What If We Just Listened?

I came across a thread on Facebook yesterday in which several women were discussing motherhood – particularly the Mommy Wars.  It wasn’t so much about what is the better choice – to be a stay-at-home-mom, or to be a work-outside-the-home mom – but more of a discussion about which is harder – being a SAHM or being a working mom.  The general consensus was that both are hard, and that (a) we all need to stop arguing over which is harder, and (b) we all need to stop being so judgmental of other moms.

Awesome, right?  A moment of unification.

And then someone said something along the lines of being tired of hearing moms complain so much because whatever moms are dealing with, “it’s better than the alternative.”

Let’s not dance around it – let’s just call a spade a spade, okay?  “The alternative” refers to either (a) not being able to have kids, or (b) having a dead kid.  So, basically, we mothers should not complain because at least we have kids, and at least we have alive kids.

What a crock.

I’m not minimizing either of those “alternatives,” I’m truly not.  I dealt with infertility in my first marriage. I know!  Seven kids later, right?  Well, it took my first husband and I five years to have Kevin, and during that time, I experienced a pain and a longing like no other.  I came to despise pregnant women and women with babies; I had this vague belief that there were only so many babies to go around, and everyone else was taking my share.  Anyway, so, yeah, I know how difficult that is.  And I’ve never lost a child, so I won’t even pretend to be able to fathom how horrific and life-shattering that would be.

But to use either of those scenarios as reason that mothers shouldn’t complain?  It’s just ridiculous.  I mean, no matter what any of us have going on in our lives, there will always, always be somebody somewhere who has it worse, who is dealing with harder, more painful things.  But that does not cancel out the reality of our own pain and frustration.

I think this notion that mothers should just put on a happy face and not complain and be grateful has historically been extremely oppressive.  It isolates and alienates.  It’s what generates the competitiveness we’ve all come to know – motherhood as an Olympic sport.  Who can turn out the best, most high-achieving children?  Who can keep the neatest, most well-decorated house?  Who can make the most organic meals?  Who can chair the PTA and throw the best birthday parties and keep her husband in blowjobs, and do it all with a smile?

Meanwhile, everyone is popping Ativan and Prozac, visiting a therapist, drinking on the sly, or all three.  Because it’s a motherfucking hard act to keep up.

I think moms who dare to complain – who actually say out loud, “This is hard,” or “I’m not always happy being a mom,” or “My kids piss me off sometimes,” are going out on a limb.  Because the moment they are honest, the moment they admit that being a mom isn’t always everything it’s cracked up to be, it’s pretty certain that someone is going to get sanctimonious on her and tell her she should be grateful, she should see the positive.  Someone will come along and throw quasi-wisdom at her that will leave her feeling ashamed and inadequate.

Admitting it’s hard doesn’t mean a mother doesn’t love her kids.  Acknowledging that sometimes being a mom actually sucks does not mean she is ungrateful.  It means she is human.

Look, I’m not suggesting a butt-slapping, high-fiving kumbaya.  Women are funny creatures; our friendships and love for one another can run as deep as that of lovers – and yet, we are so competitive with and jealous of other women, it’s almost pathological.  I’m not sure what drives all of that, but that’s a whole other blog post.  I am suggesting, though: what if we just listened when another mother complained?  Without trying to outdo her with tales of our own hardships, and without suggesting that she be grateful because what she has “is better than the alternative.”

What if we just listened, really listened, and said, “Yeah.  I hear you”?

 

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7 Responses to What If We Just Listened?

  1. Nicole January 9, 2014 at 12:16 pm #

    It’s called empathy. URL:http://cheezburger.com/56915969

    Thanks for this post, Lisa.

  2. Kelly Mayr January 9, 2014 at 2:36 pm #

    I love this post! Just yesterday I was on the phone with another Mom and I was saying how I lost it on my 15 year old and was screaming at him (he might fail algebra 2 and history ugh) She said “I am so glad to hear that you lose it sometimes, I feel like the only one,” Oh heck no, I have 7 kids, of course I lose it sometimes. Some how people think I am so kind of saint because we have 7 kids, foster and are adopting……nope no saint….just a sometimes screaming human ;-) Thanks for addressing this topi

  3. Zil Deamaych January 10, 2014 at 12:20 am #

    It also isolates, alienates and insults those of us who don’t have children – as if our fate is worse than death. I am so, SO tired of people giving me sad looks what they consider comforting words when I say I don’t have children. As hard as parenthood is, they believe, it’s so much better than *GASP* not having kids.

    I read your post 21 truths about parenthood. I almost commented on it, but I didn’t want you to wonder why some selfish, childless weirdo reads your blog. But you know, all those reasons you listed? They’re all reasons I have absolutely no desire to be a parent. I wish more people would be upfront about that side of parenthood, rather than insisting that it is always sunny, the one and only meaning of life, the only way to judge one’s success at life…

    In case you’re wondering why a childfree person does read your blog, I read blogs that are written by people who can write, are honest, and that grapple with all kinds of tough issues – parenthood or other. Thank you for your honest take on tough issues.

    – random commenter formerly known as Jen

    • Lisa January 10, 2014 at 2:05 am #

      Yeah, I totally get that some people just have no desire to be parents. I mean, it’s hard for me to understand what that feels like, but it’s certainly a valid choice. It’s funny how society seems to be so opinionated about everyone’s reproductive choices – you get slammed if you choose not to have any kids, you get slammed for only having one kid, and you get slammed for having too many kids (even if you’re providing and caring for them just fine). I’m not sure why people care so much about what everyone else is doing.

      Anyway, thanks for reading and for commenting, commenter formerly known as Jen :)

  4. jisun January 12, 2014 at 8:40 am #

    What can I say? I agree with it all.

  5. Mrs Odie 2 January 12, 2014 at 4:55 pm #

    It’s a terrible idea to smile WHILE giving your husband a blowjob.

  6. lisa January 12, 2014 at 8:19 pm #

    I know what your saying but I think sometimes while you are listening it’s hard not to get annoyed. FOR example I have this friend who complains about how hard it is to raise two young boys. We are evenly matched. Both stay at homes with two boys. Both our husbands travel and are gone for days at a time.But she always says things like” Your so lucky your boys are older . Just think how hard it is for me with young children” I do just listen but I think a lot of women want to be more than understood. They want to win a prize for being the longest suffering. Why? I have no friggen clue.

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