To the mom who ‘has it harder’ than me: I’d like you to think again

To the mom who has it “harder than me”,

I have a confession.

As a blogger, I hate open letters.

I try to steer clear. But here I am writing one. I just can’t help it.

I feel that writing this to you is mainly for me anyway. Or for anyone who may—down the road—decide that what you taught me today is something valuable for them as well. It’s worth being talked about, don’t you think?

I met you last night, as I was ready to head home for the day. You and your husband weren’t too much older than I am and I was willing to stay an extra hour or so and help you out with what you needed.

During that extra hour we talked about the chubby-cheeked kids on your cell phone screen and we chatted about your husband’s job, which takes him away a lot. I listened to you tell me how you juggle it all and I complimented you for your strength.

You asked me if I had children and then—“well, are you going to?”

I hesitated sharing, but I told you no, and it might be a while before I do.

You didn’t pry.

I appreciated that.

We could easily be friends if I was on the other side of the counter.

money

But then today happened. You called me, pretty upset, because of a mistake that happened that I had no control over. I tried to resolve it and even felt bad that you had to drive a half hour to the nearest location to get things in order. Really I felt bad. And you had a reason to be frustrated. But that’s not why I’m writing this letter because we’re all warranted to get frustrated from time to time. It’s what you said after all of that.

“I know you don’t have kids, but not all of us get the easy life,” you said into the phone. “You wouldn’t understand how it is to be a busy mother. You wouldn’t get it, would you?”

When you first said that I think I said something about my manager taking care of it later. I think I hung up. I think I choked a little as I remained professional all the way to the bathroom. And that’s when I cried into the bathroom sink.

Why, you might ask?

Because you’re right.

I DON’T know what it’s like to juggle two kids. I don’t know what it’s like to be torn every which way by little hands and sticky faces. I don’t know what it’s like to have everything you have.

But I wish I did.

What you don’t know about me is my struggle with infertility.

tiny feet

What you don’t know about me is the fact that last night when you showed me that picture of your children a pain struck my heart and I absolutely loved hearing your stories about how you can’t get them to sleep in their own beds.

What you don’t know is there are battles unseen that I combat every day that you have been freely given.

What you don’t know, my friend, is that you happened to choose the very battle I wrestle with and tried to use it for …what? A discount? Justice? Some kind of “I’m right and you’re wrong” speech?

What you don’t know is that you taught me a lesson.

I went from crying in a bathroom sink to sitting down and examining the way I speak to people. I’ve been writing a list of all the things I’m blessed with that some might lack and all the things I might say that are insensitive to that fact. You made me think about me.

One of my favorite quotes is from Plato. Even thousands of years ago he seemed to just get it. “Be kind,” he said. “For everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

stuggle

I’m deciding to be thankful for you today.

I’m thankful that I was able to sit back and examine the unkind thoughts I had toward you when you said those things—that I was able to realize you might be fighting a battle too.

Maybe you woke up in pain. Maybe a loved one is fighting cancer. Maybe you were up at two in the morning with a sick baby. Either way, there’s a battle I don’t know about. Just like my battle.

I’m thankful that the words that hurt me are now words that encourage me to look at my blessings—my great job, my writing, my fantastic family, my entourage of friends and mentors who teach me how to simply be better—and to remember that those things aren’t promised to everyone. The battlefield has all kinds of weapons…all kinds of dips and valleys and shadows that spatter over our lives and strengthen us in some capacity to fight in the war.

soliders

For you, it’s the sleepless nights and the messy minivan. For me, it’s the quiet nights and the spotless car that wouldn’t mind some Cheetos on the floor if it meant an extra set of little hands.

I needed to write this more than you needed to read it, really. So thank you.

Good luck in your battles, friend.

Because we’re actually in it together.

 

 

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43 thoughts on “To the mom who ‘has it harder’ than me: I’d like you to think again

  1. I understand Kayla! Don’t give up! After 17 tears of infertility my cousin had her first child! Don’t give up dear friend!

  2. Thank you for sharing this! I wish that everyone could read it and respond as you did by looking inside and evaluating the things they say, their responses to others! Thank you for turning this into a growth experience! May we each learn by your example! You’re right……we each have our trials, whether mental, emotional, physical or spiritual…….I just pray that I will not be so blinded by my own pain that I won’t see the pain in others and that I will be able to be present with them in their storm.

  3. For many years I thought infertility was the exception. Then it took me a year of fighting illness and finally surgery to get pregnant with my fourth (I know, I am spoiled with blessed little souls) but during that time I had a glimpse of the heartache most women endure and I learned that infertility is the rule. I felt guilt that I wasted so much time unaware at how blessed I was to conceive so easily, but the struggle changed my heart and for that I am grateful, and I am a better person.

    • Wow, thank you for sharing that. I’m sorry that you had to “glimpse” the pain. So glad you have those little souls. P.S.: I don’t think you sound like a “Mean Mama” 😉

      • I was sorry at the time I was going through it, but it was worth it, and it will be for you when that first blessed baby is placed in your arms.
        And I am all kinds of mean, I make my kids do evil things like clean their room and wash dishes!

  4. Awesome! I too have always loved that Plato quote. We do all have our battles. Just different ones. We also all have our blessings. I know that it is much easier to get stuck on what we “don’t have”. I know that I am extremely envious of your clean car. Just today I was noticing how gross my car has become with my 3 messy kiddos. I needed an attitude adjustment for sure. Thanks. I have many blessing. And you do too. One thing you have that I do not is a loving husband. I am a single mom. It is easier to wish to have the life someone else has. But we have OUR life…so we might as well love it and make the best of it. Right? Right!! You are the best. Thanks for your beautiful Christlike blogs ❤

      • You are sweet. But I am very far from super. If you knew me, you would agree. Nicely, of course, because you are sweet ;).

        But my situation, your situation, everyone’s situation…we all have battles. I am not super at all. But Jesus is!!! And I battle with him! And together we win… ❤

  5. Very eloquently said. We all truly are fighting some kind of battle. Sometimes our battle is not getting to fight the battle that someone else has. I always wished to battle with dashing good looks, but oh, well.
    This kind of follows something I’ve been think a lot about lately. Actually, it has become my pet peeve. While sitting in a church meeting recently, someone uttered those words…”somebody is always worse off than you.” I couldn’t contain myself and before are instructor picked up his lesson I had to let it out. “Really? How do you know that.”
    Suffice it to say the room looked like a whole herd of deer in the headlights. Here is my point. If you’re going to make that argument – that someone is always worse off than you – you also have to make the argument that God created each of us exactly the same. Same problem solving skills, same ability for tolerance, physical and emotional pain, same ability to forgive. We know that this isn’t the case.
    The challenge that pushes me right over the edge might be a walk in the park for someone else, and vise-versa. But we don’t know whose going over the edge and whose not in every circumstance.
    Fortunately, we’ve a been give good people in our lives to help us through the rough spots and to be helped as well. But never, ever think that there’s some who has it worse than you, because you don’t know that.
    It’s okay to be selfish on occasion. The woman with the children doesn’t understand your suffering, being without child. But knowing people who’ve waited a long time for children, even my own mother who had five miscarriages before I was born, I would say that having the children are where the blessings lie. So let your lack of children be the worse thing that’s ever happened to anyone. No good person will think otherwise.

  6. I’m going to join with the others in saying “thank-you” for you sensitive, insightful, and beautiful comments. It’s never easy sharing your vulnerabilities, but in doing so, you gave many of us a deeper perspective on our own struggles. I was having my own meltdown moment when your email caught my eye. Your message of gratitude helped me change my focus from the missing pieces in my life to feelings of thanksgiving for the wonderful blessings I do enjoy. Your gift was generously given and gratefully received.

  7. This is beautiful, Kayla. I am humbled by the grace with which you tackled this — and the grace you applied to the offensive customer as well. That caught me by happy surprise.

  8. I love how you truly seek to ‘make lemon from lemons”. Life is so much sweeter that way. I think sometimes we so don’t realize the value of our words and the impact they have on others. Your post is a great reminder to give grace to those around us…even when they just might not even realize what they’ve done. Thanks so much for sharing.

  9. ThkQ for this post. I’ve recently been challenged (just in my own mind, not by anyone else) about how much I speak about my wife while attending recovery meetings. My wife is a constant source of… encouragement to me. (I thought long and hard about what word(s) to continue with – SO MANY could fit!)

    The leader of my group recently shared that at the age of 75, he is in the final stages of a divorce. Others in the group are in various stages of good, bad, future, or ex-marriages. What should be the parameters of my sensitivity to them in my sharing? Do I, can I – be the source of unnecessary pain for them?

    Kayla, U give me food for thought this morning. As usual. I Luv the way U constantly do that!

  10. One more thought… Following Plato’s quote – in one of my first recovery meetings, I heard this – “Listen for the similarities to you when someone shares their story”. I’ve learned we are all more alike than we are different. That lesson has done much to cure me of my quickness to judge. We’re all different, but Oh! So much the same, too. I CANNOT measure another’s pain. I CANNOT FIX another’s pain. All I can do is be a support. I do that much more effectively with my ears than by my mouth.

  11. Kayla – you are so right for wanting those “struggles” so badly! Don’t give up – when you finally get it, it will be so worth it!

    To the woman with the 2 little kids – I am a grandma now, and I’d go back to those “little sticky fingers” years in a heart beat! The “teenage” years were a whirlwind and too busy to keep up with and the “wishing your kids were still here” years is ….. a little depressing! So love every minute of those “Cheetos on the car floor” years. It’s over way too fast!

  12. You are an inspiration and it’s amazing you were able to turn that into a situation you could learn from. Honestly, my first response was “Well gee thanks, (some foul words) and nothing but anger filled my mind. I too suffer from infertility. I was blessed with one child though so I can’t be too unhappy. I get the constant talks from strangers at work and church on when I’m having more. It’s very painful and I want to punch every last one of them. Going to church and seeing the ladies who are forever pregnant, toting around their large families, it’s very painful. Best wishes to you, you are strong and inspiring.

    • Oh believe me, Stephanie, my first thoughts weren’t kind either. Thank goodness that I didn’t write the blog seconds after. hehe But we all have our struggles, huh? Thank you for being so strong and good, too! You’re an inspiration to me as well.

  13. I recently wrote a blog post about how other women (moms) tend to view those of us who are childless. There are lots of misconceptions about our lives w/out children. There is also a lack of consideration about our struggles w/ our decision to postpone parenthood, or our inability to bear children as you so poignantly described. Thank you for your vulnerability and contributing to this much-needed discussion.

    • I’ll definitely check it out! It’s so nice to know there are others who have “been there, done that”, although it does stink that any of us have to go through that.

  14. Just a question. Have you shared these feelings directly with this woman? I ask not to criticize but because I think there is great benefit for both of you in having that conversation. Years ago a friend was adopting a baby and I made a comment that obviously hit a tender spot. It was not intended to hurt her – it was just a lack of really understanding her situation. Instead of walking away hurt she kindly responded with her feelings. I felt bad for what I had said and told her I hadn’t ever thought of it that way. That one simple exchange – made me much more thoughtful in future interactions with everyone else. It made me much more patient and open-minded with people – just as you expressed that the experience did for you. But that fact that she spoke with me about it – helped me to understand her better, to love her more as my friend and to strengthen our friendship. Perhaps your communication with her can help her learn the same valuable lesson. You commented that she might have been your friend – perhaps she still can be be. It’s hard – but it usually ends up being so worth it.

    • Kim, I haven’t. Since she’s a client I wouldn’t want to cross any lines. But you’re right, it’s actually a great idea to share those feelings and thoughts with those who hurt us. That would bring us all together so much more, wouldn’t it? Beautiful thoughts.

  15. Love this post! I am 58 and have gone through being a single unwed mother, a working mother, infertility after my second child, having two adult daughters not married at 30 and 40, an inactive daughter, and no grandchildren. So I have experienced all the unthoughful insensitive judgemental comments from others about my situation at the time. I rarely responded as I wanted to because I felt that would only create more bitterness on my part, yes I’m acknowledging there was already some there. But as someone suggested in a comment at times I did point out to others that their perceptions about me were inaccurate. I know I have done the same with those mothers with lots of children who never had to work and SEEM to have little challenges. But we don’t ever know each other’s battles. I do have to say that I disagree with artealey. Yes there IS always someone else going through worse. Even though women endure traumatic and challenging experiences I believe our challenges don’t compare with those experienced by women and YOUNG GIRLS in other countries. Read the book “A Thousand Splendid Suns” or “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” You will know that whatever problems you have or experienced you have endured are not as hard as those of others, just by the mere fact that we live in the country we do. I hope I never believe that there is no one that has it worse than me. So your advice to never think someone has it worse than you seems crippling to me, not empowering. Again that’s my perception and not necessarily how everyone else should view life. In the last couple of weeks my family experienced a series of challenges. One after another. I was beginning to think I could not endure one more thing. I work in the field of Social Services and it only took one day back at work to remind me of how much worse off many people have it – sometimes as a result of their own bad choices but not always. I was humbled once again for my challenges compared to others and my blessings that help me face those challenges.

  16. Kayla,
    I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and have always loved every post. Today’s post was especially personal to me. We struggled for 3 years to have our baby with one miscarriage. We now have our beautiful, healthy son. Not without the scars that infertility left on both our hearts. One of the most important lessons I learned during that time was like you stated above, so many are having their own battles. I was shocked to find when I started blogging about our struggle, the many who I saw at church or went to HS and college with who endured the same trial or were currently going through it too. I just want you to know that the burden you are carrying is terrible, it can easily be compared to cancer and only those who have been through it can attest to that. My heart hurt to read that you were dealing with it, even though you were blogging about something totally different, I still am sending you a hug and a prayer.

  17. I enjoyed reading this post very much. Thank you.

    At a baby shower held by our ward (congregation), the bishop’s wife loudly declared to everyone that I should be next to have a baby. I sat frozen to my chair, unable to move or speak. Less than a week before, my husband and I had sat in the office of our fertility doctor being told the news that we would not be able to conceive. This kind sister came up to me afterwards to apologize. She said that she could tell from my lack of reaction that she had said just the wrong thing. I assured her that I was not mad at her (how could she have known?). A couple of weeks later, a friend and the mother of some of my piano students (also in my ward) said that I needed to have my own children to fully “get” what she was going through. She also apologized after my stone-faced reaction. That one hurt more, because I know that she struggled with pregnancy and considers both of her children miracles (which they are; any child is really). I know that every experience I go through helps me to check myself more before I speak, especially when reacting to a situation. You can never fully know what another person is going through and what trials and trails brought them to stand in front of you to interact with you today.

  18. Dear Kayla,
    You don’t really know me. We have mutual friends and I knew your husband in the single’s ward in Littleton, CO. I am grateful for your ability to express yourself in this post and the post you wrote only yesterday. I have felt completely surrounded by newsfeed after newsfeed of people announcing their pregnancies from the planned ones to them telling me they didn’t want to have kids just yet. I’ve felt my heart break over and over again as I’ve spent only 6 months down this road of trying to get pregnant.
    I admire your strength, and my heart goes out to you. I can’t say I know how you feel because, I don’t, but I do know the sadness I feel and can only imagine how much more you’ve felt over the last few years. You inspire me to keep looking to find Heavenly Father’s timeline, to trust Him and to keep being grateful that I to have a husband who’s consistently trying to cheer me up when the answer is still “not pregnant”. My heart goes out to you along with my prayers. Thanks for reminding me that we all have different battles, that we all need to be sensitive to the struggles we don’t see, it always is a lesson I need to re-remember from time to time.

    -Kara (Bury) Erickson

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