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Parents, We All Need A Little Support Sometimes

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I honestly don't remember when life became a competition.

I do remember being a kid and knowing that there were times when my friends and classmates struggled. I remember wanting to be the person they talked to so I could help them, and hoped they would do the same for me.

I remember listening to whatever problem was bringing them down. Whether it was something huge like the death of a family member or pet, or something simple like their sibling hiding their favourite toy. I remember being able to listen and actually hear them. I could show support and acknowledge their feelings, and then we could smile and go on with our day.

I don't remember the day when acknowledging someone else's problems meant I was dismissing my own. I don't remember when I started listening to other people talking about their issues and thinking how trivial or silly they were, while simultaneously thinking about what I was going through. I'm thankful that I usually managed to keep my opinions to myself and be supportive, but that didn't mean my mind was completely focused on the other person.

I don't remember when that happened, but I'm ashamed that it did.

I thought it was normal and that's just the way things were. I never thought twice about the amount of times people would brush off my complaints because they had something going on, or the amount of times I'd do the same to someone else.

Then I became a mother.

When my son was born almost three years ago I expected to feel everything. I expected it to be a transformative moment in my life that brought me true and unconditional love. I expected it to change the way I thought about everything and how I related to the world. All that was true, but there was also something else that I never expected to feel.

Loneliness, detachment, despair, and doubt hung over me like a cloud. I was in the midst of a severe bout of postpartum depression, and I felt like a failure. I was living in a place where I had very little support, my husband worked long hours and I felt like the world was falling down on me. I felt like I was a terrible mother and partner.

The moment I knew I needed help was when I was driving home from an appointment on the highway, and my eyes focused on the guardrail. In that moment all I could think about was how my family would be better off if I just drove straight through it and died.

I didn't drive through the guardrail, but I also didn't tell anyone what had almost happened. I didn't know who to talk to or how to admit that I was failing. Then I screwed up the courage to mention it to a group of moms I'd gotten friendly with. I told them how I was struggling and felt alone, and when I mentioned feeling like I was better off dead, one of the women said something that still echoes in my mind.

"You only feel like that because you're tired. Get a good night's sleep and you'll be fine."

With one simple word she'd effectively dismissed what I'd said and how I felt.

Only.

That was the word that nearly crushed me. With one simple word she'd effectively dismissed what I'd said and how I felt. That one word made me question everything I'd been going through, and made me vow to never reach out to anyone else.

Luckily I had other people in my life who recognized what was happening and got me to seek out professional help. It was a long and cloudy year, but I pulled through and now that episode is behind me.

The only thing that isn't behind me is that one word. For the past two years I've been amazed at how many times I hear it in casual conversation, especially when someone is reaching out for help.

"It's not a big deal, it's only a few weeks alone."

"You have no idea how hard it can be. You only have one kid."

"He'll get over it. It's only a phase."

"You're lucky it's only teething."

"You're only feeling like that because you're tired."

In every one of these instances a mother was reaching out to other moms for support, and her struggles were dismissed with a single word.

Parenting is hard. It's hard if you're a mom, dad, step-parent, grandparent, or parental figure. It doesn't matter how old you are, how many kids you have, if you're single or surrounded by family.

In every one of these instances a mother was reaching out to other moms for support, and her struggles were dismissed with a single word.

Everyone struggles. Some struggle more than others, but that doesn't mean we can't support other parents. If someone tells you about their problem, no matter how silly or trivial you think it is compared to your own, or what other people deal with, support them. Lift them up. Say you understand how hard it must be for them, and acknowledge their feelings.

A simple kind world or gesture can make the darkest day bright again. That one message of support might not be enough to erase what they're going through, but it just might be what makes them find the strength to get through it.

You never know what's going on beneath the surface of someone's life. So instead of judging and dismissing, let's strive to support each other. It takes a village to raise a child, so let's start by building up the adults around us so they can step up and help all of the children in their lives.

And while we're at it, let's erase the world only from our vocabulary.

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