your hard is hard

January 22, 2012

(originally shared Jan. 2012) (I thought you  might need the reminder. Or maybe you’re a new mom of one or someone who didn’t read this the first time. I hope it helps.)

Before Asher and Elsie Jane came along, I was out with some friends and I was venting about a hard day with Miles. I was surrounded by mothers with more than one child and they rolled their eyes and sighed and looked at each other and started laughing. One of them said something to the other like, Do you even remember the last time you ever showered alone?

Their reaction hurt a lot, as unintentional as that may have been. I got a message–they had it harder than I did–and in that moment I felt foolish for feeling tired or maybe even for having feelings.

Today, just like that day around five years ago, two more kiddos later, I am exceptionally tired.  Is it different than it was back then? Yes. Do I look back and see how much “easier” it was when there was just Miles and Miles alone? Sure.

Does that change the hard day with the hard feelings as a mother of one five years ago? Not a bit.


Going from two to three children has been a difficult transition for me, so lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what a mother means by hard and how that’s perceived and internalized by other mothers. It so often feels like a competition and so I notice that I stop myself from talking about Hard when I’m talking to mothers with one or two children because I don’t want them to think I’m telling them I have  it harder. Then I don’t want to vent to mothers with more than three children or with older children because I’m expecting the sigh or eye roll or the, just you wait or the, you’ll want these days back.

I hesitate in venting because when I’m doing that it so often seems that other mothers assume I’m saying I win the Hardest Award, or that I’m wishing away my life. But I’m not. I’m just talking. I’m seeking validation and there is nothing more refreshing than another mother who simply sees me and acknowledges The Hard and nods and says, Yes, it’s so hard, isn’t it?

The End.

Why is she so rare?

It’s so inspiring when that fellow mother keeps it at that, but it’s like we’re afraid if we do that it’s going to steal something from us, when actually it’s just like anything else–if you want something, you must give it away. That is what this wise mother knows. It fills her up to show compassion to another mother, whatever their differences.


Being a part of the online mom space has made it very clear to me that motherhood often becomes a competition born out of this need for validation, one in which the goal is to win some kind of internal reward that can never be won this way. Validation is so hard to come by and then we get desparate for it and shake our fists at each other in false comparisons, forgetting that comparing always ends as a loss.


I don’t care if you work at home all day or work out of the home or if you do or don’t co-sleep or breastfeed or attachment parent or helicopter parent or have 1 child or 17 or have teens or grown children…mothering is hard, and when we look at each other with that in mind and with compassion at heart we win-win. It seems simple but we get all tripped up by our need to be seen.

Look at me running, look at how it never stops, please say you see me.

Motherhood is a (terribly repetitive and grueling and absolutely beautiful) race with a photo finish tie and we all end up at the same place. With all of our heart’s desires for our kids –the pressure and the heavy weight of responsibility and all of its grown-up things. The reality for all of us, every single one, is that we fall through the finish line and then we get up and start over again. We are mother marathoners.

This kind of hard that is equal is a result of a love we never could have expected and that is how we tie.  I am running this marathon with all mothers and I look around and I see that all of you are carrying some enormous things on top of simply running (which is hard enough on its own) and I want you to know, I see you.

A few days ago, Miles brought what is in the picture below home from school. Even though it was most likely a mistake, for him to write both SEE and LAV (love) spoke everything to my heart:

When I set aside my insecurity and give myself the credit I deserve and the validation I’m seeking, I don’t need to try to steal yours. This is what will make me one of those refreshing mother-friends, one who says I see you and I hear you and this is hard and you are good. The End.

{Edited to add: In writing this I was so aware of those Mamas with More Hard in the way of special needs or grief or infertility or single parenting, etc. There is a difference between “It’s hard for all of us in different ways” and “it’s equally hard for all of us”. My post is about how it can be unequal in that there is more on the plates of some mothers, but in the end, we’re, most of us, 100% filled up with love for our kids and a desire to do right by them and so hard is hard. I hope that makes sense.}

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