By now I am guessing that you have seen the article on Huffington Post about what not to say to stay-at-home moms and the inspired equivalent piece, what not to say to working moms. You have also probably seen the “What Not to Say to Formula Feeding Moms” post…and the “What Not to Say to Moms of Special Needs Children” post…and the “What Not to Say to Single Moms” post. The list of these types of posts seems to go on and on; it is almost as if there is one for every type of mom out there! I know this only because my Facebook feed is often filled with mom friends sharing whichever post they most identify with and passionately support.
And as I pondered writing my own “what not to say” post, I couldn’t help but to think: why are these posts so popular and why do they garner such passionate responses like “amen,” “yes!” and “finally?” At first blush, I would say the obvious: that we have all been on the receiving end of less than appreciative statements and want to make sure that those statements are never, ever said again. While I totally believe this reason to be true (eh hem, did I mention I don’t have one, but numerous “what not to say” posts that I want to write?), I also think that there is another underlying reason.
I think we all rally around these types of posts because what we really want is to be supported, encouraged and understood more often. I know that for me, I get all riled up and rearing to go not only because of what negative sentiment has been said, but also because of what positive sentiment is not being said (at least, not being said enough.)
Okay, so maybe not every mom feels this way, but I know I do. On the days when I am most passionate about what not to say to me it is because I am putting every ounce of energy and every bit of my heart and soul into being the best mom that I can be and all I really want and need to hear is, “You are doing a good job!” or “You made the right decision.” I just want a little positive reassurance; the last thing I want to hear or read is any form of negative commentary, whether it is direct or indirect.
I might be alone in this desire to hear more positive and supportive statements, but I have a strong hunch I am not. So perhaps instead of focusing on what not to say to moms, we could focus on what to say to moms? Lets start supporting each other more by saying at least some of the following things to all moms.
1. You are doing a great job. I don’t know one mom that wouldn’t LOVE to hear this. Because lets face it, who hasn’t ever felt like they were doing a crappy job? Or that they were totally failing at this thing called motherhood? Who hasn’t felt that their mommy friends were better moms? I am pretty sure we have all been there and in those moments, especially those moments, we need to be told we are doing a great job. Even when we are struggling, we are showing up and doing our best and that deserves credit.
2. I admire you. I know I admire every mother I know – each for different reasons. I learn so much from all the moms around me; especially those that have different strengths and perspectives than me. Sure I am a little jealous too at times, but in those moments I tell the mom how much I admire her. Again, who doesn’t need or want to hear that? You never know how much a compliment might help another person get through a tough moment, a tough day, or a really tough patch of parenting.
3. It’s hard, isn’t it? Don’t you just want to run and hide some days? I know I have but I have been afraid to admit it. Motherhood can feel so lonely at times. When someone said this simple phrase to me, I finally breathed and felt understood and not alone. And when someone said this to me in line as we waited for coffee and I balanced two kids on my hips and felt two tugging loudly on my legs, I felt supported and not judged. It was a beautiful thing and kept me sane enough to not yell at my kids to “get off of me!”
4. Here, let me help you. Yes, I confess I am not good at taking help but whenever someone offers to hold the door as I push a double stroller through with one more kid on my back and one holding my hand, I’m grateful. I often am too proud (foolish?) to ask for help, even when I need it, so when someone blatantly helps, it’s wonderful.
5. Do you need a friend, someone to listen, or perhaps a tissue? I clearly remember when I walked into a store frazzled beyond frazzled with tears in my eyes. I had fought with my husband and was trying to still keep calm with the kids. As I wiped a tear from my eye as I tried to nicely answer every, single, one of my son’s questions, someone gently tapped me on the shoulder and offered me a tissue. Did I want to tell this stranger how awful my morning had been, how hard everything felt sometimes? No. But it was so nice to know that someone cared.
6. We are all in this together. We have all had good days, bad days, totally terrific days and beyond horrific days. But that’s the point. We ALL have had those days, no matter what kind of mom we classify ourselves to be.
At the end of the day, ALL moms are working hard regardless if they are a stay at home mom, working mom, single mom, mom of boys, mom of girls, mom of quadruplets, or mom of a special needs child. Parenting is hard. Period. It is hard for all of us. We all need and deserve support and positive reinforcement. We all need and deserve to hear the above statements. And if we all start saying the right stuff to each other, those bad days that we all experience won’t feel so awful. And who wouldn’t love that? I know I would.