Some time ago I took all four kids by myself to Chick-Fil-A. It was, as expected, a mess.
They ran back and forth from the table to the playground, fought, ate, spilled things, wiped things on me, and generally had a raucously good time. While nursing Quin at the table, a few nearby moms and I struck up a conversation. One of them, also nursing a baby, said that she had four kids, too. Her husband was in the play area with the other three (and kept an eye on my three for me, which was a blessing).
The other mom, whose older elementary aged boy sat quietly with her at the table said, “I don’t know how you do it. I only have one.”
I turned to her so that I was fully looking into her face and I said this: “There is no ONLY with children.”
I firmly, strongly, REALLY believe that. There is no ONLY when it comes to having children. Hear me: I do not believe that it is exactly the same experience for someone with one or two children and someone with ten children. What I mean is that having a child is having a child. It is hard and wonderful and gut-wrenching and amazing and difficult. Having five or ten children does NOT make mothers MORE of a mom. (Though it might make you more of a juggler and multitasker.) Having a kid or kids PERIOD is difficult, no matter the number.
(Read why having four kids showed me how little I actually know about parenting.)
Can we stop saying “only”? Because here is what you really mean when you say that you “only” have two children: you are talking yourself down and comparing your experience to someone else’s experience. This kind of comparison (comparing experiences) does not make sense. We cannot compare how something feels or what “hard” is. My hard might be your easy. Or how you deal with hard might be totally different than how I deal with hard.
When we say “only” about our children or our situation, we are making ourselves less. (And not in the spiritual way that Jesus says we should be humble.) We are, in a sense, negating our experience. I find myself struggling when Rob is gone for three to four weeks every summer. Then I talk to people whose husbands are gone every week, all week, or who are single parents. Then I feel like I shouldn’t complain and I can’t struggle because I ONLY have a husband gone for a few weeks a year.
Moms, we are all in this together. One kid, ten kids– it’s HARD. And joyful. And stressful. And transforming. I think we all know that generally speaking, comparison does not benefit us (except when it does). Stop saying you “only” have the situation you have. Your situation is your situation and we can relate, but not compare yours to mine. And when we say “only” about someone else, we are invalidating her experience. So let’s stop that, too.
The next time you hear a mom say “only,” I hope you say to her, “There is no ONLY with children.”
Let me know what you think about “only” in the comments, or how you are tempted to say “only” in YOUR situation. (Then STOP saying “only.”)