Have you ever had anyone say to you, “You think it’s hard now?! Just wait until….”
When my kids were small we worked with a couple who had older kids. They were always making comments like, “Small kids, small problems. Big kids, big problems” or “You think you don’t sleep now?! Just wait until you stay up all night worrying about your teenager!” or “You think it’s hard to discipline your three year old?! Just wait until they are 13!!”
Now my kids are teenagers and we have a lot of friends with younger kids. Friends who complain about not sleeping at night, about how hard it is to discipline and teach their stubborn 3 year old, the nightmares of potty training, etc, etc.
And sometimes I have wondered . . . when is it my turn?! When is it okay for me to feel like this is hard? Like being a mom is the best thing in the world, but it is also one of the toughest?
What we mean when we say, “It gets easier”, is that they will sleep a little more and they know how to wipe themselves when they use the toilet.Carli, Insieme Mamme
Now I am a Mom of teens, and I have realized, in my limited experience with motherhood, that every phase has it’s challenges and its joys. No phase is easier. No phase is harder. No phase is more beautiful. No phase is more terrible. Each stage of parenting, and of your child growing, is just different. Unique. Each stage comes with a new set of things to learn, and a new set of things to teach.
When the kids were little it was often physically exhausting. You slept a little less, you often were toting kids around in your arms, you were always picking things up (that doesn’t change much! LOL), you were putting kids back in time out over and over again until they learned to sit there on their own, and your kids were dependent on you for well, everything. As they grew the type of challenges changes. The mental energy is a lot more with older kids… helping with homework that you haven’t done yourself in 20 years, driving them all over everywhere for all of their activities, conversations about drugs, dating, friendships, decisions, responsibility, etc, etc.
The worries are different. When they were little, maybe I worried about my girl who was always sick with bronchitis, or about my other girl who did not eat anything. Nothing. ever. When they are little you worry about why they are crying? Are they tired, hungry, just trying to drive you mad? And you worry about them eating and growing enough, and when they start walking, you worry about them falling. When they grow you worry about their grades, about them making friends, about them learning to obey and be respectful. And then in teenhood you hope they will make wise choices, you wonder how to prepare them for heartache, how to help them with difficult relationships, how to choose life paths, how to see themselves how God sees them. I don’t know…maybe when you look at this list, one thing seems easier than the other. But when you are living it, it doesn’t.
Each stage is new. I remember when my first son was born, nursing was new and terrifying. Is he getting enough? How do I know? Is he latching on right? Is he taking in air? Now it seems silly. I would feel completely differently living that stage now. But now there are other challenges that seem scary or overwhelming or exhausting. The thing is that we grow with our kiddos. As they are growing and learning, so are we.
I think we need to learn a new way of speaking to one another as mothers. And in particular a new way of listening. Mother of a newborn, don’t just complain about your lack of sleep, learn to listen to the mother who is struggling to help her ADD child survive in school. Mother of ADD child, don’t just complain about how frustrated you are, listen to the mother whose teenager is making bad friendship choices and keeping her up at night. Let’s stop using phrases like, “If you think it’s hard now, just wait until…” and instead encourage one another. When we only see our needs and inadequacies we feel isolated, alone and discouraged. When we listen to one another and validate one another’s feelings, we feel supported, stronger and able to help others.
The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand.
We listen to reply.Unknown
If we learn to listen maybe we can not only show our love and support, but also learn from the experience of people who have gone before us! Instead of only identifying with, and complaining to other moms who are in the same stage as you, listen to people who have already been through the stage you are going through now. You don’t have to feel alone. You don’t have to feel overwhelmed. People are generally pretty happy to encourage and help if you let them. Learn to listen. Learn not to compare. Be one of those Moms who holds a younger Mom’s baby so she can pee, or that gives an older Mom a knowing hug when she looks tired and frustrated. Instead of saying, “You think you are tired! I haven’t slept in a year!” Try saying, “I am sorry you are tired today. How can I help? Do you want to talk about it?” And the next time you are tired, I’ll bet she will be the first person to ask how she can encourage you.