In case you somehow missed it, actress-and-mother Gwyneth Paltrow recently sent moms all over the country into an absolute tizzy with some offhand remarks she made in an interview with an online magazine. I refuse to link to any of the entertainment sites that have covered the story, (those sites always leave me feeling like I need a good shower,) but I will share a portion of her statements with you here:
“I think it’s different when you have an office job, because it’s routine and, you know, you can do all the stuff in the morning and then you come home in the evening. When you’re shooting a movie, they’re like, ‘We need you to go to Wisconsin for two weeks,’ and then you work 14 hours a day and that part of it is very difficult. I think to have a regular job and be a mom is not as, of course there are challenges, but it’s not like being on set.”
Okay, first of all I have to wonder how she could possibly be so out of touch as to not realize that was going to offend people. Gwyneth will make more money off one endorsement deal than most working moms will make in their entire lifetimes. She regularly works, travels, eats, and sleeps in complete luxury and never has to fear how she’ll pay her bills or how her children will be provided for.
And if she considers “regular” working moms so fortunate, I shudder to think how cushy she must think we stay-at-home moms have it. After all, we get to sleep all day, read, scour Pinterest, or go shopping any time we like. (Well, except that we don’t.) We can hold our adorable kiddos whenever we feel like it and then hand them off to a well-paid nanny whenever we don’t. (I’m thankful I usually can hold my children any time I want, but handing them off when I’m sick or need a nap or just want to clean the house? Nope. Doesn’t happen.) And letting someone else cook for us when we’d rather not cook for ourselves, (sorry…can’t afford it,) and paying someone else to clean up our messes. (Can’t afford that either.)
Bless her heart. She has no clue.
But I didn’t set out to pick on poor Gwyneth. Really. I’ve never seen one of her movies, but maybe she’s very talented and maybe she’s a very nice person in real life.
What really struck me about this story is that, honestly, I’m not so sure most of us moms are really so different from Gwyneth in our thinking.
We ALL think our lives are the hardest. Don’t we? Another mom starts complaining about her circumstances or venting about her rotten day or offering excuses why she couldn’t do this or that and for no good reason something begins to rise within us, some strange and unnecessary sense of self-vindication that leaves us rehearsing in our minds, if not out-loud, all the things that make OUR lives harder than theirs.
What is she complaining about? She only has ONE child! She ought to try handling FIVE!
At least her kids are old enough to help her! I have three helpless little people pulling on me all day long!
She gets to stay home with her kids! I have to work every day!
She works! I’m stuck at home all day!
She thinks she’s stressed now? She ought to try homeschooling!
She gets to homeschool! I feel like I’m spending my life shuttling people around in our minivan!
Her husband has an awesome job! She had no idea what it’s like to have financial problems!
At least her husband is home from time to time! Mine works so much I feel like a single mom!
Her house is twice the size of mine! What I wouldn’t give for that kind of space!
Her house is half the size of mine! What I wouldn’t give to have less space to clean!
She doesn’t know what it’s like to have a special needs child!
She doesn’t have the added pressure of caring for an aging parent!
She doesn’t know what it’s like to struggle with an illness!
And on and on it goes.
I’m not sure why we feel so compelled to play the my-life-is-harder-than-yours game. Sometimes I think we’re just so insecure in ourselves and our feeble efforts as wives and moms and Christians that the natural reaction is to make self-righteous, self-absorbed, completely pointless comparisons in an effort to justify ourselves, even when any kind of self-justification is both unnecessary and inhibiting to our own personal growth. In a twisted sort of way critiquing and criticizing others makes us feel better about who we are and what we do and if we even suspect someone thinks their life is uniquely difficult, we must be quick to set the record straight.
No one has it harder than we have it.
Except that that isn’t true. Several years ago someone told me a few things about a woman I’d known for some time. But obviously I didn’t know her well. Come to find out, her past had been absolutely steeped in tragedy and loss and hardship. She had endured suffering on a rare and awful scale and I had never known anything about it. She was always smiling, always pleasant, always kind.
And I wondered, have I ever complained to her? Have I ever griped about being overwhelmed as a mom? Have I ever fussed to her about the stress of my responsibilities or the weight of my obligations? If so, she had never responded with anything less than the deepest understanding and the kindest words.
Oh, that I could be like that!
Truth is, none of us know all the things other wives and mothers face. Maybe their lives are harder than ours. Maybe their circumstances are more of a challenge.
But it doesn’t matter.
These words of the apostle Paul come to mind:
Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. –Philippians 2: 3-4
It’s not about what I face that you don’t have to. It’s not about the struggles I have that you don’t. We all deal with unique circumstances and we all have our successes and failures. And while the tendency to defend ourselves and to find ways to justify our shortcomings is natural, it does NOTHING to help us be better wives and moms and it certainly doesn’t extend to others the kind of caring and compassion we are commanded in scripture, again to again, to share.
Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another. –Romans 12:10
Sometimes my life is hard. Sometimes yours is, too. I know I need to be a better Christian and wife and mom. You would probably say the same about yourself. We’re really not so different. Our lives really aren’t so far apart.
And it would do us all good to pray more. To quit making excuses. To make better choices. To be more understanding toward others.
And to quit obsessing over what makes our life harder than anybody else’s.