A few days ago I followed a link of link that led me to some mom that I don’t know who wrote a little rant on mothers always feeling like they have to compete with one another. Her main point was that whenever she complains about how hard this time of her life is, other moms are never encouraging but always say something like, “You think THIS is hard? Wait until they’re teenagers!” or something along the same lines. She was upset by how we’re always trying to outdo one another with who has the harder life. And she was wishing that just once, someone could gently say, “Don’t worry. It gets better.”
I do sincerely hope that I have never said such an insensitive thing to another mom. But here’s the thing: Does it really get better? Does it?
I know I’ve never exactly been accused of being an optimist, so you don’t have to listen to this if you don’t want to, but it doesn’t get better. It just doesn’t.
When I was eight, I hated going to bed. Hated it. Would try to think up new ways of fooling my parents every night so that I wouldn’t have to go back to that torture chamber. They never fell for it and I always ended up back in bed. It sucked. It really did. I just had to lay there, not sleeping and dwelling on how difficult my life was. At eighteen, I left my home and all those I loved to go try that thing called college that everyone says is so important. I hated it. I cried more during that time of life than all the other times put together. At twenty-eight I had three very small children, not enough money to pay the bills and a husband who was battling depression as he tried to figure out where to go from here and how to provide for his growing family. At thirty-eight, I have three not-so-small children with very busy schedules and ten thousand major decisions that need to be made on a daily basis and I’ve gone back to work full-time.
It’s hard. It’s all so hard. None of it is any less hard than the rest of it. Some days are better than others, of course. And there can be so much joy in the midst of the hardness.
So very much joy.
But it doesn’t necessarily get better. I know that. I look forward to forty-eight knowing that my children will then be dealing with adult-sized problems of their own. That will be hard. I imagine life at fifty-eight as our aging parents need extra care. Shall I go on?
When my children were little, I used to HATE when more seasoned mothers would look at my family with longing in their eyes and tell me to enjoy the time I was in because it passes so quickly. I always thought, “Who do you think you are, assuming that I’m NOT enjoying it? I AM enjoying it. I know full well that life passes quickly. I love my babies. Back off, woman.”
And now I HATE when mothers with younger children look at my family with longing in their eyes and tell me that I am so lucky to be done with diapers and tantrums and having to keep an eye on them every moment of every day. I feel like it invalidates me as a real person, living a real life. It somehow sucks the joy away.
Life changes. It sometimes changes so quickly that I can barely keep my wits about me, much less process the changes until I’ve come to a somewhat safe distance on the other side of the change. I’m especially aware of it now as I am (finally) beginning work on putting my third blog book into print. As I’m going through posts from three and a half short years ago, I am bewildered by how much has changed. It is sobering and actually somewhat embarrassing. There are things I can’t believe I wrote. Last night I sat down at the piano and played through my old notebook from high school that I used to write my songs in. Talk about embarrassing. Why, oh why, did I ever think those songs were good?
Maybe three years from now I’ll be embarrassed by this post I’m writing right here. But I bet my life won’t be better than it is right now. I bet I’ll still go in and out of good times and bad on a regular basis. I bet I’ll still love people and hurt people and get hurt by people. And I bet the sun will still rise and set and the ocean will still keep running into the land. And the God who holds it all together will still call me to take up my cross daily as I live and love and work and worship. And I’ll hold some things tight and I’ll let some things go.
And I hope that if I have the delightful privilege of spending time with you and you pour your heart out to me about how hard your life is right now…
Well, I hope that I can cry with you and pray with you and that the love would flow both ways in our conversation. And I hope there will be laughter too. And I hope we do all of that over coffee and donuts.
Or wine and cheese and bread maybe, with a side of olives.
With no pretense of one of our lives being more important than the other’s. And no superficial silliness about how it all gets better.