No matter what I do throughout my days or years, since having children, my number one job is and always will be being a mother. It is a job that garners a boatload of emotions and reflections – sometimes I think I am doing my job really well, sometimes I question my decisions, sometimes I feel like I am surviving and not thriving, sometimes I am as happy as I’ve ever been, oftentimes I worry, always I love.
It is said so frequently (that I think it loses some of its weight) that motherhood is a thankless job. I think about this often. I don’t think about it in the sense that I myself am not receiving thanks. But I more often think about the lack of thanks and appreciation I’ve maybe given my parents over the years. I like to think I have always been grateful. But there is simply no way in the world to understand everything your parents do for you until you become a parent yourself. No way.
From the mundane meals made and cleaning up done to the huge life sacrifices – parents are the best. I certainly think my parents are. I could thank them all day long for so many things and it would never be enough. I’ve reflected on this a lot lately and feel compelled to share some thoughts on praising parents around me for their A+ parenting because, well, I simply don’t do it enough. I’ve been touched by two recent experiences I’ve had and they have made me want to spread the love and pay it forward.
I make mistakes all the time as a parent.
I make decisions all the time that I don’t necessarily see as mistakes but that I still think I would decide differently on if given the opportunity to again. And I am constantly growing as a parent and learning from myself, Edwin, my kids, my parents, other parents, my wins, and my mistakes. In all the growth, I do think I have a lot of wins. I love being a mother and am proud of myself everyday when I look at my boys. I feel that pride in myself and I hope my friends who are parents as well feel the same way. Parenting is the hardest job in the world and so unique in the sense that there is no one there to congratulate us, encourage us, or cheer us on when we’ve navigated a situation well.
Oftentimes, I am alone with my boys and there is no one else to see us in action. I don’t have a boss, colleagues, or a team to recognize my “achievements” in “my job” that is parenthood. Despite this, I think we need to start congratulating each other more.
I had two instances this spring when fellow mothers applauded me on my parenting skills.
Both conversations stopped me in my tracks and left me thinking about their words for days to come. I was so struck, not because I didn’t believe in my abilities – I did and do! – rather, it was because I couldn’t believe how surprising it felt to be recognized for this job that I do all day every day. So many of us are parents so I think we – me included! – sort of accept that as a given and don’t stop to tell our friends what fantastic parents they are or how well they did managing a situation or communicating with their littles.
In the first of my recent instances:
I had someone I don’t know who follows along with me stop me to say hello here in Charleston. She had recently happened to be on the same airplane as us and saw me on the plane with my boys. When she said hello a few weeks later, she complimented my attitude and sense of calm when flying with my children. And said we were such a lovely family to see traveling (I assure you, we do our best when traveling with our kids but kids are kids and it is challenging living big travel days when you are little. I wouldn’t say we are always the loveliest traveling bunch, ha.). It meant a lot to me to hear her words because travel days can be trying with littles. And I felt proud of our little family unit.
In my second instance:
I had a mother I do know watch me manage Rowan at the park on a day when he didn’t want to leave the park. I could see that extricating ourselves from the park could become a challenge. So I talked Rowan through his options and let him pick an option that ultimately led us to leaving within an appropriate amount of time. It doesn’t always go smoothly, but it did this time. And Rowan completely responded to me, took ownership over his decision, listened, and we enjoyed a few more minutes of park play before easily saying goodbye to the park.
After Rowan and I talked through his options, she commended me and said “Wow that was some A+ parenting.” This was just 1 in a 100 conversations I had with Rowan that day but my parenting strategy did go well in this instance. Yet, it was so surprising at how much my friend’s compliment meant to me. Outside of compliments from Edwin and my parents, my parenting isn’t generally complimented because who would compliment it? You know? I have incredible people in my life so comments do come from my siblings, friends, loved ones, and kid’s teachers – don’t get me wrong. However, I parent day-in and day-out. It is like breathing, it just happens.
In jobs outside of the home, if you work in a positive workplace environment, then you get feedback on your job.
I think the built-in lack of feedback in the job of a parent is what has me so surprised and what left me feeling so appreciated and recognized by these two women who complimented me.
I’m reflecting on this a lot and I keep coming back to the fact that I am not out there complimenting my friends on their parenting wins. Whether they are as small as a conversation with a child at the park or as big as the child accomplishing a goal that was no doubt due to the parent’s love and support. I think I take for granted the fact that my friends are parents. They just are parents in my mind, like me.
So, I forget that they are out there performing the hardest job of all each and every day. Most likely without someone stopping them to acknowledge them or say “you are doing a sensational job with your children. They are incredible little people and it is evident that it is because of you.” or “I am so impressed with how you navigated that situation/fight/tantrum/refusal to share/fill in the blank.” or “You managed that conversation so well. You can clearly tell that your child feels acknowledged/capable/proud of himself/fill in the blank.”
I know so many A+ parents performing A+ parenting.
I would like to be more thoughtful with my friends and really take the time to slow down and commend my fellow parents by acknowledging their successes in this “thankless job.” In short, I’m not writing this as a cry for help that I need more thanks. My boys show me love and thanks all day long. When Henry nestles his head into my shoulder and wraps his little arms around me or when Rowan says “I love you mommy!” that is all the thanks I need in the world and makes the job of parenting feel anything but thankless.
Instead, I’m writing this to put it out into the universe that, wouldn’t it be nice if we all took the time to acknowledge one another as mothers in a positive light? I think we do this more often when things aren’t going right, as in “Don’t worry. You are doing your best and your kids are so lucky they are yours.” These forms of support are powerful. But isn’t it also just as impactful to lift each other up as mothers when things are going well and when we have parenting wins? I believe it goes a long way and can then carry through to a time when things aren’t going our way. We can tap into that positive praise from friends and remember that we have this and can do hard things.