Be Kind… (for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about)
I don’t know about you, but this quote seems to pop up in my social media more often than any other. It resonates with people, because it is true. I look around me and see people fighting battles all around me every day. Chronic illness, temporary severe illnesses, divorce, loss of a loved one, loss of a child, deployment of a loved one, having to move, being single, the list could go on and on, big and small things. Everyone’s capacity is different, what could be no big deal to one person, is devastating to someone else, because we all have our own stories.
I don’t know what it is like to walk in someone else’s shoes, but parts of my story help me to understand and empathize with parts of other people’s stories. The stories I understand best are those of single moms. We may not have all arrived here the same way, but here we are, and it is hard. I can’t say it is harder than anyone else’s hard, because I haven’t walked there. But it is frustrating when people compare things to my hard. When someone says they are “single momming it” because their partner is gone for the weekend/week/month, it is like saying to someone with a chronic illness, “Oh I know how you feel, I had the flu for a whole week last year” No. You don’t. That experience gave you a tiny glimpse, a taste, it allows you to have empathy, it does not allow you to claim or understand what fighting that battle is like.
I am not saying it isn’t a hard battle when you are left alone with your kids, when you are used to having someone there. There is no doubt it is rough. But you likely went grocery shopping and stocked up before they left. You likely didn’t plan any major events for that time. You likely get to call them at the end of the day and tell them how it went. And most importantly, you have an end date. A finish line. A point to look forward to where the battle will end and life will return to normal. I don’t have that luxury, and neither do my fellow single moms. This is our life, this is our normal, everything resting on our shoulders. Every.Single.Thing. There is no one to pick up the slack. There is no one to talk to at the end of the day. There is no one to fill up our bucket as we continuously empty it. It is exhausting, with no end in sight.
How do we be kind when we haven’t been there, done that, got the t-shirt? Don’t compare and don’t discount. I won’t discount your experience; I haven’t walked in our shoes, but yes I know it is hard to be alone. I will listen; I will ask if there is anything I can do to help. Don’t compare, empathize. Instead of comparing and saying you know what it is like, say wow, this is hard, I can only imagine what it is like for you all the time. Ask questions, listen, offer help. This life is isolating. Be kind.