I was chatting with a friend and he told me his wife was having to do anticoagulant (blood thinner) injections daily throughout her pregnancy; I immediately start asking lots of questions about type and dosage excited because I do these injections too. I told him, “I do shots twice a day while pregnant or nursing, when I’m neither I can switch brands and go back to just daily.” “You win!” he says. “Uhhhh…” I stammered as I was at a loss for words.
This conversation stuck with me for a few days—I was excited to commiserate about our shared experience while he declared me the winner of the injection game. I didn’t want to win! I thought through various conversations I have participated in where one person shares a hardship and another person declares how much worse their situation. For example, one mom said my baby is teething and was up for an hour last night and another mom in the group responded that her teething baby is also teething and was up four times last night and she would much rather have only been up for an hour.
My baby had a diaper blow out four times yesterday! That’s nothing my baby had seven last week!
I had to wait for an hour and half for our pediatrician to check my toddlers ears for 2 minutes! I had to wait for three hours at urgent care with both our kids!
Sometimes they are more disheartening hardships like acute illness, injury and even death.
Why have we made hardships a competition? Who would want to win! Does anyone really want to be the bearer of the greater difficult time? I just can’t imagine that is true!
Are we just hardwired to compare ourselves to other people even when such comparisons mean worse things for us?
Let’s show each other empathy and replace competition with solidarity instead or at least commiseration. We can show empathy by acknowledging that a complaint is valid and is indeed a difficult experience. “That’s really hard,” suffices. Saying, “that sucks” or similar shows the person that you heard what they had to share and agree it is a valid and was difficult for them. Stopping there is perfectly fine.
If you feel compelled to continue and have to have experienced such an experience, speak in solidarity rather than competition. “I’ve been there!” connects you with the other person without comparing your experiences. Or “when we experienced that I lived on coffee and chocolate!”
Sometimes we complain about things that others would welcome as hardships like having to wait for a service person to work on our washer. There are people in the world that would welcome this because it means they have a washer! Just because you are lucky or blessed or fortunate enough to have a specific problem doesn’t make that problem any less difficult for you.
What is hard for me may not be hard for you and vice versa and that’s ok in fact it’s probably good because I can support you and you can support me.
Keep it simple, stay on message, and remember winning at hardships isn’t better! Let’s save competition for sports!
Murphy Benet is the mother of two boys, four and a half and one and a half, who both have FPIES. She is in the process of getting her family started in the adventure of homeschooling using the Montessori method. She and her husband live in Melbourne, Florida – just miles from the beach that she doesn’t get to visit nearly often enough.
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