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.

Lose-lose.

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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{ 92 comments… read them below or add one }

Lindsey van Niekerk January 22, 2012 at 1:03 pm

*STANDING OVATION*

Just beautiful.
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julia January 30, 2012 at 4:56 pm

DITTO Lindsey’s comment!

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Angie @ Angie Anew January 22, 2012 at 1:09 pm

So true! And applicable not only to mothering (I see it in the workplace, too). There seems to be a contest among people about who is the busiest or has it the hardest. When someone shares about hard times, the reaction isn’t “Wow. That’s tough. Can I help?” It’s “Oh yeah? Let me tell you what I have going on!” Sad.
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Heather January 22, 2012 at 1:20 pm

Yes. I notice it, too, outside of mothering. We are all so hungry to be heard and validated and I so wish it could come by way of just truly listening to each other. So yeah. Amen…

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Kathie January 22, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Angie, I was thinking the same thing – applicable in all areas of life. And Heather, your words pierced my heart because I see now that I am too often fighting for that “I win the Hardest Award”. I needed to hear this and I thank you.

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Kate January 22, 2012 at 1:10 pm

I hate the Mom Wars, mostly because I just don’t understand why there has to be this clash over the most instinctive and necessary task we take on. As the parent of a teenager on the brink of adulthood, I get so many comments, whether well-intentioned or not, over how difficult my teenager must be, as if ALL kids at the age of 17 are the Tasmanian Devil of the human race. And when I say mine is not, when I speak of his amazing heart, his generous soul, his compliance to our expectations and his ease of being his Mom, I get that ‘look’ that says I’m entrenched in LaLa land, unable to see the forest for the trees. I’m so tired of it; so fed up with the sense that there has to be some common baseline we all should be standing on, so that we can all feel like our lives can be justified. We all have our own baseline, and that’s all that matters. None of us know the whole story, what’s going on in anyone else’s lives, but too many people act like they do. And it just needs to stop.

{{off the soapbox}} Thank you Heather. I see you, and I hear you and every moment is hard and you are a good, loving, gracious and blessed Mother. I only wished we lived closer.
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Heather January 22, 2012 at 1:19 pm

I love everything you said, and this really stands out:
I’m so tired of it; so fed up with the sense that there has to be some common baseline we all should be standing on, so that we can all feel like our lives can be justified. We all have our own baseline, and that’s all that matters. None of us know the whole story, what’s going on in anyone else’s lives, but too many people act like they do. And it just needs to stop.

You’ve said so eloquently what I was trying to say. We don’t ever have the whole story and there are just so many many baselines and every one is justified. Yes. Thank you.

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Jayme January 22, 2012 at 1:13 pm

This. All of this. I often find myself holding back, keeping a lot to myself, looking for support and getting incredulity. “Oh, just wait until you have another” or “What I wouldn’t give for ONLY 4 hours of sleep a night!” I don’t know what it’s like to have more than one child, because I only have one. But the one can be hard, and it’s so disheartening to look to other mothers for, I don’t know, sympathy? empathy? a kind word? And be told I’m lucky, it’s easy now, I don’t know hard yet. I’m not looking to win, I’m just looking to be considered part of the team.

Thank you for writing this. Being a mother is hard. Maybe we can all agree not to quantify that, and let it just stand on its own truth.
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Heather January 22, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Oh lady, I know. I get it. I wrote this largely for mothers in your shoes. I want us all to NOT have to hold back because of that fear of having our feelings pushed back. One child is a lot. One life in general is a lot. WORD. ;)

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Nicole @ Rare Bird January 22, 2012 at 1:20 pm

These precious words are what my heart needed this morning. Amen and amen.
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deb January 22, 2012 at 1:23 pm

yes , this exactly.
I felt like such an outsider for a time, having five when most of our friends have two or three, like they didn’t feel right giving me their hard because , compared to me, it would seem less.
And it sometimes made me feel like I’d have to size up a situation, figure out which me to present. The one that wasn’t complaining because everyone would judge that I’d clearly brought it on myself ( add in rep soccer, travelling husband etc ) , or the one that was damn tired and frustrated etc and we could all share our I get this stories and uplift each other a bit you know?
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Heather January 22, 2012 at 6:00 pm

yes. yes. Sizing up a situation to figure out which me to present. I so get that. It’s exactly what I meant. xoxo

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Susan b January 22, 2012 at 1:31 pm

Yep!

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Laura @ Hollywood Housewife January 22, 2012 at 1:33 pm

The title of this post says it all for me. I know my life isn’t nearly as hard as many others, but I also know its harder than some, for reasons people could never imagine. Your hard is your hard, and it’s relative, but it’s also legitimate.

Sometime I’m even tough on MYSELF about it. I look back and think “I made that season of life harder than it had to be.” if we can’t even extend grace to ourselves…

Now I’m going to be more aware when a fellow mother is venting to me.
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Heather January 22, 2012 at 6:01 pm

I’m hard on myself about it too. So hard. And yes, “if we can’t extend grace to ourselves…” I needed that.

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Cynthia January 22, 2012 at 2:22 pm

This is such a great post! My sister lost daughter- 36 week stillbirth of a beautiful 6 1/2 lb. baby girl. No medical explanations. She just died. It was interesting how many people tried to comfort her by saying “at least it wasn’t a child you had known and loved longer” or whatever else that was meant to comfort by saying this could have been harder. She told me is “All I know is that THIS is hard. Whether or not some have it easier or harder doesn’t change the fact that THIS is hard to ME!” Isn’t that the truth? Hard is hard and we should allow each person to have their own hard without trying to place a comparative value on it. Thanks for saying this outloud!

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Stephanie January 22, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Well said. I catch myself playing this game with my husband sometimes. Who had the hardest day? Who is more tired? Who deserves to put their feet up more? It’s awful. And stupid. And when I catch us doing it, I tell myself to shut up and just listen to my husband and appreciate whatever it is that’s going on with him. Once I’ve done that, I know he’ll do the same for me.
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Heather January 22, 2012 at 5:41 pm

Oh me too! I pick this battle with my husband more than anyone and I have to stop myself. It IS silly. And it always helps me see that I NEED something…usually some kind of validation to fend off that invisible feeling. I don’t think it’s bad to need that, it’s just that it forces us into acting in some pretty ridiculous ways :)

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Erin January 22, 2012 at 3:45 pm

The first time I experienced that attitude of “just you wait, you have no idea how hard it REALLY is,” was before I even had kids. I was pregnant and swollen and miserable and someone basically told me these were the easy days and to just enjoy it and I had no idea what I was getting myself into, when what I really wanted was a hug maybe and a back rub and possibly a large bowl of chocolate ice cream.

I see you, Heather. It’s hard. It’s so hard, no matter what, no matter when, no matter how many or how old. It’s just tough, this motherhood, this life. I guess it helps me most to know that even if no one else sees how very, very hard this is, He sees. He knows. And I guess maybe a God who had to send His Son to die knows a little bit about the tough of parenting.

Love to you. And hugs. And chocolate ice cream, if you’re so inclined. :)
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Adventures In Babywearing January 22, 2012 at 3:49 pm

It *is* so hard, isn’t it?

Steph
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liv January 22, 2012 at 4:25 pm

I heard once that one child takes 100% of your time, 2 kids take 100% of your time, and three kids take 100% of your time and so on. You are right, hard is hard.
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Heather January 22, 2012 at 5:42 pm

I love this. That’s so true. Because when I had Miles, he was the center of all my thoughts and focus of my days, ETC…so true. Thank you.

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Varda (SquashedMom) January 22, 2012 at 6:39 pm

I LOVE this – that’s a great quote – hope you don’t mind if I borrow it!
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Sarah@EmergingMummy January 22, 2012 at 5:05 pm

Nothing here but YES.

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trena January 22, 2012 at 5:16 pm

Thank you for such beautiful words.

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Emma @ emmasota January 22, 2012 at 5:38 pm

So true, so true. I’ve been supported by mom friends so well this weekend. Yesterday, a girlfriend and I took our kids to an ECFE carnival together, and she paid me the best compliment. It was something along the lines of, “you’re such a natural at parenting.” And I thought, “What the…?” But rather than argue, I said, “thank you, that is so sweet.” I’ve been feeling like I just can’t win lately (not in the sense that I’m competing w/ anyone else, but maybe myself), so those words meant a lot. I also got some wonderful support about baby sleep training in my blog comments today. So like you, Heather, I am going to try to return the favor and be THAT mom friend more often.
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Jessica January 22, 2012 at 5:54 pm

Active listening and providing the voice and response our friends need is such an overlooked art. No mistake, I said art. A perfected skill to be a friend takes time and effort. But one we all grow and gain from.
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Heather January 22, 2012 at 6:02 pm

art. YES, it is.

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Kazzy January 22, 2012 at 7:04 pm

Yes, sometimes there seems to be some kind of mom competition going on. “you think that’s hard?…”. Women can be so strange. :)

That Elsie Jane is a beauty!
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Cheairs January 22, 2012 at 7:29 pm

Heather,
Reading this post was a “hard” one for me. I felt an array of emotions as I read your words. I come from a perspective of having an eight year old son with autism. I come from on online mom space of women who have children with autism and other special needs. I come from a space of advocacy and awareness. So I am going to go against the grain of all of your other comments and say that I do think that some women-many women- have it harder than others. By women standing up and saying yes my hard is harder than you hard is okay. Being aware of other women who have it “harder” than me is okay. Yes, I have a child with autism who has been known to go into the kitchen and take a dozen eggs and crack them on the floor and strip his clothes and curl up on the floor naked when he is unable to communicate his needs to me. Yes, that is hard. But their are moms out there-and their children do not yet speak, their kids pull out there own hair and eat it, their children smear poop on the walls. And yes these women have it harder than me. Yes, we all have it hard. Yes, we all need to listen with empathy and compassion to our friends…to our sisters, to our mama friends. But we need to listen -to take in….and know that yes- many have it harder. Cynthia’s sister lost a child. I can not even begin to wrap my arms around the loss of a child. My little boy may have autism but I can hold him in my arms and I can kiss him on the head…..cracked eggs or not.
Yes, we are all justified in our hard moments, days, and years. And yes, I am saying SEE ME….I am actually saying it really loud. Because if I say it then people will see it. And if they see it then they become aware….and if they are aware….then they can hold the others person “hard”. As women as moms we can breathe in that other persons moments and days when they come so close to breaking. As sister and mama’s we can hold one anothers pain and fear in our hands when they are unable to bear it anynmore. And yes…by doing that…..that other mama’s “hard” is made a little softer…

Thank you for letting me go against the grain with my comment. As always you make me think and your words are a gift to me and so many others. Thank you Heather.

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Heather January 22, 2012 at 7:41 pm

You know what? I thought about you and the many mothers I know who have children with special needs when I was writing this. I hoped it wouldn’t be misunderstood.

And you know what? As much as it may have felt that you were going against the grain, I don’t really know that you are. The reality is that there are things that are harder, for many mothers. Single mothers, mothers like you and your sisters, those that have lost a child or children. I’m not at all discrediting that. What I’m essentially saying is that even if there are differing levels of hard (like me recognizing that three is harder than one), it’s all hard. So when I say we’re tied, I don’t exactly mean in what we have on our plates but that we’re all in Motherhood together because of the intense weight of love and responsibility. Not that it’s all the same. I hope I’m making sense.

While I typed this post I was sitting in a coffee shop and there was a mom with a boy with autism. They were struggling. A lot. and I didn’t change what I’ve written because I remembered back to when we found out Asher has hydrocephalus and we were going through brain surgery on our one year old. My friends would start to complain about the usual motherhood annoyances and then they would stop talking and say “Oh I’m sorry. I should stop! You have so much more going on than I do!” And I would tell them not to stop, because I’m still their friend and I still understand that struggle is struggle, even if what they were feeling was really different than what I was feeling. And then I fully expected them to hear me too, when I needed so badly to scream DO YOU SEE ME? THIS IS SO HARD. My point with this post was that…that we would all just listen.

P.S. I ended up writing my Just Write post for this week while at the coffee shop…so it’s about that mom and her son. Because wow, did I ever see her.

xoxo

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Varda (SquashedMom) January 22, 2012 at 8:14 pm

Heather – can’t wait to read that post! FYI, I always feel that you see & hear me without judgement or competition. Means a lot to me.
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Varda (SquashedMom) January 22, 2012 at 8:13 pm

Cheairs, As the mother of a verbal but “mid-functioning” child on the autism spectrum I am so aware of how wide the continuum of “hard” is in our community, can easily feel guilty spilling my anguish about my son Jacob having a bad week as defined by a few hour-long crying jags when some have children who have melted down daily their ENTIRE LIVES. But I also know it doesn’t make my need to be seen and heard any lesser. I love what you have written and shared here. Feel like our many truths are such an important part of the story we are weaving together.
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Varda (SquashedMom) January 22, 2012 at 8:05 pm

There is so much truth here, I don’t even know where to begin in my commenting. I never got the Mommy Wars, always thought we were on the same side. As the parent of twins I never had / never knew what parenting only one was like. When they were little I would sometimes envy what looked easier, but always reminded myself that nothing looks the same from the inside as it does from the outside. There is no easy.

This mothering is the hardest thing I have ever done, bar none. And even if I had climbed Mt. Everest, I would still say the same. Now as the mother of a child on the Autism spectrum, a special needs parent, I still have to work to stifle the envy that inevitably creeps up when I see families out enjoying time that seems so easy and care-free. Remind myself over and over again “You don’t know what the inside feels like, just from looking at the outside.”

Every family has its blessing, every family has its challenges (and aren’t they funnily often exactly the same things?) And so I work hard to try to connect around our similarities, honor and respect our differences. I love these words of yours: “I see you and I hear you and this is hard and you are good. The End.” Yep. That’s it, all right.
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Jane June 28, 2012 at 7:44 am

I really appreciate what you have said. I don’t know what it is like to have a child with Autism but do know some moms of special needs kids. While I understand that their hard is definitely harder than my hard, the problem is that their attitude of brushing off anyone without a special needs child has turned everyone away from them. Their “please notice me and lavish pity upon me” mentality takes the focus off of their child and turns it totally toward them. It seems that when things have settled down and no one is noticing them anymore they create more mayhem so that people will once again notice. I wish I could be a support to them, but they have made it nearly impossible. I wish they would try to connect the similarities and respect the differences as you have said. Instead they are always making comments and writing blog posts to the effect of “my life is harder than yours so please don’t talk to me about yours” and “if you aren’t going to come and watch my kids or bring me a meal you are not my friend anymore.” It’s sad, really.

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Heather June 28, 2012 at 8:07 am

Jane,
While you may have come across some moms who have children with special needs who behave this way, I think they are definitely the minority. Most mothers of children with special needs that I know online and off are like Varda. They understand that parenting is hard for everyone, even while they know that they have more on their plates. I just hesitate to describe all special needs parents as you have here. It’s probably quite hurtful for mothers and fathers who are full of grace and understanding and who fight every day to serve their children to see that they are viewed this way.

Sometimes when a person isn’t working so hard and is so emotionally spent because they have such unconditional love for their children (that’s all of us), we are so hungry for that recognition that you’re talking about. Maybe some bloggers have seemed to come across like they are begging for attention because they feel so invisible in all their trying. And maybe many of them don’t mean to sound like they’re saying other people need to be quiet. If they are directly saying that, I feel bad for them, actually. Because it means they are really really struggling.

My son Asher is my special needs boy. What makes him unique does not take from my life, it adds–in all of its scary mess and glory. I honestly have never once thought that my friends or readers with no special needs kids need to buck up because they don’t have to worry that their child is going to die because the fluid in their brain doesn’t work right. Never. The reality is that most of us are just doing the best we can and if someone gets defensive it’s because they’re tired and hurting and they don’t have the tools to overcome this comparing and frustration that you speak of.

I’m not telling you this as an argument, but I just really think this is an important conversation. We need to be honest and then learn from each other.

Heather

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Jane June 28, 2012 at 10:03 am

Thanks for your reply, Heather. I was both agreeing with your original post (and the edited to ad…) and also with Varda’s recognition that even as a special needs mom she tries to recognize that all families have their challenges, even if one of them isn’t a special needs child. I think sometimes the “hard” that is invisible is also extremely hard, because there isn’t an outward showing of the issues going on and it’s more difficult to seek help. I do also agree that the majority of moms and dads are compassionate and gracious and not like the one mom I described. I know a handful, and there is only one I am speaking of. After rereading it I see my misuse of “their” just lumped them all together which is not what I intended at all. This mom really does come flat out and say things that I mentioned above, so I would agree that she probably is struggling but with knowing her a very long time she also just craves attention in general and truthfully is using her child’s disability to her advantage. I feel sorry for her but really don’t know what to do other than just try to be nice and stay out of her way! If you or anyone have any suggestions of how to better approach her I would love to hear them.

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Pgoodness January 22, 2012 at 8:09 pm

Yes, it’s hard. And some days my hard might seem harder to me than to (the general) you, but that’s ok, because other days it will be the opposite. But the thing is, we are all in this together…hard is hard and we need to have each others’ backs, not make a competition out of it.

I do admit I’ve done the “oh yeah? Well listen to this!!” but never as a competitive thing, only as a “I’m with you” thing, and only in fun.

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Ann January 22, 2012 at 8:37 pm

Over time I’ve made it my business to surround myself with only mothers like this, THANK GOD.

It has taken time and learning, and I’m well aware of my good fortune of knowing quite a few of them. You, for one!

Beautifully stated.
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Stephanie Hanes January 22, 2012 at 8:40 pm

Heather, I love this and I LOVE YOU. And I totally get these words. I’ve been restraining myself often from sharing the hard parts of being a mom, the days I want to cry or scream or call it quits…because I’m afraid of the mom who will say, “wait until you have more” or who will tell me to “be thankful for what I have”, because really it IS hard and it’s not that I don’t love it or that I’m no…t thankful or that I don’t know that it will be harder when/if we have more…I just simply want to say it’s hard and to know I’m not alone in this. Hard is hard is hard. There’s no better mom or mom who has it harder – we’re all in this together. It’s hard, but it’s also beautiful and worth it and wonderful. Thank you for your honesty and your vulnerability, for not being afraid to say you are not perfect…because it reminds me I’m not alone and that it’s okay to cry and say “this is hard”.
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Jessica (the saving mom) January 22, 2012 at 8:47 pm

This so ministered to my heart. Today was one of those days I felt broken and alone. Your words were a healing balm. Thank you. – Jessica
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TRISH January 22, 2012 at 8:59 pm

“I see you and I hear you and this is hard and you are good. The End.” just says it all. And as my children get older, I cherish those hard days along with the good.

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JennyP January 22, 2012 at 9:10 pm

Heather, these are such beautiful words… words that are so very true. I recently heard a mother of one venting her frustration about her baby that wasn’t napping. As a result, she wasn’t getting any of her regular “me” time during the day. With five kids, it’s been a long time since I’ve had consistent me time, whether baby is napping or not. But here’s the thing… At one point, I WAS that mother – that mother that needed her “me” time while my only baby napped. It has taken ten years of mothering and adjusting and growing and stretching to figure out how to parent five, how to fit in little snatches of me time when I can. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t hard then… It was hard then, and it’s hard now. Maybe a different kind of hard, but not a hard that is any more significant. I don’t think it does any of us any good to have anyone say, “Well you just wait…” because none of us started out knowing how to do it all. It’s a huge adjustment, from zero to one, then one to two, two to three, and so on. What we need is encouragement and support and the most important word in my mothering vocabulary, validation. This post speaks so beautifully as to why.

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Annie January 22, 2012 at 9:28 pm

I love this. To listen and to validate those around us, to really hear their hearts and to cheer them on. Thank you for saying this, here. Thank you.
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lori peterson January 22, 2012 at 10:20 pm

Heather Heather Heather Heather…………………………………
You are such an amazingly wonderful MOTHER and writer and survivor!!!
So, SO PROUD of YOU:)
You are beautiful!!!

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nicole January 22, 2012 at 10:38 pm

You are so right. I really try so hard to confirm/sympathize with the feelings of my mom friends, regardless of how many kids we have. In fact, and this is true, I tell them that my hardest transition was none to one. Being a parent IS hard–worth it, but hard. And my hard might look different than yours, but it does not make it less so.

I tell women friends not to diminish the weight of their cross (speaking in Christian terms) in the light of someone else’s cross. Yes, acknowledge there are things about your suffering that are easier than someone else’s. But your cross is the one given to you for a purpose, and when we diminish it we diminish God’s working in our lives. I think this applies to motherhood too.

Great words Heather.
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Lisa H. January 22, 2012 at 10:39 pm

What a wonderful and honest post. I, too, used to hold back on venting for fear of, “If you think THAT’S bad, just wait until [fill in the blank]. Because of my own experiences, I’m also very conscious of how I listen to my mom friends when they need to be heard. It doesn’t matter to me if I think I’m having a harder time or I’m a worse mother than they seem to think they are. I just listen and offer compassion and empathy. If they’re struggling, that’s all I need to know to believe them. They do the same for me.

I’m grateful that early in my recovery, my first sponsor taught me that I needn’t compare my experience to others, whether it was better or worse. We are all where we are and if you’re going through “The Hard”, I’m the kind of mom who wants to know, so that I can share that I understand. I have learned to surround myself with people with whom I feel safe and with whom I can be honest. And thank God, that circle has grown and we can all lean on each other without competing with what we’re going through at any given time.

Bless you for writing this post. I’ve never read anything on this dynamic and it needed to be said. Sending lots of understanding and validation. xo

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Galit Breen January 22, 2012 at 10:42 pm

Yes, this. I aspire to be that “I hear you”mother, too. Beautiful and poignant, Heather.
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Dawn January 22, 2012 at 11:15 pm

Well said! I love that you wrote this, We all need help remembering this truth.
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Jen January 22, 2012 at 11:42 pm

Lovely reminder about perspective & kindness. Thank you. I’ll keep my eye rolling to a minimum and my nods more numerous.

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suzannah {so much shouting, so much laughter} January 23, 2012 at 12:11 am

mmm hmm. i read something recently about the mommy wars aren’t so much a war among women as a war against women. even when we try to be at peace with our decisions and our neighbors, some dumb study comes out and the media frames it as women against one another. if men get to opt out of all the parenting bullshit (and they do), we should too.

mothering is hard and it is good. the only thing that does make me a bit crazy is when people say it isn’t. that’s the only time i look at someone with one child and think girlfriend, please.
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Kathryn January 23, 2012 at 7:23 am

Very well put. It is hard, for everyone, and in different ways. It would be nice to be in a space to just say it out loud without fear of response. Thank you for your heartfelt words.

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Amanda January 23, 2012 at 8:39 am

I so agree with you! The longer you’re a mom and the more kids you add, the more experience you’ve gotten and time you’ve had to resign yourself to your lack of freedom. Having one baby is hard for so many reasons and having more babies is hard for different reasons. It’s not a competition. We need to just be here for each other.
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Kate January 23, 2012 at 9:51 am

This is a beautiful post! You write so well.
I have to admit something though. (and I didn’t read all the comments yet). I have a very good friend, a Mom friend, and we spend a lot of time together. I really love her. However (you knew the however was coming) – she vents to me A LOT about how hard things are for her. How tired she is because she “only got 7 hours of sleep”. How her one child is driving her mad. How it is sooooo hard because she has to get one child ready when she wants to go somewhere. Well, I am sorry, but I do sometimes roll my eyes (internally) – I DO!! Especially on days when I have gotten mayyyybe 3 hours of sleep and I haven’t even pooped alone in a month and my two children are screaming at me and it has taken me 2 hours just to coordinate a 10 minute grocery run and I can’t find my shoes and I smell bad and I just want 10 cotton pickin minutes of silence. That probably makes me a bad person, but…I do get annoyed. I ADMIT IT! So…how do I validate her feelings, (which are completely valid), maintain the friendship, create that bond, keep the honesty – when I seriously want to wring her neck sometimes?? I KNOW, that is BAD, and I am MEAN, but …well …? I don’t mean to be mean. It is not a contest. I’m just tired sometimes, and sometimes I just don’t have it in me to sympathize. So what do you do in that case? Shut your yap, or try to talk to your friend about it? I usually just change the subject, but I am not being a very good friend to her then, am I. Thoughts?
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Heather January 23, 2012 at 10:49 am

YOU JERK!!!
kidding. I totally get it, of course. you’re just NORMAL.

And yes, the comments would reveal some stuff to you, I think, about how there ARE differing levels of hard but there are ways of looking at it that change how it feels like a competition. If that makes sense.

I know what you mean, completely, and I guess I just try hard to say “yes, it’s hard” to that person because it IS whether we remember how it felt or not, you know? That person’s perspective and experience is way different but in her world, it’s really hard.

I want to be more articulate and stuff but Elsie is busting these teeth out and she therefore hates it when I type. YOU KNOW. And Asher is rolling around on my feet wishing I would feed him. SO DEMANDING. :)

xoxo

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Kate January 23, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Yes, of course her hard IS hard – it was hard for me when I had one. She is totally right, and should be allowed to vent to a friend. But I guess, hmmm…I guess I just wish she would sometimes consider her audience a bit more? The flip side, you know? I think we all should consider our audience more. Like the time I vented on FB about sleep, and you had gotten like er….16 hours less that day. OOPS. Heh heh. Perhaps my response should be “Yes, i hear you, it IS hard, i am having a real hard day too. Now let’s eat some chocolate and talk about something that makes us happy because all this complaining is giving me gas”.
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Heather January 23, 2012 at 12:44 pm

You know what? I think Ann is on to something (comment above) about surrounding herself with mothers that SEE and HEAR her, too. I mean, it sounds like your friend doesn’t and of course that’s just plain frustrating. You’re right. I mean, real friendship goes both ways and all that. When I’m in relationship with someone like that, who seems to only see their own world, I feel so small. These are the friends that need subject-changing, yes…and maybe less time being around them. Because wow, we already feel kind of invisible and all that. And you know what? that’s the kind of mother I was writing this about…where it feels like a competition because it’s born out of selfishness. okay, I’ll stop rambling.

And oh lady, if there was a time on facebook where I threw in how little sleep I got, that was ME being all LOOK AT ME TOO. sheesh. Not YOUR bad. Mine. Yo. Love you. Bye.

(asher wants to know if dick and dock rhyme. so distracting)

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Kate January 23, 2012 at 12:51 pm

dick and dock….haaaaaa
i am loving this discussion…in conclusion – it’s all hard, we all need to remember that and be good friends to each other, consider your audience, eat more chocolate.

but yea, one kid on boob one on knees. computer must shut now. xoxoxox
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Jenna January 23, 2012 at 10:00 am

AMEN!!

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monica January 23, 2012 at 10:01 am

Oh… how this post hits home – and I am not a mother. This comparison battle is exactly what I spent my entire weekend enmeshed in… stemming from comparing (perceived) recoveries, (perceived) abilities, and (perceived) well… like-ability. life + recovery + career is well, just hard sometimes. Not harder or less hard, just hard. This post is perfectly times and oh, so needed.

“and in that moment I felt foolish for feeling tired or maybe even for having feelings”
I wish this wasn’t the case… because I’m fairly certain that other people’s words, actions, and inactions weren’t/aren’t intented to hurt. But they do.

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Evin January 23, 2012 at 10:17 am

Unfortunately, I get this at home a lot. I tell him “Ugh, today sucked… the baby nursed for 6 hrs straight and the toddler wouldn’t eat anything but candy, then the big kid got introuble at school …” or whatever my day was and I get ‘yeah you’ve got it so rough sitting there in your pajamas with a baby on your lap while I was 20 feet in the air on a ladder all day”…

Me having a crap day doesn’t negate YOUR crap day… can we both have a crap day? Does it have to be a competition?

I know that’s not exactly what your post is about I just needed to vent.
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Sarah January 23, 2012 at 10:39 am

Heather – thank you for sharing this! You couldn’t have posted it at a better time. I am fortunate to have friends with all combination of kids, including none at all. And I need that constant reminder that it is hard for everyone, no more, no less, just hard sometimes – and that’s okay.

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Erica Staab January 23, 2012 at 12:54 pm

Beautiful… and something we all need to be reminded of and remember… thank you for putting such beautiful words to this :)

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Tracie January 23, 2012 at 1:16 pm

This post is beautiful, and I think the conversations happening in the comments are really important, too.
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Liz January 23, 2012 at 1:49 pm

I get this about Motherhood, but honestly it spoke to me most about weight loss right now. In previous attempts at weight loss I’ve been to Weight Watcher meetings and spent the ENTIRE time grumbling to myself, ‘Oh, she has to lose 20 WHOLE POUNDS, poor baby, she doesn’t know what it is like to be really fat’ And then I would feel bad about myself for thinking that, and also not listen to the good advice they were sharing.

It was no help to me. hard is hard. Mine and yours. Different things are harder for us than others, but it is still hard. Thanks for the reminder.

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Chele January 23, 2012 at 3:03 pm

Oh Heather. After reading your post then reading all of these comments I’m even more confused as how I feel about this. I am a mother of four, none of them have any special needs. I’m thankful but I also am a Mother fighting cancer… and that is hard. I was once a single mother too, so I know how hard that is as well. I think that “hard” is different for different groups of Mom’s. I totally get you. Being a Mother is hard no matter what that hard entails. I see that if we look at the differences between my Motherhood and yours… things are hard for both of us but for different reasons. The amount of hard may be the same. And I just would rather not measure my hard against any others because none of us are flies on the wall at the others home. We do NOT know what that Mother is dealing with emotionally, physically and even spiritually. I just love you! I’m always thankful when I take the time to read posts of yours!

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Sarah January 23, 2012 at 3:20 pm

This is so beautiful, Heather. And I wish more people remembered it. I’ve stopped explaining out loud to friends about how my days go because I ALWAYS get back the “Oh, but your kids are so GOOD.” Yup. They are. They’re fabulous. They also throw fabulous temper tantrums and it would be nice if someone other than my husband understood that it’s hard for me, too.

At least I can be that sounding board for other women — I try anyway! — because I know it’s hard for them, no matter WHAT the situation is. We’re all given what we need, somehow, even if it’s hard.

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Angela January 23, 2012 at 5:19 pm

Thank you for this post. This exact topic has actually ruined friendships for me. It has made me be very choosey about who I open up to. Yes, my children by the text book version are easy. My pregnancies were easy. My daily life is easy. But that does not mean that there are not hard moments. When I choose to vent to (hopefully) kind ears about those hard moments I quickly pick up on the “competition” of who has the “hardest hard”. I try so hard to be conscientious when conversations with other parents starts to head in this direction (or the sleep topic, or the formula vs. breastmilk topic, or the discipline topic). I cannot judge what your hard is or what is right for you and your family. All I know is my experiences and I can share what worked well for me and I hope that it helps you in some way. That is the approach I always try to take. I have actually stopped blogging (or taking a long pause) because I feel like I’m in a competition with other mothers and I don’t like it.

Whew. Apparently I needed to get that off my chest! lol! :) Thanks again for writing this post. It is very refreshing to know other mothers feel the same way.

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Joy @ Joy In This Journey January 23, 2012 at 5:48 pm

I’ve been in so many different parts of the comparison game. I’ve been the mom with one child, but who had severe special needs. I didn’t want to go to support groups for her heart condition because I didn’t want to freak out other families whose children didn’t get as bad ours did. I’ve been the mom with four kids — one with severe special needs and one with significant medical issues but no developmental delays. I am a bereaved mom, raising three who appear to be typical (though the one with medical issues continues to have medical issues). I still don’t want to go to support groups because our story is horrifying. I try not to vent about bad days because I remember how bad they USED to be, and I feel guilty or like I’m disrespecting the old me somehow… but it is still hard. It’s a different kind of hard. We have to explain things we never did with our developmentally-delayed daughter. I try to just listen, even though I admit I do sometimes roll my eyes to myself or try to find a way to change the subject. Sometimes I don’t tell them my story because I don’t want them to feel bad, sometimes I do, especially if they have the false impression that our life is perfect (hah!). I only vent to one or two women who I know understand a little bit of the kind of hard days I have.

Anyway, I get this, and I appreciate it so much. Thank you for writing it, Heather.

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Ashley January 24, 2012 at 12:58 am

Heather, straight to my heart. Thank you so much. I have been thinking some of these very thoughts lately and how hard one was, just like three, and all our hard is hard. I love what you say that we all want to be seen and known, and validated, just validated. Thank you for encouraging us to see that we are all in this race together. Thank you for the reminder to speak compassion and empathy and not comparison. This is not a “hard” competition. No one wins in that.
All of us want life and love and everything for our children and not to be completely lost in the process. Each one is doing the best she can with what she’s got. Each hard is hard. Compassion and seeking more to understand than to be understood (to borrow from the scrolled poem we had in our hallway as a kid — is it the Desiderata?) wins the day.
Life to me today. Thank you.

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Courtney @ The Mommy Matters January 24, 2012 at 1:19 am

I *LOVE* this post. I wrote something similar a few months ago about infertility and the struggle to get pregnant. I have to agree with this mentality that this person or that person always has it harder. When will we moms learn to embrace one another and one another’s choices and be supportive?
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LisAway January 24, 2012 at 4:56 am

I appreciate this so much. I have so little experience with being around other mothers that I have not experienced this. It just strikes me as alarming that other mothers would so easily forget that it wasn’t easy for them when they had fewer children, either.

I wrote a post on a similar subject long ago, about how I learned in high school, while standing in front of the bathroom mirror at school with my friends and one of them said, “Ugh! I have a zit!” like it was the end of the world. I never had clear skin. I think I responded, “You think YOU have it bad!!!” but immediately realized that, yes, for her, she thought she had it bad. She wasn’t comparing herself to anyone else. Just talking about something that made her sad. And from then on I’ve always felt that way. It’s the same with weight etc. It’s important for us to try to be sensitive to others when we vent, but it’s also so, so important for us give each other credit for being where we are and for the challenges we each have.

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Gianna January 24, 2012 at 10:31 am

This is it! Exactly!

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Amy @amywlsn January 24, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Thank you SO MUCH for writing this Heather. I have written a whole post on your post. Every single mother should read your words.
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Rach (DonutsMama) January 24, 2012 at 6:53 pm

You said this SO well. AMEN.
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Alison@Mama Wants This January 24, 2012 at 7:04 pm

Yes, yes, and yes. Motherhood is not a competition, never has been, never will be, never should be. Beautifully written, Heather.
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Jennifer January 24, 2012 at 7:11 pm

This is so well said, and so true. I found having my first child hardest of all (and I have three). And everyone experiences their Hard differently. It’s easy to say, I’m sorry. It is hard. I wish more people would do just that. XO
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Julia January 24, 2012 at 7:50 pm

This is wonderful. I can’t even put into words how true what you wrote is. Thank you.
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Robin | Farewell, Stranger January 24, 2012 at 9:12 pm

I have one child, a job outside the home that gives me a different kind of stimulation for 8 hours a day, and a husband who stays at home with our one child. It’s HARD. I would never suggest that another mother with a different situation had it harder or easier after learning just how hard it is. I beat myself up enough for thinking what I do is hard (see: latest post) and I certainly don’t want to contribute to others feeling bad about themselves.

Well said, Heather.
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domestic extraordinaire January 26, 2012 at 5:54 pm

I get this. I know sometimes I have to delete comments or hold my tongue, not because I think I have it harder, but sometimes I like to share that I understand what they are going through. I know that I like that, not that I want advice, but I just want to know that I am not the only one. I mean before the internet I would have thought I was the only one in the world who was a mom and struggled with depression and bi-polarism with fibro. I love that there are others out there, I know that not everything we go through will be the same, but I just like to know. I know that not everyone wants that, some just want a nod and a hug and I need to remember that. I know that when mine were little I thought that it would get easier as they got harder and I just see how its a whole new set of obstacles to weave your way around in this gig we call motherhood.

xo
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Stephanie January 31, 2012 at 11:58 pm

You said it so well! Compassion is critical…and empathy…and remembering to acknowledge other mothers right where they are.

Thank you for writing this out for the world to see.
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Konnie March 1, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Lovely and poignant post.

It is an enormous challenge as parents (and mothers in particular) to acknowledge the hard, but also keep the hard in perspective. I think that diminishing the hard with a view that motherhood is a beautiful privilege (which it is) ONLY and that it should never be hard damages imperfect souls (like me) and makes us feel inadequate. Dwelling on the hard is also not healthy as one missing the beauty in it. For everyone but two people in the world, there are always those with an easier load and those with heavier one. Somewhere there should be balance. On many days, I don’t have it, but I hope over a lifetime I will get it right and that the hard days will be balanced by great ones.

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Natalie @ Cooking for My Kids April 27, 2012 at 12:29 pm

What a beautiful, thoughtful post. As a mom of a special needs child, I remember when a group of parents were talking about how hard parenting is. I was sitting to the side, just listening, but not participating. One of the ladies looked at me and said, “I cannot even imagine it with a special needs child.” I smiled and said, “Ethan is quite easy, actually.” Because, he is. And, because his special needs do not define us or make our job any harder. Yes, going to therapy twice per week is challenging, and, yes, we worry about things that some other parents do not have to worry about. But, the fact of the matter is, you are exactly right. We all have our own hard. I do not ever want anyone to assume that mine is harder because the fact of the matter is that it just isn’t. However, I do know that there are many, many situations that do deserve to win the hard award, and I do hope that I am the friend who they can turn to for a listening ear when they need compassion, kindness, and love.
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Just Jennifer May 12, 2012 at 9:17 pm

Hi Heather. I was encouraged to come read this by Anna at Mommy Padawan. So glad I did. I could say that I have it harder than others because I am visually impaired and my husband has some serious health problems. But I too see that hard is hard. What’s hard for me is different than what’s hard for you, or her or her. We all have “our cross to bear” as they say.

Just wanted you to know that I SEE it too.
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Heather May 13, 2012 at 7:30 am

Jennifer,
Thank you so much for saying so. What is on your plate is definitely full of more hurdles than many of us, and it’s so graceful of you to see the hard of others amidst your own hard. Happy Mother’s Day to you, lovely Mama.

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Chauncey June 26, 2012 at 2:42 pm

I love this post. There are so many days (or moments) that I feel like parenting is so hard or almost impossible, but there aren’t too many friends or people who understand. Most of my friends are super positive about life, which is great. But…they quit calling when we got in a funk with our church, had no money for extras, had multiple surgeries in our family over the course of a year, medical bills started piling up, had no support from family, and very little friends who understood or even offered to help. It’s been isolating and lonely, to say the least. But, I’m glad you’re one of the ones who are willing to be honest and admit that sometimes life’s hard. And there’s nothing wrong in saying that.

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Shawn September 28, 2012 at 12:24 pm

Hi, Heather. First-time reader here. Wonderful post!

I hope it’s okay if I chime in from an involved dad’s perspective. Nothing I say is intended to either commiserate or contradict a mom’s experience, but more to empathize with and theorize about a parent’s experience.

I’ve seen my wife and I both victimized by the “oh, I’ve got it worse” retort… and I’ve also seen us do it to someone! What in the world? Why? We know how it comes across, how it feels. We know there is no parenting competition, no gold medal. We both grew up disliking one-uppers we knew…

Well, I have a theory on why this happens that isn’t so much about Mommy (or parent) Wars, but more about what constantly being in “Parent Mode” does to us, our brains, our interactions with people.

I remember a Defensive Driving course I had to take about 7 years ago that talked about driver attitudes on the road, one of which was “The Parent.” This driver uses his vehicle and maneuvers to ‘teach’ other drivers that what they just did was wrong and how to drive properly (as if such a thing can be done). Now, I’m NOT saying that when we shoot back with “oh if you think 4 hours of sleep a night is bad, try 3″ that we’re trying to teach. But I DO think that what might be happening is we’re responding while still in Parent Mode. I’ll explain.

If any of you are anything like my wife and I, it seems like we’re constantly saying something to our kids that boils down to gratitude/thankfulness/perspective/considering others/having a good attitude. “Don’t like dinner? Well, there are starving kids in India…” “Make the most of that situation…” “Sorry, daughter, that I can’t buy you those new shoes today. Try going without shoes sometime like the child we sponsor…” And on and on. Be thankful for what you have, etc. etc.

Speaking for myself (and somewhat for my wife), I’d dare say it’s that frame of mind we’re stuck in as parents which (perhaps even unintentionally, unmenacingly?) rears itself when, say, a parent of one child tells us how hard they just had it. It’s as if we WANT to encourage, but just suck at it, when we say, “Make the most of it / appreciate the time / don’t complain too much / you’re very blessed, and the reason I know why is because __________.” Instead all we sound like are insensitive jerks. In fact it makes me wonder how we sound to our own kids. We want to credit ourselves with thinking WE’VE got what it takes to be thankful in tough times, to consider others who are struggling, but all we’ve done is alienated people. It’s rather eye opening, rather telling about how we communicate.

The wisest people I know, male or female, tend to be those who just listen, wink, touch a shoulder, say a prayer, or, as Heather mentioned, say, “it IS hard, isn’t it?” Then maybe later after those inroads are breached comes the time for comparing notes and commiserating, which maybe just does help a person gain some perspective (I know it has for me when I’ve talked to others who had it “harder” than me, but only after we’d established trust and friendship and gotten out of Parent Mode first).

Sorry to go on and on, but you struck a chord today, and I wanted to share how I’m considering the way I shove “be thankful” and “don’t complain” onto not only other adults, but my own kids.

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Heather October 1, 2012 at 11:59 am

Hi Shawn,

Thank you for your input. I totally get what you’re saying and think it’s probably a great perspective–or guess, at why we behave this way so easily. I’m assuming it may be different for all different people. I think a lot of people can relate to what you’ve said here. I know it really got me thinking, especially, like you, about my kids and how I respond to them as they navigate attitudes about work and life. I guess I’m just saying, GREAT point. And thank you!

Heather

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Foodforthoughtlinds January 3, 2013 at 8:00 pm

This is absolutely awesome :) You should share it with Voices of Sensory Processing Disorder to republish (http://voicesofsensoryprocessingdisorder.com/). My two kids have SPD and I think that most moms of kids with SPD (like most moms of any kids) struggle with feeling like they’re not being heard.

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Megan June 29, 2013 at 2:56 am

Hello, another first-time reader here. I really liked your post, but, at the risk of sounding like an awful human being, all moms do this to those of us without children too. I am married without children, and we have not decided yet if we will have kids. There are times when I am with my girlfriends, who I love dearly but who all have children, that I am made to felt that my life couldn’t possibly be as hard as theirs because I don’t have kids. I think this is also completely unfair for the exact same arguments. I should still be allowed to have a hard week if I have worked 70 hours, organized a benefit lunch, and repainted my living room. Or if I’ve had to spend half of my month in and out of hotels and airports because I had meetings and conferences to attend. Life is about choices, and while I am sure that having kids is extremely difficult, it’s also a choice that presumably brings moms great joy (hence their desire to continue having children after the first one…). As a parent, your hard is hard, I don’t doubt that at all. But your choice to have a family doesn’t give you the right to make me feel that my choice to not have kids means I inevitably have an easy life. Peace and love to all the moms and non-moms out there – I agree that we all just need some space to be heard and validated, no matter what our family planning choices have been.

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Darcy Perdu (So Then Stories) November 15, 2013 at 11:40 am

Amen, Sister, Amen! Beautifully written and so, so true.
My girlfriends and I have become pretty adept at figuring out when the one who’s venting needs advice — or just needs us to listen and agree “that stinks” or “that’s hard.”
Being “heard” is such a powerful, healing thing. It’s lovely when we can let each other be heard. Love this post!
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Leigh Ann November 15, 2013 at 12:52 pm

I admit that when I had infant twins, I was SO guilty of blowing off other people’s hard. Because compared to what I was going through, their one baby had to be a snap, right? A woman stopped me in the store once and said “You have no idea how hard you’re working because you have never experienced just one.” And she’s right. I have no idea how hard it is to have one kid because I have never had one kid. I wrote about it a few weeks ago, and actually got blasted by moms who have dealt with infertility and loss because they felt I was being ungrateful. But it was more about how even 5 years later, my internal self still sometimes thinks that it would have been so much easier if I had had my babies one at a time. And sometimes I feel a bit sad that I never got to experience that. BUT it also took me a long time to recognize that the idyllic fantasies I had in my mind of one child were just that – fantasies. My hardships are mine, and yours are yours.
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