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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.