It’s Just a Phrase

Since Becka posted “Just a Phase” in November, I’ve been itching to write a response. And now I have a platform! Y’all should probably read it first if this post is to make any sense. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

We all caught up? Lovely. Let’s go.

First of all, I need to sincerely apologize to my dear friend, because I’ve certainly told her “oh don’t worry, he’ll grow out of it” more than once! I’d like to think I included helpful encouragement and advice, but I can’t guarantee that. I’m very sorry dear.

Secondly, the entire piece got me thinking about a couple things. One was the way that mothers as a species seem to fail in our continual quest to be helpful and support our fellow moms. The other was that cookies are severely underrated.

Seriously though. I’ve heard every possible version of “it’s just a phase” so many times throughout the past 18 months. It can get pretty grating, and is usually the least helpful thing that person could have said in that moment. However, I do sometimes grasp the sliver of hope it offers. It is comforting to be reminded that the present struggle will only last for a little while. There is an expiry date on every teething session, every mobility challenge, every sleep schedule good or bad: sorry girls, it’s sad but true. Relief can be found in the midst of seemingly endless chaos when I remember that a new and different chaos is just around the corner. (I’m an incurable optimist about 98% of the time. The other 2% is when I’m trying to get spaghetti sauce out of clothing.) And yes, I do appreciate the occasional reminder of just how fleeting these moments are. It makes it easer to deal with the hard times when I am reminded to savour the sweetness in every phase, no matter how tired I am. Easier said than done, I know, but we can always strive for the unattainable regardless of success.

However, in the moment when a fellow mum comes to us with her struggles and fears, perhaps we need to take a second and think “What would I want to hear if I was in her place?” Would I want advice, encouragement or sympathy? Perhaps a listening ear? I have observed, online but also in real life, that we desperately want to tell other moms how to behave and what to think rather than trying to share our experiences or commiserate constructively. “Be happy! You’re a mom! Moms are supposed to be happy!” “Don’t do that, that will have a negative long term effect on your little one.” “Do you really think that’s a good idea?” We spend our time trying to diplomatically tell mothers that they’re doing everything wrong and inform them of what they SHOULD be doing instead. Or just throw out a meaningless phrase and hope it somehow helps. Not nearly helpful.

Words matter. We need to pay attention to how we interact with each other. Are we listening? Are we empathizing? Are we offering practical and constructive help, in the form of baby sitting or cleaning or laundry or food or coffee energizing beverages? Are we encouraging each other? Or are we engaging in constant competition:”Oh you think YOUR kid is bad? just listen to MY story…” Bragging about our own personal wunderkind is also less than productive. I find most attempts at comparison take the emphasis from sympathy and support of our mothers in distress.

I’m not against the giving of advice, and certainly not the asking of it. If a fellow mom comes to me and says “I have this problem – what do you think I should do?” THEN I can step in with advice and anecdotes and my collective wisdom (oh so wise I am, mother of one tiny human.) But to offer a slew of well-meant recommendations before receiving the invitation to do so will probably end in grumpiness.I am a definite offender in this. I love to talk about my daughter and boast of her many accomplishments (a prodigy in everything, she is!) But I need to remember that there is a time to speak, and a time to just be silent and listen.

And maybe bring cookies.

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