Does this sound familiar? A mother tells her friend about how difficult her week has been with her one month old colicky baby keeping her up all night and her toddler throwing massive tantrums for what feels like all day long. The mother’s friend speaks up and says, “You shouldn’t be complaining, there are so many women that would love to have children, but are unable to. Don’t you remember how long it took you to fall pregnant for the first time yourself? Be grateful you have two healthy children and stop complaining! You’re too blessed to be stressed!”
Unfortunately, conversations like this take place very often, but what’s wrong with the above reply from the mother’s friend? Everything!
Mothers know they are blessed
You see, mothers already know that they are blessed. In fact, most mothers do count their blessings, they are grateful. Mothers know that children are a beautiful blessing from God and they cherish the moments of happiness more often than not.
All of the above is known to mothers and much more!
Now here’s the thing- when individuals compare a mother to another woman, tell her to stop complaining, and announce that she’s too blessed to be stressed, they are dismissing her feelings and invalidating them. They are suggesting that a mother is not allowed to feel sad, angry, overwhelmed, and like she’s about to fall a part. What people don’t realize is that these statements make a mother feel like her wounds do not exist, when in fact, her wounds are real, raw and deep.
Moreover, when a mother is told she shouldn’t feel stressed while caring for her children, she is being silenced. Now, this mother feels like she can’t turn to anyone in times of need, her stress levels may increase, and this can result in further mental distress.
With hardship comes ease
Everybody is tested in a different way, some people will have their health taken away from them, others will have their wealth taken away; and yes, some couples will be tested by not being able to have children of their own. But mothers will also be tested!
It was narrated from Mus’ab bin Sa’d that his father, Sa’d bin Abu Waqqas, said:
“I said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, which people are most severely tested?’ He said: ‘The Prophets, then the next best and the next best. A person is tested according to his religious commitment. If he is steadfast in his religious commitment, he will be tested more severely, and if he is frail in his religious commitment, his test will be according to his commitment. Trials will continue to afflict a person until they leave him walking on the earth with no sin on him.”’ (Source, https://sunnah.com/urn/1291230)
A woman being overwhelmed by motherhood is her test, for motherhood is not stable, but a journey of highs and lows and many tests. The baby blues and postpardum depression are a test for a mother. A mother dealing with a high-needs baby is a test. A mother trying to console a colicky baby is also a test. A mother who has to witness her toddler throw massive tantrums on a daily basis is another test. A mother who is sleeping for an average of three hours at night and who has to wake up early every morning, feed and take care of the kids, and run errands with her children in tow is experiencing a test! These are just some of the tests mothers go through and there are many more of varying degrees. Yes, a mother is blessed to be a mother, but she is not exempt from facing trials!
Telling a mother she is too blessed to be stressed will not give her more sleep or more hours in the day, it will not balance out her postpartum hormones, it will not cure her sick child, and it will not make her children instantly behave. It will, however, make her guilty for having feelings!
Here are some suggestions on how you CAN help a mother who is struggling:
- validate her feelings
- keep in touch with her via phone calls or home visits
- give her support i.e assist her with cooking, grocery shopping, babysitting etc.
- remind her that her situation is a test and it shall pass, and that you will help her in any way you can until it does.
“And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient” – Surah Al-Baqarah [2:155]
Acknowledge the blessing AND the hardship
I want to make it clear that I don’t think there is anything wrong with reminding a mother of her blessings and telling her that her situation can be much worse, just as long as you recognize her struggles and acknowledge her hardships. Don’t do this in such a way that it makes the mother feel guilty for having human feelings. Be a friend, listen, and offer support if you are able.
“Verily, with every hardship comes ease!”- Ash-Sharh [94:6]