This piece was written by a beloved friend, and I am honored to share her voice with you today. I believe at some point, we are all moms struggling with motherhood. Aren’t we? Some women walk down incredibly challenging paths, and this post speaks to the experience of one such mom. Perhaps we all could use this reminder. Lets all take it in, and pour it out on those precious people who need it… shall we?
I’m one of “those” moms. You know the one; I am the mom who has some type of “special” situation or need. Do you know a mom like me? Maybe it’s a mom of a chronically ill child, or a child with special needs or a learning disorder. Maybe it’s a single mom with too many kids and not enough resources. Perhaps it’s a good friend whose husband just decided he’s “not happy”, or a mom in ill health, awaiting test results that seem to make time stand still. It could be any mom really. It could be any one of us who struggles with extraordinarily difficult circumstances.
I am guessing that you know one of us. Or by chance maybe you ARE one of us.
Either way you’ve grown weary of knowing someone like me, who has that tired worn out excuse of why they can’t go to something, or help you, or spend an hour on the phone. Maybe you’re tired of feeling like your problems are petty compared to theirs, and you feel a distance growing because your sure your friend sees you as unimportant in the light of their “situation”.
If you find yourself frustrated to know how to be a friend or how to support in ways that matter, that is completely understandable. We all experience it at some point in life. But rarely are we given tangible answers or ideas. Can I share a few that I’ve discovered have or would make a difference for me?
First, please consider altering your expectations without judgments. If someone you know is living with limitations….those limits should and will limit their life. Please help them to feel judgment free space for being limited.
They may run late. They may be more tired. Household chores may often be put on hold for more immediate needs. Maybe your single mom neighbor left her trash cans out for two days and as you drive your car around them you feel like….. thinking….something. Choose instead to assume she’s done more than her best. Or better yet, just think nothing at all. That single mom may have two sick kids and for the last 48 hours she may not have had the freedom to even pee when she chooses, and she may have slept 3 hours, maybe… if you combine all the 15 minute cat naps together.
My story, is that I have a special needs 15 year old daughter that requires 24/7 one on one care. And to be quite honest a majority of that care is spent trying to prevent her from hurting or injuring herself in severe ways as she battles severe autism and Tourettes. I remember trying to leave the house one evening for a meeting, but I was held up, as her nursing staff and I battled a situation that resulted in my shirt being sprayed by her blood and me being beat up in the process. We got the situation in control with the amount of energy usually reserved for a half marathon, and knowing I was already late I scurried out the door hoping I could attend the meeting. As I walked in, blood stains still fresh on my shirt and sweat stains probably prominent on my pits, the leader stopped the meeting to make a sarcastic remark about my tardiness. This is painful. Adding insult to injury and salt on an open wound.
And that night, his flippant words felt devastating to me.
They aren’t living in my world and tardiness seems to be nothing more than poor planning or ineffectiveness. But you have to realize you honestly NEVER know someone’s situation when you place judgment like this. Am I sometimes tardy for no good reason? YUP. Do I oversleep sometimes for no good reason and end up being ineffective? Yes. But maybe that’s not today. And your judgment and sarcasm aren’t going to “fix” me anyway. Why not assume that I’m doing my best in the middle of a war-zone life?
I attended a small group of women/mom’s for awhile, where one of the primary rules was “no judgment” when it came to who could make it and at what time and who had to leave early and stay long, etc…. “judgment free” mom zone. Why? Because- we all got it. We had all been there. BUT we can choose to let go of our judgments and expectations, even if we don’t get it or can’t relate. We shift our perspective, simply because we trust our friend, and support is more important than our need for things to be right, or fair, or organized, or effective.
And please try to think of how this may apply in your own household. Who in your family is going through a tough thing and should be expected to be “less effective”? Or who is leaving dishes undone because they just realized the pharmacy closes in 15 minutes and that prescription is life? Don’t tell your wife and mother of your three dirty children how much cleaner the house seems when she and the kids are visiting grandma for the week…DUH! 🙂
Life happens and it’s messy and it is sometimes more involved than a formula of efficiency. Find ways to help your friends, parents, relatives know that you have chosen to loosen the grip on expectations of them with no judgements.
Secondly, and this may sound counter intuitive, but sometimes when people are in crisis or living in their own war-zone, they desperately just need mundane and meaningless conversation or entertainment to balance life. You know that friend who said they don’t have time to help you move because they have two sick babies and then you see them tweet about sitting on the couch eating ice cream watching the Bachelor….. THAT is survival at its finest. And oh, so effective. That’s a mom that knows that ice cream + couch+ reality tv romance is her own red cape in a phone booth. She’s coming out transformed.
What can you do? Well, if your friend CAN talk or sit down across the lunch table, feel free to talk about your new hair color that went horribly wrong; or the soap opera star that miraculously came back from the dead. If your afraid of not being sensitive enough or offending them, just simply ask, “Wanna just talk about meaningless dribble? Wanna not have to think about anything real for awhile? Or would you rather me just listen as you vent?” Help them see that you understand that life goes on and that you don’t feel some great sense of obligation to keep the world spinning around them and their issues. Just live. Don’t judge. Don’t stop inviting. (But don’t be upset when the answer is no) Don’t analyze their efficiency or if they are handling their problems the right way unless you are invited to do so.
Don’t stop being yourself. And don’t criticize them for the same.
Becky Sturm is a mother of four- feels like fourteen.
You can find her on twitter: @mamafierce