other, and within seconds we each had a glass of wine and we were bawling, and then very quickly, we were laughing," Smedley said. "I think that's what we kind of came up within that moment...how come nobody shows you this? And what if we did show this? We decided to kind of put a video together and we did our first shoot day."
The pair's intention was to be bubbly, upbeat and inspiring. But during the taping of their first video, a random occurrence once again led the two women toward their fate when Smedley forgot her daughter's name and the women chose to embrace the slip up.
"It was so genuine and wonderful and terrible," said Hensley.
"The funny thing is nobody's ever like, 'You forgot your daughter's name. That's awful. You're a horrible parent.' They're like, 'I get it,'" Smedley said.
Combined, Smedley and Hensely's "#IMomSoHard" videos collectively have over 200 million views.
Hensley said those who watch their videos have "sort of become like this collective" that tries to outdo each other with how messy their mistakes could get — all in an effort to support each other through the hard times.
"It feels wonderful to have people going like, 'Hey, I know you feel terrible about this moment but we're going to make you feel better because we're in this together and...because everybody is trying," Hensley said.
But YouTube was only the beginning. The women are currently are on their second national "Mom's Night Out" tour, they have a comedy special showing on Amazon right now and they are in the early development stages with Warner Bros. for a TV show that's slated to air on ABC.
The duo has inspired moms everywhere to get involved in supporting each other. Krystle Romano of Long Island, New York, married her husband four years ago and welcome three step-children into her family. She admitted that it can sometimes be difficult managing a blended family and said this prompted her to look through Facebook for mom groups.
That's when she came across "Bad Moms of Long Island," a group with over 15,000 members. On the group's page, moms post self-deprecating stories and memes knowing that they can let loose there and be themselves. On Monday, Sept. 30, the group will also premiere a roundtable internet radio show called “Bad Moms Live.”
"I love that we're not judgmental," Romano, who is now a moderator of the group, said. "A lot of moms jump in and they're like, 'Oh, me too. Me too.' You know, so I think that's great because everyone comes together. It's not that you're a bad mom. It just feels like we're real moms."
Other members of the group agreed on the fact that its members are exceptionally supportive, such as Jesse Curatolo, who joined the group after she had her daughter Olivia.
"I needed it. Honestly...I needed a group like this...where I could vent," Curatolo said.
"A bad mom isn't a neglectful mom," she added. "It's a mom that doesn't fit the cookie-cutter mold of what sometimes other people tell you you should be."
While the group serves as an outlet for the moms to let their imperfections go free, it also gives them a place to forget about childcare if only for a moment to recharge.
"It can't always be about your child because then there's no you," Curatolo said. "Like, you lose yourself and I feel like if you lose yourself, you're not going to be your best self for her or for your child. Like, you can't be the best mother you can be if you're running on empty all the time."
To help the women get some free time, the group holds its own "mom's night outs." Curatolo said that once a month they'll go out to a different bar together where they can bond over motherhood.
"We find that a lot of times, moms say their biggest thing about motherhood that's rough for them is losing their friends who are not mothers," Curatolo said. "So this is a really good opportunity for moms to meet other moms who are in a similar situation. Being a mom is so hard but we have to have some fun."