I've heard this phrase several times in the past few days, both directed at myself and at some of my mama friends. It's something that people say to make someone "feel better" about something negative that's happening in their lives. It's one of those phrases that usually has the exact opposite effect of its intended meaning. Kinda like, "With all due respect." My brother has a translation for "with all due respect", but it would be inappropriate to post on a family blog.
"Don't take it personally." becomes even more personal when it's said to a mother about her child(ren). "Don't take it personally" when it comes to our kids is impossible. Whether it's a 5th grader with too many school infractions, or a preschooler that had to sit alone to complete his work, or a 6 month old that isn't gaining weight as others think she should. It's personal. We are the ones responsible for them. We're responsible for their behavior, their attitudes, their growth. When people look at a misbehaving or dirty, or inappropriately dressed child, the phrase, "Who is his mother?" often comes to mind. Of course it is a little tongue in cheek. Of course there is (most likely) a father to blame as well- but who is it that shoulders most of the burden? The mother.
So of course we take it personally. How could we not. People judge us by our children. They are an extension of us. Being a mother is the most difficult job that I've ever had the privilege of having. It's exhausting on so many levels. It's rewarding, joyous, fun, infuriating, and heart wrenching all at the same time. Above all, it's personal. It's personal right down to its core. These children once resided in our wombs. They are pieces of our hearts walking around outside our bodies. They are a part of our soul.
I am not saying that fathers don't have some of these same connections. They certainly do. The father of my children is a perfect example. He is AMAZING! He loves these boys with his heart and soul. He would lay down his life for them in a heartbeat. But does he feel their successes and failures on the same level that I do?
His heart doesn't break when something bad happens at school. Tears don't come to his eyes when he watches them master a new skill. Does this mean he loves them less? Absolutely not, it just means that it's not as personal for him. By nature, it's just not. Have you ever heard of a "father's intuition?"
As wonderful as my husband is, he has been guilty at times of telling me to "not take it personally." Many well-meaning husbands (and friends, and acquaintances) have been guilty of this uttering this phrase. I don't even really blame them (usually) because they can't understand how what they're saying is completely ridiculous. You have no idea how much I sometimes wish that I didn't take everything that happened to my kids personally. It's a lot to feel. It's a lot to deal with. It doesn't help to have someone flippantly tell you, "Don't take it personally." Okay, no problem. Would you also like to ask me to stop blinking? Because that's totally under my control as well.
Yesterday was one of those days where my heart was breaking because of things happening with my kids. I was told not to take it personally. (Not by my husband- after nearly 5 years of this parenting business, he knows better.) And this blog wrote itself in my mind as a result. It's certainly not meant to hurt or offend anyone. These are just the thoughts rolling around in my mind, and I needed to get them out.
I guess what I am saying is.
Don't take it personally.