Struggling With Motherhood

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?

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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.

   Struggling With Motherhood

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Becky Sturm

Becky Sturm is a mother of four- feels like fourteen.

You can find her on twitter:  @mamafierce

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Comments

  1. says

    ohhhh gosh, words can be so hurtful, and it’s the worst being on the receiving end of judgmental and/or ignorant comments. So sorry that happened to you! I love your message here, though. It’s an incredibly important one, expressed profoundly and gorgeously. xo

    • Becky Sturm says

      Thanks Beth. It can feel like you barely have one leg of a table left to balance on and someone totally innocently without knowing it came by and swipes it. They don’t mean it but your left feeling shattered.

  2. Kim H. says

    Thank you for sharing this candid, very honest post. YEP! I get it. After finding myself a single mom after 23 year of marriage, I have faced similar struggles. I am slowly learning to get off my own back and cut myself a break when I know I am doing the absolute best I can. I am learning it is okay to reach out and ask for help (I’m REALLY stubborn!) I will admit it has been hard to watch some friendships go away but sometimes people just don’t know what to do so they just kinda move on. Being a single mom has definitely helped me be a whole lot less judgmental about people and their situations. You just never know the struggles people carry.

    • Becky Sturm says

      Thanks Kim. It’s crazy how we think we know everything….until we don’t. Honestly I have no idea how single mom’s do it. My hat’s off to ya girl. And bravo for you for reaching out for help. That is SOOOO important and does not show our weakness. It displays our strength.

  3. says

    Thank you for sharing. It is so true, you never no what’s going on in a person’s life or the full picture until you’ve walked in their shoes. I worked in a residential program for children with severe autism, so I can sympathize with what you are going through. I wish people could better understand how hard you are trying! It sounds like you are a wonderful mom who works very, very hard.

    • Becky Sturm says

      Thank you Bev so much. You may be one of the few who have an inkling at the complexities of my day to day. Oh and by the way. I haven’t gotten a chance to read your most recent post yet but the title says IT ALL…. I LOVE IT. And that’s just one of many reasons why I’m glad my kids are grown. haha

  4. says

    I needed to read this exact post today. This day has tested everything I thought I knew about being a mom and made me feel like I’ve failed at it. Putting myself in some else’s shoes is exactly what I need to do right now to gain some perspective.

    • Becky Sturm says

      I’m glad Kim. God has a way of giving us “just enough”. I think the most profound thing I’ve ever learned and ponder as a mom… “and this to shall pass” It’s so true and so needed. No matter how things are right now.

  5. says

    Thank you for this great post! Life is hard enough, without us judging each other. If other people don’t know our full stories, why should we presume to know theirs? It’s much more pleasant to just assume everyone is doing the best they can in the circumstance. What takes priority for one person might not even be on the radar of another. I hope you find yourself surrounded by sympathetic people. You are doing a great, hard job!

    • Becky Sturm says

      Kristi, I think my biggest wish for this post is that it’s not just heard as a “don’t judge” but as a starting point for those who say they want to help. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been approached by someone who will say “Listen, if you need ANYTHING, just call” And they mean it. But they don’t realize that what I really need is just for them to “get it” and to cut me a break. Great insight what you say about priority.

  6. says

    Love this advice and seriously sometimes just being ourselves around those who care about us the most is really all we need. Thank you so much for sharing that here with us today!

  7. says

    Great post! I Try to remember that everyone is struggling with something -though some struggles are certainly bigger than others. I don’t know their struggles and it’s not my place to judge. WE all need a reminder sometimes, though.

    • Becky Sturm says

      I worked with teenagers for years. I think most people hear or see the daily concerns of a teen as so trivial in light of adult issues. But the truth is that their daily concern over the boy in homeroom is as big of a deal as us losing a job. It really is, because the gravity of a situation is all based one the impact to the person at the time. I try to remember that with my own teens and others I’m privileged to have in my life. I try to say in my head as they are yammering on and on 🙂 “this actually is paramount. BIG STUFF”

  8. says

    This is such a hugely appropriate lesson at any time, and so very fitting so close to our COMPASSION DAY. We never fully know each others’ stories so all we should ever offer is compassion. What really struck me in this post was the part about siting on the couch and watching TV. Absolutely this is an important part and not a reason to judge.

    • Becky Sturm says

      Thanks Sarah. Our social media peek into the constant activity of each others lives is just to help us place judgement on each other 24/7… God bless Twitter

  9. says

    Well, duh….I have said that before when someone has commented that my house was cleaner without the children around. I think that you created a quite incredible meeting, with a no judgement zone. Sometimes just showing up means you won a battle that day.

  10. says

    I am “that mom” too! As a mom of a 24 year old autistic daughter and as a person with auto immune disease I have felt the same exact feelings! Thanks for this post…made my day to know that someone else out there knows how I sometimes feel!

    • Becky Sturm says

      Janelle….. hang in there super hero. In my truest moments (and I know you feel the same) I wish NO ONE ON EARTH was able to relate to me. What a better Earth that would be huh? I’ld rather be all alone and miserable, than to know one other person has to endure what I’ve seen. There is something so pure in being understood, so comforting in knowing you’re not alone. I’ld trade it all …..right now

    • Becky Sturm says

      Tarana and Kristi, sorry…. you can’t come. I just feel like you wouldn’t be “right” for the group…

      hopeyouhaveasenseofhumor

  11. says

    A no judgement group? Can I come? I love that! And I’m so glad to have read this here today – people judge and assume much too quickly. We never know what happened five minutes before we see somebody late for a meeting or anything else. Love!

  12. says

    Thank you for sharing this here, Becky. I think we always need the reminder that our words can be so hurtful even if it’s unintentional. But they can also be so healing, in so many simple ways that you mention.Just asking a friend “What do you need from me?” can start a dialogue that could be a life line.

    • Becky Sturm says

      Thanks Dana. I know one thing I read one time also said that people who are in crisis don’t want people to ask them “how can I help” Said it put too much burden on the person in crisis to also manage their support. I thought that was interesting and I can see how that would be true sometimes. I think it depends on the situation and how much you know the person.

  13. says

    This goes so well with our compassion posts of last week! I do try to think about what might be really going on with someone.
    I dated a man with Tourettes and he told me some pretty horrible stories from his teen years of physical and drag-down verbal fights with his parents.
    He was 26 and then 27 when we were together and very different from what he described from his youth.

    • Becky Sturm says

      Ignorance is probably the leading cause of pain in the past. Not stupidity… That’s different. Just lack of education and understanding. My heart aches when I know of the pain that mental illness has caused completely innocent people in the past.

  14. says

    What an encouraging post! I once spent the day at the doctor with my toddler; she had a respiratory virus and was given a nebulizer treatment and then I had to learn how to use an inhaler with her. I was so tired by the time I dragged myself to a meeting at my church, and then the secretary of the committee chastised me for not having a written report. I was so mad!

    • Becky Sturm says

      You had me at “day at the doctor with my toddler” I threw up in my mouth a little. SO BEEN THERE – to ALL of this post.

  15. says

    I just had a horrible day this week, and honestly, the bachelor was just what I needed after a good cry. Such a great post about not judging others. I LOVED it.

  16. says

    Hi Chris and Becky! My brother and sister in law have two special needs children, and this really helps bring their battles into focus. Especially about the talking without judgement.

    I can’t imagine how difficult it is to just ‘go to a meeting’. I would have felt to defeated just sitting there and having to listen to someone make me feel bad… You are very brave.
    I hope God blesses you with many friends and family members who will listen to you, and give you comfort. (Don’t watch the bachelor, but I could go for some ice cream on the couch. You in???)
    Blessings,
    Ceil

  17. says

    Though hard to believe that someone would say something of that nature, it happens in real life all the time. I once wrote about meeting a young boy with down syndrome who had a little chat with me as were waiting outside a school. The mother made it a point to thank me afterwards. I asked her why. She said you talked to my little boy and you did not notice that he was different. I was saddened beyond words. Since when do parents have to thank strangers to talk to their kids.

    • Becky says

      don’t be sad. You deserved to be thanked and it’s ok. That mom was just talented at stepping outside of herself and her daily task to acknowledge small life blessings. You were one of them

  18. says

    We really don’t have any idea the depths of others’ pain, struggle or discomfort. And when we elevate ourselves above them because of what we see with our eyes, and not with our hearts, we lose. We all lose.

    Thank you for a timely reminder to open our hearts and truly See.

    With blessings,
    Dani

    • Becky says

      very eloquently said. So true. I really don’t get upset at others for being caught up in the daily, mundane. I do it too. I just so often have someone say “How can I support you” And I just want to plead “just show me grace”

  19. says

    judgement without dialogue is the worst.
    especially the flippant remark meant to make you feel bad… or just, Less. such arrogance. this is a great reminder to us all to remember that everyone has a story, and is a battle they are fighting.

    • Becky says

      I think in this case, and in many cases, flippant comments are really meant to modify behavior. Meaning this person made sarcastic comments about tardiness, disguised as humor, not to belittle me (maybe) but more the hope that myself and others listening would “shape up” Ha… I’m sure I’ve guilty of doing the same.

  20. says

    Great post – except for the part with the jerk and his CommNet about tardiness! I am one of your tribe (I have a fourteen year-old son with autism), and I agree with you! For the most part, when I’m with friends, all I want is meaningless dribble:).

  21. says

    Beckie, I can’t agree more with you. I had to become a mother to understand what it’s like to manage a family. I like the idea that we are doing our best with what we have. Words can hurt us a lot, while we are trying to manage things.No guilt is key, cause at the end of the day, we are not there to judge one another, but at least if we can give a hand or even share a smile. When it gets rough at home, knowing other mums are struggling is helping. We are on the same boat and we are just doing fine.
    Thanks for sharing your story. It’s inspiring.

    • Becky says

      thanks Marie….although I must admit, I’m judging you a bit on how you spell “mum” 😉 justkidding

  22. says

    love this post. thank you for sharing your story. i myself am a single mom with a special needs child and the situation is already hard on its own. wouldn’t it be so nice if we are not judged just because we didn’t do something that society dictates?

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