Let’s Stop Doing This To Each Other…
Scenario #1: When I was very pregnant with my first child, I went to a church potluck and sat beside a woman whose kids were a bit older. We got talking about all things pregnancy related. Then, we got on the topic of labor. She told me a horrific story of how both she and her baby almost died during childbirth. And she gave me all the details. Her words terrified me.
Scenario #2: A few years later, I was shopping at Trader Joes with my three-year-old and one-year-old. Obviously this was a bad idea. Both of my daughters were m.e.l.t.i.n.g down. I was on the verge of tears myself. Another woman looked at me and gave me a smile and said, “Unfortunately, it doesn’t get easier!” Her words discouraged me.
Scenario #3: Recently, I was talking with a woman at church about having all girls. I asked her what it was like having daughters that were now grown. I assumed she would say something like, “Oh so fun! We shop together and get our nails done. We go on girls weekends…” But instead, she told me about an ongoing feud between all of her daughters and how this one hates that one and that one hates her and blah blah blah. Her words made me afraid and anxious for the future.
I don’t think any of these women in my scenarios were trying to be vindictive. I think each one simply spoke thoughtlessly without regard for her audience. I’m sure many of you can recount similar conversations where someone passed on unwanted “advice” or discouraging “warnings”.
“If you think this is hard, just wait until…”
”Get sleep while you can, because when the baby is born…”
”Enjoy this season while you can because when it’s over…”
Why do we do this to each other?
And then one day, it happened. I found myself being the older mama who almost gave a discouraging warning to another…
I was talking with a brand new mama about her sweet and super easy baby. She was telling me how much she enjoyed motherhood and then…I almost said what I was thinking. “Ah yes, one baby is so sweet, but just wait until you have more than one. Then things really start getting crazy.” Thankfully, I didn’t say this out loud but I was surprised by my thought. What motivated me to almost say this? It wasn’t because I wanted to warn her. It wasn’t because I wanted to be comical.
I think I wanted to process. I wanted to process that this season of raising multiple kids has been hard for me. I wanted to talk about the constant needs, frustrations of sibling rivalry, lack of alone time, and the difficulty of making each of my children feel love and known. However, this sweet new mama was not the appropriate person for me to process with.
A great place to share the hard stuff of parenting (or life in general!) is with a couple close friends in your same season. Verbally processing with others helps us better understand the situation and how we are responding to it. And once we can better understand the situation and how it is affecting us, we can integrate it into our story. And those who know themselves and their stories tend to speak words of hope instead of plant seeds of fear.
So this is my challenge – both to myself and to all the other mamas out there. Let’s remember the wise words of Paul from Ephesians 4:29, “Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” To encourage another literally means to “fill someone with courage or strength of purpose.” What a beautiful description for how mothers of all seasons could support one another.
So tell that soon-to-be mama that the best day of her life is almost here and there is no greater joy than holding your new baby in your arms for the first time.
Tell the mama who is about to go from one to two kids that some of the greatest moments of parenting are watching your kids play and giggle and snuggle together.
Tell that struggling mama in the grocery store with toddlers that she is a rock star for getting out of the house.
And if a mother asks you if it gets easier, tell her that someday she will sleep again. That her kids will go to the bathroom alone and that someday so will she! Affirm that these days are hard but that the future holds many beautiful moments with her babies.
Fill her with hope and courage for the days to come. Let her decide whether it gets easier or not.
Here is the truth – we all need some validation. We all need encouragement – no matter what phase of parenting we are in. Let’s strive to be that for each other.
And, if one day you find yourself on the receiving end of discouraging advice or another mama inappropriately processing with you, know that it is OKAY to stop her. Kindly explain to her that her words aren’t helpful or encouraging. It may feel rude in the moment, but helping another see that their words are damaging is also an act of love – both for yourself and for others.
Consider these questions:
Do you tend to speak words of hope or plant seeds of fear?
What parts of your own story still remain unprocessed? When can make time to talk to the Lord (and other life-giving people) about the areas that still feel tender?
Who in your life needs some courage? Who needs to be strengthened toward her purpose?
In the spirit of hoping to encourage you, I leave you all with a blessing from Romans 15:5-6:
“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”