I know how easy it is to feel overwhelmed. Particularly when I was going through postpartum depression, I spent so much time floundering to stay above water. It was hard not to look at my life as a big-picture piece and wonder how on earth I was going to make it through the next five minutes, let alone the following weeks, months, or the entirety of my life as I knew it. I knew it was important to take each thing as it came, baby steps all the while, but depression and being overwhelmed tended to find me compounding issue after issue on top of one another until I was roughly the size of an ant standing at the bottom of a mountain of problems that I couldn't see how I'd ever get through.
I remember being in elementary school or high school and having my parents' friends brushing off whatever it was that I was going through - like if I said I was involved in this or that, or that I was up against x amount of assignments or exams, I remember these adults turning to one another and almost laughing at one another over how petty these issues of mine were, that I was calling "problems", so to speak. They'd talk to me and around me as though it was cute that I was feeling stressed about a test or social hurdles at school, but that if I thought that life was stressful now, I had another thing coming. Because as I can only imagine they were thinking, I had no idea what stress meant until I was up against things like mortgages or marital problems or employment struggles or the like. I remember on numerous occasions feeling indignant when adults made my problems out to be non-issues, when I felt very legitimately upset about this or that.
And now that I am an adult (well...am I? I could argue strongly that I'm still six in my brain; or that I'm actually still every age I've ever been - but whatever) ...or I should say in spite of the fact that I am an adult now, I still remember that feeling so vividly. I remember thinking how unfair older generations tended to be - that just because I'm only 16 doesn't mean I'm not a real person yet, that my emotions aren't weighty or legitimate, or that my experiences are somehow lesser than anyone else's. I remember being 18 years old and making a conscious decision to always remember what it felt like to be that age; that when I grew older, I needed to fight the tendency that adults seemed to have to make light or make less of what an 18-year-old was going through, or what things are like at that point in a person's life. I chose to make note of the importance of acknowledging the personhood of an 18-year-old; or of any teenager, because it felt important to me. It still does. I knew there would come a day when my own teenagehood would slip away from my memory - and it did - but I remind myself that even though they look like puppies and often act like idiots, they're muddling their way through life no differently than I am today.
I'm referencing this because I still very much notice this tendency when it comes to parenthood; whether it's brought on by people making passing comments, or even just by my own habit of holding my situation up next to somebody else's, I realized that this still exists today. We still have the inclination to belittle certain feelings or circumstances because we're holding them up to a greater standard - to think, "Oh, just you wait. This is nothing." It can be a mother of three telling a mother of one that she doesn't know what busy or exhausted means; as though a first-time mother feels even for an instant that she's got it easy. Or it can be a mother telling a mother-to-be to sleep now - sleep while you can - because as soon as that baby comes, you won't get a wink; as though they've forgotten completely how cumbersome it is to be in the final stages of pregnancy, and how little sleep she's actually even getting at this point - not to mention the gamut of emotions she's experiencing, notwithstanding total fear at what parenthood is going to end up being like.
Why aren't we investing more energy into supporting one another, and into reminding ourselves that the hurdles we face, no matter how paltry compared to someone else's, are not unimportant?
My struggles and your struggles are real, no matter how insignificant they may seem up against another person's; and that just because one person has fewer babies or a smaller workload doesn't make their struggles any less significant or staggering. We adapt, and we adjust, and life primes us for greater issues that we'll encounter along our way. So what someone else is up against, or what you might find yourself going through in the future, does not in any way belittle where you are or what you're feeling today. Don't let anyone make you feel like what you're going through is insignificant based on anyone else's situation. Your story matters.