When my little one was born, his older sister decided she would like to potty train herself -Right Then.   Any of you who have potty trained a child and nursed a baby know that there are a lot of messy days spent at home with little progression when that happens.  Days, turned into weeks, where all I seemed to do was sleep, eat, nurse and clean up yet another accident.  It was messy, it was exhausting and at the end of the day there was little to show for my efforts.  

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My friend helped me with some perspective during one of those days. I was at her house, feeding my baby.  She did not have a baby at the time, but remarked that when she did, she felt so accomplished as they grew bigger.  She thought, “I did that!  They got bigger because I took the time to feed them.”  I knew she was right.  I could either whine and complain and feel like nothing I did mattered or I could look at what I was really doing and feel accomplished and proud of the good, albeit slow progress we were all making.  This was one of my unseen, but very real struggles.  I bet you have one, too.

Sometimes I struggle in epic proportions for months, days, weeks and years and no one outside my community knows or cares.  In fact, I may struggle my whole life to do the best job I can and outside of my family and friends there may not be a single person who recognizes my efforts.  

That’s true, you might say, and I agree, but what on earth does all this have to do with an old man and a fish?  

Well, I’m so glad you asked.

Because recently, I read  The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemmingway and I was rather surprised to find how applicable a book about an old fisherman was to my life as a mom.

The old fisherman in the The Old Man and the Sea is Santiago.  He has gone 84 days without catching anything, he is a good fisherman, but his unlucky streak has left him without food and money.  Manolin, his former apprentice, who has been sent to work with other fisherman because of Santiago’s bad luck, brings him food and sardines for fishing and makes sure he is taken care of, even so, he is in a sad state.

On the 85th day Santiago goes out to catch a fish and just as he predicted catches a big one, but the fish is as big as Santiago’s boat and so, he must wait until the fish gets tired to kill him and bring him in. Thus begins an epic struggle between man and fish, which will include Santiago’s struggle to find food, take care of a wounded hand and stay constantly vigilant through a long 4 day stretch.  At the end he will have little to show for his monumental effort and many won’t even know about it because this whole time Santiago is entirely alone out on the ocean except for the fish, of course.

What I thought about:

My favorite part of the book was watching how his apprentice, Manolin was aware of and helpful to the old man.  I was touched as I read about how he brought Santiago, food and drink and made sure he was warm and had what he needed to fish the next day.  I thought of the other ways people had help me during my epic, but unseen battles.  Things like:

  1. My husband coming home and doing the dishes or saying those 4 magic words: “Let’s eat out tonight.”
  2. Sweet text messages from my mom, sister or a friend just to say, “hey, I’ve been thinking of you.”
  3. Friends dropping by unannounced with dinner, cookies or homemade bread.
  4. Hugs from my older kids and the desire to do something to help me.
  5. A smile or friendly conversation from a stranger at a store or park.

I thought also of this quote from Wendy Mass:


“Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”

I think there are times when we all go out in our own figurative boats and struggle in epic, but unseen ways.  I know my husband and children go out in their boats and struggle everyday.   Extended family members, friends even fellow moms at the park may be going through their own epic and unseen struggles.  I try to be helpful, I try to be aware, but I don’t always really understand or even know about it.

Reading this book has made me want to be more aware, more committed to helping those around me, it also gave me greater perspective on why I struggle and it has helped me to realize how grateful I am for the brave way those around me, especially my husband and children fight their own battles.

Write it down in a journal, talk about it with a friend or leave a comment below.