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Actually, It Doesn’t Get Easier

Photograph by Twenty20

Moms love to commiserate. We probably do it so that we know we are not alone in our challenges and frustrations, our feelings of helplessness and failure. (We also love to share our joys and successes, our moments of parenting greatness and our children's achievements.)

Today's generation of moms may not have a traditional village, but they can turn to their virtual one to vent when they've had one of those days. That has been invaluable to me personally.

But here's one thing I wish we would stop saying to each other: "It gets easier."

Because it doesn't.

It gets easier is a bald-faced lie. As your children grow, the challenges change. That's all. The issues you struggle with today are replaced by new ones you feel every bit as unprepared for.

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You know what the most difficult stage of parenting is? The one you are currently in. Baby. Toddler. Little Kid. Tween. Teen. And beyond. The challenges never stop coming.

I have been told this by many mothers who are now empty-nesters. Their lives spanned the spectrum of motherhood experiences, so I'm pretty sure they know what they are talking about.

It does feel good when someone tells you, "It gets easier." But the relief is temporary. Because you get to the next stage and think, "What were they talking about? This is a whole new level of hard!"

Of course, telling a mom who's struggling, "It doesn't get any easier" isn't going to make her feel any better. In fact, it could be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back. In fact, there are plenty of other platitudes we need to considering dropping.

It does feel good when someone tells you, 'It gets easier.' But the relief is temporary.

When you have a friend who is struggling with parenthood, here are some other comments that are best left unsaid:

"Hang in there!"

"It's just a phase."

"It will get better."

"Have you tried…?"

"I never had that issue."

"That's nothing. My child… (insert one upper here)"

"Oh, you just wait. When my child was X years old… (insert horror story here)"

If you spend any time on social media, chances are you've seen these kind of comments. Perhaps you have made them. I know I have. One day, though, I found myself cringing as I typed, "Hang in there…" I immediately deleted the words and tried to think of something more helpful I could contribute to the conversation.

So what can you do when another mom shares she is struggling?

Be authentic. Be compassionate. Be a friend. The mom venting on social media doesn't need you to save the day.

1. Listen

When a mom turns to social media to vent about a parenting challenge, it's often a substitute for sitting around with her girlfriends over coffee or a glass of wine. She's looking for people to listen. Sure, it would be great if someone had a magic pill they could give her to "fix" the problem. But she doesn't expect that. She simply wants to get her feelings off her chest and be heard.

2. Acknowledge

Nothing can make a mom feel smaller than having her concerns or frustrations dismissed. Just saying something along the lines of "I know it's hard" can make such a difference. Letting another mom know her feelings are valid and she has every right to them is important. So does acknowledging that motherhood is far from easy. Especially in the age of Facebook and Instagram, where one can fall into the trap of comparing herself to others and feeling like a failure.

3. Empathize

"I understand how you feel." Boom. Those simple words have great impact. If you have been through the situation the mother is writing about, you can say, "I have been where you are. I remember what it was like. I'm sorry you're having to deal with it right now." A little empathy can go a long way.

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4. Support

There are many ways to support a mom who's struggling. If you're past that particular stage of motherhood, sharing how you coped can be helpful. But it's all in the delivery. Try not to present your experience as the one-size-fits-all solution. Your child is not that mother's child.

"What can I do to help?" can be great thing to ask. But the mom isn't always looking for actual assistance. And chances are, if you've done any of the first three things on this list, you have helped.

Be authentic. Be compassionate. Be a friend. The mom venting on social media doesn't need you to save the day. She just needs someone to be there. That goes a long way in, yes, making things better.

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