Please Don’t Threaten Those You Mentor

This journey we call “motherhood” is a difficult one.  There are times when you actually feel like you might have a handle on things.  You hit a phase that’s going smoothly and you think, “Wow, excellent– I think I’ve got this figured out!”  Then, as you probably know, something happens that throws you off your game again.  And the cycle repeats.

 

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to spend time in some different “small group” situations with other mothers.  In all these circumstances, we are moms with children of varying ages.  Some only have one kiddo.  Some have several.  Some are young.  Some are older.  What we have in common?  Sports.  Or our faith.  Or our interests.  And, in every case, we are all mothers.

 

It is a beautiful thing to witness the newer moms looking to the more experienced ones for advice.  I think it is hard-wired on our XX chromosomes to seek one another’s support and to look for guidance.  And I think that’s a fantastic thing.  But, I must admit, I’ve been a bit dismayed as of late to hear statements such as these from the mouths of the “more experienced”:

 

  • “Ha!  You think two is tough?  Welcome to three– this is what it’s like.” (as a child throws an all-out tantrum)
  • “Just wait until the teen years– you’ll wish you had it this easy.”
  • “Yeah, yeah, my kid ate veggies as a baby, too.  I’m lucky to get anything in that kid now that he’s in kindergarten…”
  • “Ha, yep, I know just what you’re thinking.  I totally thought I’d keep my kids away from soda and video games too.  But, trust me– it’s not gonna happen.”
  • “You’re gonna try to potty-train now?  With a boy?  Hah, hah, good luck with that.”

 

And it just makes me SAD.  And kind of mad, too.

 

Here’s the thing.  My oldest is only seven, but I still have more years of mothering experience than many of these mommies.  And I definitely have my own opinions and life experiences.  I get asked a lot of questions, and I don’t believe in lying.  I’ll admit if I think a certain stage is harder than the one before it.  I’ll ‘fess up that two of my children weren’t really potty-trained until age four.  But I work very, very hard to not, well, THREATEN.  Because that’s how those statements sound to me– like threats.

 

“You think you’ve got this all figured out, but you don’t.”  

(or)

“You think life is hard now, but you just have no clue.”

 

Who is that helping?

 

I have to think that, when we say things like that, we’re trying to justify the fact that we feel like we’re currently floundering.   And, while it’s understandable that some phases are just flat-out challenging and exhausting, that’s never a good reason to try to undermine other mothers who are seeking guidance.

 

Let’s come together and all admit that this motherhood gig can be tough.  Let’s all reach out to one another and offer strength and support.  Let’s offer tips, if we have them, and empathy, if we don’t.  Let’s allow other mothers to enjoy those phases of self-assurance and vow to be there for them when, inevitably, the next stage will knock them off their game.

 

And let’s not threaten those we mentor.

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22 comments to Please Don’t Threaten Those You Mentor

  • It seems to me sometimes that life is a contest of negatives. No one wants to seem like they are bragging, so they “brag” about how bad things are, how poorly their child is doing, etc. This doesn’t help anyone at all.

    I have gotten caught up in it before – the comparing of all the faults and things that have gone wrong. It certainly doesn’t make me feel any better usually. Sometimes it is good to know that other people are going through the same thing and you aren’t alone, but I guess it depends on how things are said.

  • mlearley

    I agree with Jennifer but yet when I talk about my kids and how good they are, I get the “Well it must be nice but just wait until they …” Why can’t other mothers be happy for me that I’m not struggling with my baby sleeping or that my 3 year old loves her baby sister and has no jealousy issues? It like others want you to be miserable just b/c they feel that way.

    Even when I am discouraged and a friend tells me something great about their kid, I try to be encouraging to them. Who wants to be brought down all the time?

    • I think that sharing the good parts of motherhood, without getting holier-than-thou about it of course (and I know you’re not), is a great encouragement to younger, less experienced mothers. I think it’s actually the mothers in the same season (or even “ahead”) who can get defensive about it. I see this a lot when the topic of eating comes up. My three kids, really and truly, are fabulous eaters. But I’ve learned, through trial and error, that other moms don’t want to hear about that. So I just keep my mouth shut on that topic. ;) (But I DO tell moms of littler kids that food battles are not inevitable!) :)

  • THANK YOU! With baby #2 coming, I’ve experienced a lot of this. There are times when I feel like I am drowning with just one and then I think about having TWO… It can about push me over the edge. I’ve had several people tell me to “just wait!” until this new baby comes. It feels awful. I’m scared enough on my own. I don’t need others telling me to be fearful.

    I actually have a blog post in my drafts that I’ve been debating about posting. I talk about just how scared I am to have two kids, but I’m nervous about how vulnerable it makes me. I’m all for being honest about the “ugly” in life when blogging, but when a post makes me hesitate to hit publish, I often follow that gut feeling and hold back. I had my husband read it and he thinks it is fine. Maybe I should post it after all.

    Another side note… I know someone who had 2 kids extremely close (and it isn’t you – teehee). A person I respect has told me that NOTHING could be harder than that – even having twins. I’ve been left to feel like my own struggles are NOTHING compared to THAT situation. And perhaps my struggles are so much easier in comparison, but they are STILL my struggles. *sigh* Struggles shouldn’t be a comparison game or a threat.

    Thanks for the post JessieLeigh!

    • mlearley

      Rebekah – Just wanted to give you some encouragement about having baby #2. While there are days when I felt/feel overwhelmed, having two is more pleasure than work for me. I don’t know the age difference for you but mine are 3 years apart and my oldest is a huge help!! She loves getting us things for the baby, playing with the baby while we do chores, and just loves her sister. There will be times when they both demand your attention but just take a deep breath and tackle the most urgent issue first. Ex: feeding baby but 3 yr old needs her bottom wiped. I just laid the baby done and took care of the older child first, sure the baby cries but it’s only a short time. You can do it and I hope you find as much enjoyment out of your two little ones as I do!!

    • I had a lot to say, Rebekah, but mlearley and Laraba have done a super job without me! ;) But, seriously, I will just say this much– while there are definitely some new challenges that come from adding a new baby (no matter what number) to your family, there are also ways it gets easier. I can honestly tell you that, in many ways, I work harder when it’s just me and my 2yo at home than when her older sibs are here too. And, above all, I can guarantee you that the joy you will experience just observing that glorious sibling love will make anything and everything worth it. I promise. If I’m wrong, you can hunt me down.

    • When my #2 was brand new I thought (and I may have said allowed) holy cow this was a huge mistake I can’t handle 2!! But that feeling passes pretty quickly. You won’t fumble along as long as the first time since you already know what to do. :) The next thing you know you’ll wonder how you managed to live without baby2!

  • Laraba

    Oh, I totally agree JL! That is just OBNOXIOUS! It is unhelpful. It is gloomy. It is discouraging.

    People often look awestruck when we say we have 7 kids (with #8 due next month) and many have said, “I can hardly handle my 2″ or whatever. You know, being a parent is hard regardless of the circumstances or the phase of life. I think having 1 child has its own challenges, and having 7 kids does. But it is GOOD. Maybe hard, but GOOD. We grow through it. I am honest…I am not supermom and I do get discouraged and overwhelmed but that just helps me lean on the Lord more. And Rebekah, don’t be afraid. I promise you that it will all work out. You’ll have crazy days but your 2 children will be a blessing to you and to each other. BTW, as an experienced mom of 8, I definitely can say our first baby was the hardest because it was all so new. I had my 4th child when my eldest was 4 and wow, that was busy, but it was still easier than when I was handed that sweet little girl in the hospital and told she was ours to take care of. Ok, that was scary. I wanted to take a pediatric nurse home with me :-).

    • Thank you so much for sharing your experience and wisdom, Laraba! I love how you bring up the importance of our words and the weight they carry with our children– this is so true! It’s that whole “self-fulfilling prophecy” bit and it’s definitely something to consider. Excellent advice about making sure all your children know that each baby is a welcome, loved blessing. :)

    • Thank you for the encouragement, Laraba! I read a blog post once that was a letter to the mom of one (was it on SimpleMom.net??) and she address the same things you said – being a first time mom is HARD! There certainly is a lot to learn that first time around.

  • Laraba

    Another thing that occurs to me is that IF our children overhear this stuff coming from our lips (oh, life gets harder, 3 is SO hard, the teen years will be terrible, etc.) we are setting them up to behave like we are talking. We’ve always made a point of talking up new babies and saying each child is a blessing. Our kids ALL believe that, they all LOVE every new baby that comes. We have plenty of quarreling between the kids but we’ve not had much trouble with sibling jealousy of the new baby, even when the next child was only 1 and a half years old. We’re honest that I’ll be busier and they may have more work but they don’t seem to mind it. Being encouraging to other moms goes along with being encouraging to our children…we shouldn’t discourage them or negatively affect them by suggesting the future is going to be awful becuase of (fill in the blank.) Ok, I’ll finally stop typing! :-).

  • I personally, haven’t had to deal with a lot of this. For some reason I get quite the opposite. People seem to not be honest enough. Ex: I love homeschooling my 6+ kids, i didn’t find it difficult at all to go from 1-2 kids, etc. I’ve even heard a friend say to me that I should have more kids to learn patience, lol. I think being too negative or too positive doesn’t help other moms much.

    • Laraba Kendig

      Miranda, I agree we should be honest too. There is that balance of being unrealistically rosy and being a grumpy pessimist. I don’t like the “just wait ’til your kids are older, it’ll be bad” message at ALL…that really frustrates me. But I agree that plastering a fake smiley face isn’t right either. We should encourage one another by being honest and real about our struggles while hanging onto the hope of the Lord when times are tough. And we should never ever forget that each child IS a blessing. Forgive me, Lord, if I ever say or imply that children are not a blessing.

    • I think honesty and compassion are the name of the game. It’s okay if something’s hard. It’s also okay if it’s easy. And, to take it further, it’s okay if it’s not the same for each woman! We all have strengths and struggles. :)

  • Jessie, this is an amazing post!! I have thought this on SO many occasions. What good does it do – except possibly make the commenter feel better about themselves? It would behoove all women to be honest in a transparent sort of way – acknowledging the hard times/seasons, but never, ever condemning or making out that our trials are worse than others’ would be beneficial to us all. In truth EVERYONE has trials and difficult situations they’ll face, and who am I to say that my “difficult” is worse than theirs?

    Also, I have found that this truly isn’t just a motherhood issue, it’s more of a “womanhood” issue. Though guilt regarding motherhood seems to be more heaped on than in other areas, I have had the misfortune of women comparing other situations (marriage, military life, etc.) to their worse stories, as well. It’s ridiculous.

    Thank you for putting this out there. It needed to be said and women need to read it.

    • Thank you so much, Laura. And, I must say, I’m so sorry you’ve encountered this in other areas, too. I’ve dealt with it in the “preemie world” too– competition for who “had it worse.” It doesn’t help and it feels so counter-productive. Let’s pray our daughters’ generation gets their act together about this stuff! ;)

  • Ugh, this is SOOOO my own mother and honestly, it really just pisses me off. I don’t understand the need to put everyone else down and do the one upmanship thing about every single child rearing issue.

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