your hard is (still) hard

March 13, 2014

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 goodThe 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.}

(this post was 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.)

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Jessica March 13, 2014 at 3:12 pm

Yeah, I kind of have the opposite problem where I feel like my hard is too much harder than other people’s. I’ve found it helps me when I’m having a crappy day for stupid and small reasons to remember how those things still feel so hard even when I’m not having an epically terrible day. But yeah, this whole scale thing when it comes to empathy is a constant struggle, but I try my best to default to more empathetic rather than less.
Jessica recently posted..Graham Looks Into the Abyss

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Heather March 13, 2014 at 3:22 pm

I’m not sure that’s the opposite problem. I think most of us struggle at some point in thinking it MUST be hardest for us. Whatever the reasons or stages. If that weren’t true, we wouldn’t this tension of competition. Empathy IS hard when we’re exhausted and feeling like it’s HARD.

Some of us may perceive our hard as hardest more than others, but we’re all in the same boat, I’m guessing.

Thank you for your thoughts!

Heather

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Jeanne March 13, 2014 at 3:14 pm

Yes! There should be no hierarchy in motherhood. Period. Parenting kids with chronic illness while dealing with the same illnesses (congenital) is hard. I live that. Which one of the dozen health challenges will be in the forefront today? That is my hard. But parenting as an alcoholic? Being divorced? Having a dead husband? Having a child in a wheelchair? Those are hards that I don’t know. It doesn’t mean they are harder or less hard than my hard. Each hard experience is just hard and we stretch our strength to fit that hard. The biggest challenge about my life as a parent now (and at the worst of our illnesses) is when people who have what they believe are “not as hard” lives tend to ignore me, leave me out of things and not know what to say to me, because they feel like they don’t have the right to vent. It’s all hard. And good. And even in my “hard,” I like to hear about the “hards” of other mothers. It makes me feel less alone. Thanks for sharing!

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Heather March 13, 2014 at 3:25 pm

Your perspective is so full of grace.

I get what you’re saying about not being invited or vented to…because you have more on your plate than the “norm”. I have a son with hydrocephalus and when we’re going through the hardest parts of that, people are afraid they’ll frustrate me when venting normal stuff. But I want them to feel free, too. Their hard is hard.

I LOVED this: “Each hard experience is just hard and we stretch our strength to fit that hard.” So true.

Thank you.

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Carly Gelsinger March 13, 2014 at 3:20 pm

I wrestle with guilt for having only one child. I often feel as if it’s not “real” motherhood. Thanks for this.
Carly Gelsinger recently posted..When I Hated People in God’s Name

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Jennifer March 13, 2014 at 3:23 pm

Every Mom struggles with doubt,s, fears, and. a mysterious need to fit in. Unfortunately it takes a few years to realize that we all are fighting to stay above the water. Some just don’t like to share their struggles. Maybe it’s how they were raised or maybe they think it makes them look smarter. Either way, I think we all should realize that each one of us needs reassurance that ours lives are normal. That we all cry along with our infants at 2a.m…..that we all dread those volunteer forms being sent home…….that we all fear middle school bullies…..and we may consider the graduation party more our celebration of survival than our child’s celebration of walking that stage…..
.
Jennifer recently posted..The "Pen & Paper" Side

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Janice March 13, 2014 at 8:25 pm

Hard is hard and no matter what age or what circumstance.

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Morgan (The818) March 14, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Lovely. I’ve been lucky in finding moms of all numbers who allow me to struggle as a mother of one, and I count you among them.
Morgan (The818) recently posted..Depression Is My Sister Wife

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thekitchwitch March 14, 2014 at 2:13 pm

FUCK. Pardon my language. But everything about this resonated. All of my synapses started firing. Yes.

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Leigh Ann March 14, 2014 at 3:36 pm

I look back and know that when I had baby twins, I vied all too much for the Hardest Award. I lament my attitude, but all I can do now is do my part in acknowledging and seeing everyone else’s hard. It’s all hard.
Leigh Ann recently posted..not meant to be a backloader

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Amanda March 16, 2014 at 6:42 pm

I think anytime that we have the presence of mind and spirit to raise our heads and know, truly know, that we are all lumbering, all fearing, and all making it up, we make the world a little kinder.

You’ve done that here and you’ve reminded me.

Thank you.
Amanda recently posted..Making Passes and Taking Hits

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Elaine A. March 18, 2014 at 10:09 pm

i adore this post.

And i’ve gotten to the point where i acknowledge the hard for all kinds of mothers and even fathers and it’s a good place to be when looking around at everyone else’s challenges, including my own. But it took a while to get here… oh yes it did!
Elaine A. recently posted..Oh, This Kid!

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