Just Let It Be Hard

I felt the burn crawling over my chest. It slinked out of my heart and crawled through the rest of my body. I bit my tongue to keep from saying something I shouldn't, but the words were still there, right at the tip.

I was listening to another mother, lamenting about her birth and how incredibly hard it was - the details don't matter, but suffice it to say I pitted the two of our birth stories against one another in my mind and obviously, I came out the clear winner for who's was "harder."

I wanted to tell her she had no idea what hard was. That she needed a little perspective in birth stories. That she should be thanking her lucky stars for only being in labor for eight hours and that she didn't have to deal with the myriad of "problems" that my precious little self did.

I would say it nicer than that of course, but the heart would remain the same: bleak, black and bitter.

Do you know the feeling? You smile. You listen. You seem supportive. But inside you have your own little monologue running. Taking in their words and spitting them out with your own opinion on where they should land on the scale of hard.

"She has no idea how hard it is to do that with three kids under foot."

"She has no idea how hard it is to have twins, it's double the work."

"She has no idea how hard it is to have a child that isn't a good sleeper."

"She has no idea how hard it is to have a picky eater."

"She has no idea how hard it is to not be able to nurse, even if you give it everything you've got."

"She has no idea how hard it is to have family living far away."

"She has no idea how hard it is to have an over-involved, controlling mother-in-law living five minutes away."

"She has no idea how hard it is to stay-home all day, with stuffed animals and PBS as your only company."

"She has no idea how hard it is to work all day, and not get to see her kids whenever she wants."

"She has no idea how hard it is to have to fight for a pregnancy, to wait years for your children."

"She has no idea how hard it is to have an unexpected pregnancy rock your world."

"She has no idea how hard it is to have a miscarriage."

"She has no idea."

"No idea."

"No idea."
Why is it that we mothers feel the need to develop our own scale and place each other on it? We take what one mom says was hard and compare it to our story - deciding, if in fact - their assessment is accurate.

That day with the mother and her not-so-hard birth story, I pridefully assumed that I was the standard of hard. That through the words she shared, I'd judge her experience, place it on my self-centered scale, and tell her exactly how hard it was.

But why can't I just let her hard be hard for her?

We mothers are all going through hard things. The hard reveals itself at different times, in different places, in different ways, but no one is immune. Sometimes I tell myself I'm just trying to make them feel better, to help them understand that what they're going through is really not all that bad. That if they just understood what could be, maybe they'd learn to appreciate how easy they really have it.

And sometimes that's true, my heart is (mostly) pure, but more often than not, it's just me wanting validation for my feelings and experiences. Wanting pity, sympathy, honor, accolades and admiration for what I've struggled through. Fought through. Battled through.

I'm drawing a line in the sand, according to my hard, and ranking people according to my standard. She's more involved with her children than I am. She's less involved with her children than I am. She's more put together than I am. She's less put together than I am. She's more industrious than I am. She's less industrious than I am.

She's more.

She's less.

She's more.

She's less.

And it seems to me that no matter where someone falls on my self-created scale, I usually sit there to try to find a way to believe that overall, I have it the worst but have come through it the best.

We treat our hard like a game of cards, looking at the ones that match or beat the other mother's across the table. Whether we play them or not isn't the issue. It's the fact that they're always there, and in the back of our hand lies our go-to trump cards of hard that allow us to feel validated in licking our wounds and making ourselves feel better. We may be playing the game kind and fair on the outside, but inside we like to tell ourselves that we hold the hand that makes us the winner.

Why can't we just fold our hand of cards, shove them to the side of the table, and soothe our fidgeting fingers by picking up a cup of coffee while choosing to listen without the scale?

To hear another mother right where she is at. To listen to her hard without the background noise of our judgement. Because in that moment, that hard thing is her reality. Her world is exposed and that is all there is for her. The feelings are fact. The feelings are valid. The feelings are hard.

And no matter what we've been through we are not the judge or the standard of her hard.

So just let her hard be hard.

I am not superior because of my hard. I am not a better woman, mother, wife or friend. I am not tougher, smarter or stronger. I am not more talented, more balanced, more logical, more helpful or more appreciative.

I just am.

I have my hard and you have yours.

So let's just let that be hard enough.

Like this post? Check out all the posts in my "Motherhood" series. And if you'd like to keep up with all Oakland Avenue's updates, I'd be honored if you just gave a quick "Like" over here on Facebook. 


  1. Wow! You just "knocked it out of the park"! Well said.

  2. Yes! Yes! I have struggled with the flip side of this, trying to pretend and convince myself that everything's peachy when indeed it is not. Because every time I wanted to complain I thought of mamas with babes in the NICU, or with deployed husbands, or who weren't even living anymore due to pregnancy complication. How could I complain when I knew of such hardship? But I what I really needed, instead of stuffing feelings down or feeling inferior was to just let my hard be hard. To give myself permission to put a voice to what I was feeling. And to ask for help. Because I was too embarrassed to admit that I needed it because "I didn't really have it that bad."

  3. This is beautiful!! I discovered your blog just today, via Nell, and I love it! Sharing this post now and hoping it goes viral!

    Britt@The Fisk Files

  4. Thank you Britt - Nell's awesome, isn't she! So appreciate your kind words!

  5. This made me smile :) It is so hard not to want to compare EVERYTHING ... and I know when I do that, I tend to pass judgments that I regret having even thought (and dare I admit have probably spoken) about someone else. I think this is something a lot of women struggle with... thanks for putting it into words - you are awesome :)

  6. I've totally spoken too Aisha - don't let me fool you! Yep, such an easy trap to fall into. I feel like it's usually two steps forward one step back along the learning curve for me. : ) I'm so glad you connected with it!

  7. This was such a great post. Very convicting. I think we as women do this with a lot of things, because we want to come out on top like you said. It's a pride thing. I definitely need to work on this! Not boasting in my ability to overcome hardship or to "do better" than someone else. Thank you.

  8. Thanks Laura - Agreed with the pride thing. I'm such a work in progress on this and it's funny because I hate when someone does it to me, but I apparently love to do it to other people. How contradictory!

  9. Amanda PhilgreenJuly 21, 2015 at 1:54 PM

    The best part of it all is no matter what are hard is, our needs are the same. We need a Rescuer, a Savior, a King. All of our hards reveal and remind us of how broken we and the world we live in are and fill us with anticipation for the day when Christ returns to set all things right. Today we can be trust that God's glory will be displayed in all things and our joy is found in this and not in our circumstances! Thanks for reminding me of what i see often forget!

  10. This really hit home for me. I was lamenting this very topic to my husband yesterday, and realized I had said exact phrases from your post - " if they just understood what could be, maybe they'd learn to appreciate how easy they really have it." " I have it the worst but have come through it the best."

    I think I'll adopt your phrase for the times when it's tough to listen. I have my hard and you have yours. Cuz really, that's just life, isn't it?

    I wish all Mom's out there would read this, and then maybe we'd all get through the hard a little better, together. :)

    Hope you're settling into the Chicago area! Maybe we'll meet up and catch up someday!!