Our church supports a chaplain who ministers to people in old age homes. A couple months ago he visited the Adult and High School Sunday classes and shared how to listen and minister to people who are hurting. At first I did not think I was going to learn anything I did not already know.
As we got further into the seminar and we actually had to practice counseling one another, I realized I could use some listening practice myself.
It dawned on me that we as moms are not the greatest listeners. A mom walks into a moms group and complains that her baby is clingy and screaming due to teething. What do we do? We start telling all these stories about when our baby was teething, home remedies we used, and how much it frustrated us. Honestly we truly care and want this mom to get the rest and relief she desires. Why do we all the sudden turn the conversation to us? We want this mom to understand, “Yes, I know what you’re going through! I’ve been there too.” We want to encompass this “We’re all in this together” mentality.
The problem is this person may not need our expertise or stories. She might just want support and knowing we care. And nothing more.
When my daughter Kara was born, she started getting colds which turned into respiratory infections the first four months of her life. Obviously when a baby is
congested, breastfeeding is difficult and sleep is even worse. I showed to my moms group meeting as an emotional wreck. I had not slept more than a two hour block in weeks. I was averaging 4-5 hours of interrupted sleep every night. A girl in my moms group, Alexis, asked how Kara was doing. When I proceeded to tell her how bad it was, she just gave me a hug and said she was so sorry. I was not bitter towards my other friends who told me to put Kara to bed in her swing or car seat or told me to meet with a lactation consultant and on and on. But what Alexis did meant more to me than any words of advice.
The next time you are at the playground or sitting in the library or talking in the fellowship hall at church and a mom shares with you her frustration about her life or her children, pause for a second. If she is struggling with discipline issues or choosing the right preschool or her baby still is not sleeping through the night or she thinks she might be depressed, please listen first. Go over what she said in your mind. Then offer understanding. If you feel a need to give advice or tell a story, simply ask. “Do you want some suggestions?” or “Do you want to know what I learned?” It might make a difference in her life or your own if you try this. I am going to practice it too!