I was deep in the throes of overwhelming exhaustion after having my second baby. We were dealing with what I thought was an extreme case of colic (that turned out to be a bad milk allergy), an infant who wouldn’t sleep more than 45 minutes at a time and navigating a new autism diagnosis with my 4 year old son. I was dealing with struggles I hadn’t planned on taking as a mom and I felt beaten down. Tired. Defeated.
A woman at the store gave me a reassuring smile as I walked like a zombie towards the checkout line with a crying baby and my busy 4 year old. She started small talk about kids and babies and I said “I’m just tired.” Her response was something I have since heard many mothers say to me and to other moms and I’ve sworn to myself I would never ever say to another parent.
“Oh, just you wait.”
I get it. Life isn’t as hard as it’ll get. Things will get harder as my kids grow and bigger more dramatic problems come up. But right now? Now I need reassurance, not someone telling me that it only gets harder.
When that woman said it to me, all I could think of was that in that moment of feeling down and needing a hug I felt hopeless. I will never forget that feeling.
That wasn’t the last time I heard that phrase or something similar like “You think that’s bad?” or “Try having 4 kids”. It still happens often. It still bugs me.
Here’s why I go out of my way to avoid those kinds of phrases:
The more years of parenthood I put behind me and the more struggles I go through give me an edge to be able to help other parents. Telling another parent that their current struggle is nothing compared to another struggle you’ve seen is defeating. Why would I do that? I’ve been in their position and can offer peace and encouragement.
I choose not to belittle another parent’s struggle.
I choose to start conversations, ask if they need help and sometimes just tell them “It’ll be ok”…even if I know the struggles will continue.
I choose to tell parents that I know that it’s hard. Tell them a relevant story of my parenthood to let them know I understand.
I choose to think before I speak.
Because of course I know things may and probably will get harder for them. Of course I know that I may have struggled more than they may have at that point. Of course I’ve been in their shoes but have seen so much more since then.
But in that moment I know they need hope, not hopelessness going forward.
Give them hope. And a smile. And a simple “I know…it’s hard.”.
You won’t regret it.