the most important thing you can say to a mom

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

I clearly remember the first time I heard it.

I don't remember the exact scenario, but I do remember this:  things weren't going well.  I was probably carting a screeching toddler under one arm while herding her ill-tempered brothers away from a playground, most likely as my infant wailed in his sling.  I had only met  her a few times, and I really hoped we would be friends.   We walked toward the parking lot together, her older children starkly serene beside to my grumpy crew.

I remember feeling tired, bone tired, from the sheer predictability of the time-to-go-home tantrums.  When my then-acquaintance looked at me, smiled, and said, "You're such a good mom."

It was like someone lifted a weight from my chest.

More than anything I wanted it to be true, but at that time I didn't feel like a very good mom.  All the care and energy I gave to the minutia of my children's lives never seemed to be enough.  Someone was always crying, always disappointed, always wanting more in the moment than I could give.  I worked every minute of every day to love and nurture these little creatures, and I was convinced my best wasn't good enough.

Most likely someone had said it to me before.  My best friend probably said it for years, now that I think back.  But in that moment, for the first time, I heard it.  I felt it, and I breathed a sigh of relief.  I was a good mom.  I loved my kids with my entire being, and I put herculean effort into creating a foundation of love and relationship in each of their little lives.  Tantrums, messes, and squabbles did not indicate I was failing.  They only indicated I lived with little kids.  I might have been carting my little ones away from the playground in that moment (and every other moment we've ever left a playground), but I really was a good mom.

My friend's kind words taught me something important:  moms don't need more information.  We don't need anyone else to tell us what to do.  We don't need more research findings, we don't need more pep talks, and goodness knows we don't need any more opinions.  What moms need most is confidence.  We need the courage to trust ourselves.  Gut instincts are God-given, but the mommy wars and a culture of comparison cause us to constantly question ourselves, to search for evidence to validate our instincts.  Here is the truth: if you are motivated by love for your kids, if your decisions are compelled by that love, then you are a good mom.  Period.

I love my kids with all of my being, and I spend my days focused on nurturing them.  But most of the time what I see around me is chaos.  Laundry on the floor, brothers arguing, preschoolers squatting in the corner to pee.  I need you, friends, to help me keep perspective. The moms around you need you too.  And maybe you need to hear it.  Maybe no one has ever told you before.  You are a good mom.

This post was inspired by my best friend Mikkee's letter today.  She reminded me how important her encouragement is to my sanity. I would never make it through the week without her presence, hands-on help, and fun-loving perspective on life.  Beth Woolsey also has an amazing post up right now with a similar message that you won't want to miss.  Love to you both.  

1 comment:

  1. Few days ago my husband's college friend Joel came to visit. Referring to his kids, he said, off-handedly, "Their parents love them, they're clothed, they've never missed a meal, and every year or so they even get a fun vacation. I'd say they're having a happy childhood."

    And I thought, dangitall, if that ain't the truth. It really is that simple. Why do we make it so hard???



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