"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
January 31, 2013
Competitive Suffering
by Hannah Bird

When my youngest son was almost three, my husband got a new dirt bike. He picked up each kid and gave them a spin around the yard. When it was Jimmy’s turn he sat on his dad’s lap with a look of paralyzed horror that remained frozen on his face for the duration of the ride. Realizing what was happening, my husband stopped the bike and turned Jimmy’s teary-eyed face towards his daddy.

“Jimmy,” he said, “this is fun.”

“Oh,” said our sweet boy, “It is?”

Then they proceeded to ride very slowly around and see how fun it was. Jimmy loved it. After he knew it was fun.

Silly silly toddler. How could he not know that riding a shiny new motorcycle was a great time? Kids are funny, huh?

Speaking of which, the last time you were in a gathering adults, how did those opening salutations go? Did everyone start by explaining how terribly busy they were? Probably. When was the last time you heard a mom complaining that being a mom was the toughest job in the world? Not too long ago I bet. In fact, I think that “I have been so busy” is going to be the new “hello.”

I do it, too. I am fat and at home most of the day so I feel compelled to explain all the things that I do. I am not sure who I am justifying myself to, but I still feel the need to do it. I may look like I am just sitting around all day putting the “lack” in slacker but really, I am super busy. And I really am. If that matters.

But how did we choose this metric for assessing the value of our days? How did struggling to cope become the standard to which we as a society subscribe? Why is busy better than calm? How has respect for working hard turned into respecting people for having more to do than they can successfully manage? Why is just enjoying our kids not enough? Why does it have to be “the toughest job in the world?”

In short, why do we think that failing is success? Somehow we have managed to institutionalize the notion that if you can cram 10 pounds of crap into a 5 pound bag every day for the rest of your life, you are the winner. And you can’t just cheerfully cram those bags full either. We want to hear about it. It’s a struggle. You do so much. And if you cram and suffer ardently enough, you will be that most admirable of people – a Gold Medalist in the Suffering Olympics.


Could we just not? It’s a new year. Instead of setting resolutions to be more productive let’s be really nervy and set resolutions to produce less. Instead of finding time for that eighth project, what if we turned down that one and also ditched projects four through seven? Would it really be so bad if instead of our kids taking ballet and piano and karate and art, they picked one? Are we really so unsure of our value that we think a blank spot in the Day Planner means we are underperforming?

Let's do this. Or rather, let’s not to do this. When we see other people, rather than regaling one another with our tales of super busyness maybe we could just say hi. If you find it hard to make conversation without that crutch, buy shoes in a fun color so you have that to point out. Be rebellious. Tell them about the great time you had sleeping in. Don’t sign your kids up for that new program that will definitely make them the smartest kid in the neighborhood. Let them go out in the back yard and play with mud. Even if they eat some.

Because this is fun. This is our ride around the yard. So do less. But wear pink Converse. Let your teenaged son try to teach you to play the guitar. It’s OK that you have never liked “Smoke on the Water”. Don’t defend yourself. You are already enough. We are more lovely and eternal than the stars. We do not enhance that by dedicating ourselves to joyless ardor. We mock it.

So who’s with me? Who is ready to underperform in 2013? We can do this. We are something better than great. We are adequate.

PS. Since I have committed near heresy by suggesting that being a mother is not the toughest job in the world I have prepared a list of more challenging job. Being a parent can be exhausting, heartbreaking, frustrating, and annoying. It can also be amazing. I am increasingly reminded of what a gift it is to have the chance to be a parent.

Jobs that are tougher than being a mom:

Infantry guy during war

Call center operator

The poor guy who was out doing powerline work when in was -20 last week

Sweatshop worker

Door to door sales

Honest politician

Coal miner

Chicken plucker

Field laborer

Slacker mom trying to write a book

Mental health service provider to the homeless


And lots of others.

We can choose joy. We might as well.

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About Hannah Bird

I am me. I live at my house with my husband and kids. Mostly because I have found that people get really touchy if you try to live at their house. Even after you explain that their towels are fluffier and none of the cheddar in their fridge is green.

I teach Relief Society and most of the sisters in the ward are still nice enough to come.

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