***ETA: I was gently reminded that more offense is often taken than was given. That's part of why I wrote this post. So that we can all communicate more effectively and encouragingly as both advice givers and takers!*** I seek advice and wisdom constantly. I believe it is both Biblical and down right common sense to seek the wisdom of those who have walked in these shoes before me. I filter, file, and experiment around with the advice given me until I figure out what works for our little family.
However, in speaking to both my older women friends and my friends that are mothers in later stages I'm finding a disconnect. I believe firmly that the intentions on both sides are good, but somehow the wisdom sharers feel that their message is falling on deaf ears and the younger feel that they live in vacuum of guilt for what they can't do. The execution is where the messages are getting lost in translation.
I've only got experience on one side of this issue, but I think this we be a good time to have a, "this is what would be helpful to me," conversation.
-- "Enjoy these days you'll miss them when they are gone."
This is problematic because it is said for two reasons:
1. A young mom is dealing with a discipline issue in front of you. This isn't actually enjoyable for anyone and implying that it should be is unreasonable. You know it won't last long, she knows it won't last long, but the fact is it is Not enjoyable for mom, child or bystander. Instead?
"These moments are tough but your doing great"
This provides both an acknowledgment that the situation stinks and encouragement so she can actually get back to soaking in those sweet little ones.
2. You see little ones doing adorable things and you want to help their mama not miss them. Chances are their kids do adorable things all the time and we will all have to accept missing a moment or two. Most moms I know love their kids like crazy and spend almost every moment of their day (and night) pouring into those sweet lives. When you remind them to enjoy the moment they are already enjoying it makes them feels as if they aren't doing enough, a big guilt heaping most of us who intentionally pour into our children can't handle. Instead?
"I enjoy watching you take in your children. They are adorable."
Again acknowledgement of what is being done right and complimenting someone's children is always encouraging.
-- "Don't compare your children" & "Don't show a favorite"
This is problematic because if a mama felt comfortable enough around you to explain where she is struggling with a child then she trusts you. She most likely trusts you to know she loves both (or all) of her children fiercely and deeply. She trusts you to know that she will applaud and discipline her children as appropriate and as individual people. She trusts you enough to share that one of her children isn't perfect not only making herself vulnerable but also her child. Instead?
"It's great that you can see your child's strength and weaknesses, keep working on each one through their individual struggles"
It gently reminds them to see the strengths and that each of their children will have struggles and the best they can do is notice and love their child.
-- "You should..."
Because you might not know what she should do. She might not have the money, that might not be a priority, that could be a point of contention that is barely keeping the peace in her household. She might have tried that and failed, it might have caused a rash, it might be scary, it might be something she has been trying and hasn't figured out yet. Even the closest family members can't understand the daily dynamics in home. Instead?
"Have you considered?"
This takes the pressure off, gives a mama a chance to say no, or better yet? Tell you why or why not. This could be springboard for a brainstorm session or a good conversation. Or if that mom is me? She will go home and stew in it for days and usually consider it, whereas if you tell me what to do ill probably smile, give a quick answer and drop it from my mind.
For example? One time at a wedding a sweet mom of grown children that I admire was talking to be about cloth diapering her babies. I said I could never do it and I never would. She said, "I was just wondering if you had considered it," two weeks later I had cloth diapers in hand and I've never looked back.
As for me and my peers? We will try hard to listen to your experience and thank you for your wisdom. We need it and deep down we know we need that viewpoint. We're tired, stressed, and have the weight of raising little lives into big lives please be gracious with us even when we lack grace. We're sorry. I'm sorry. My ears are open!