Welcome to the second instalment in the series: “Parenting Phrases I Hate.” This week’s phrases is one I have heard a lot since my son was born: “You think this is hard? Just wait until…”
First, I think I have said this, along with almost everyone else I know. Veteran parents are the worst culprits. Most of the time, it is not a bad phrase in and of itself. I will say that 98% of the time this is said in a friendly, joking manner. It is said in camaraderie. But those other 2% of times, it is meant with malicious intent.
Again, most of the time, it is innocent, but when it isn’t – I hate that phrase.
Let me give you four examples:
People say it when they can no longer relate to/no longer care about a certain stage of parenting
“You think this is hard? Just wait until…” First, yes, I do think whatever I just told you about is hard. That’s why I told you I was finding it hard. I’m sure you thought it was hard when your children were smaller too, but you have obviously forgotten about that.
I get the fact that once you are past a certain stage, the new stage seems much harder than the familiar problems of the previous stage. Some things will get easier but other things will get harder – doesn’t mean that each stage is not hard. However, try to remember that the person you are talking to is in an earlier stage of parenting than you and needs your reassurance, not a dire prediction about the future.
Okay, so you are no longer in that stage, and you can no longer relate. That’s fine. Just keep in mind that the person you are talking to probably can’t relate to your stage either. A little empathy goes a long way on both sides.
The person feels their problems are bigger than yours and need to tell you this:
“You think this is hard?!” it is meant to undercut the problems of the speaker; to belittle their issues because the listener feels that their problems are much worse. This may or may not be true, but it is not helpful.
Secretly we all feel this way sometimes – that our problems are much worse than those we are showing sympathy for – but the key to not being a jerk is not to show it.
Yes, parenting is hard, but why do we have to make each other feel worse? Why not try to relate to the other person or offer a tip, if they ask for it? But to tell them their problems don’t matter just makes them feel more guilty or frustrated than they already feel.
The person is trying to help you put your problem into perspective:
Sometimes I think this phrase can be a misguided attempt to put problems into perspective. To remind the speaker that this problem is small in the scheme of things. Great, thanks. I love hearing that my problems are small.
If you are telling someone about your problems with your kids, what do you really want to hear – that your problem is not important or that it must be tough? I know which one I’d like.
They are a pessimist and want to remind you that parenting does not get easier:
Does anyone really think there is a magical age where parenting becomes easy?
I don’t know about you, but before I had kids, I never looked at the parents in my life and thought, “Boy, that looks easy. I could do that, no problem! They are just doing it wrong.”
No, for real, I didn’t. We were together for 12 years before we had our son. No, we didn’t struggle to have him. Aside from getting together as teenagers, we waited so long because we could see that parenting is hard, and we weren’t ready.
You know why? My job is making large groups of teenagers do things all day long. I got to see all sorts of parenting challenges all day long. I used to teach convicted criminals, so yes, I see that parenting does not get easier, but thanks for the reminder.
I think that anyone who works with kids for a living does not need reminding that kids can be the worst. Save those reminders to those who have never spent time with kids. Save those reminders for people who have adult interaction at lunch and don’t have to say things like, “Can you stop throwing pencils?” or “Why are you eating glue?” Those who work with kids are under no illusions about how difficult parenting is. Thanks, though.
To those I have offended, I am deeply sorry:
Finally, I would like to sincerely apologize to anyone I have offended with this phrase. After some serious thought about why it bothers me, I could think of many situations where I must have bothered someone else with it, and I am sorry.
So, the next time I feel the urge to say this phrase I will attempt to check my intentions before it comes out of my mouth. If I can’t be sure it won’t be received in the friendly spirit it is intended, I’m going to put that phrase back and find a more appropriate one instead.
Oh, and if you would like to read the first instalment of this series, you can find it here.