“You work so hard and it shows.”
These seven simple words were spoken to me nearly four weeks ago. Yet I recall them daily – sometimes as reinforcement and sometimes almost as a prayer in hopes that they are true.
The person who said these wonderful words to me is a woman I have seen at church nearly every week for a number of years. She is a grandmother several times over. She’s someone you see and immediately are drawn to. Her goodness shines through as brightly as the humor in her eyes. She’s a dear soul. There’s no other way to explain it. I’ve jokingly told my husband that I want her to adopt me – to be my grandma. I haven’t had one in nearly 20 years and I miss it. That this woman, this experienced mother and grandmother, took the time to tell me so sincerely that she sees my efforts meant the world to me. She probably doesn’t remember the remark or, if she does, she surely doesn’t know how very much it meant to me.
As moms, we work all day every day with our kids and for our kids. There’s what I call the custodial care which starts with an intense focus on eating, sleeping and changing diapers and morphs into still more eating and a never ending battle with crumbs and dirty socks. And then there’s the rest. Teaching manners, respect, independence. Teaching about sharing and kindness and what it means to be a good friend, a good sibling, a good person. There’s reading and writing and coloring, building with blocks and playing make-believe.
Some of it is fun and surely some of it isn’t, but it’s all part of the work that is motherhood. And while there is immense joy to be found in at least one – and hopefully many – moment each day, I think it’s okay to admit that being a mom is hard. Physically, mentally and emotionally hard. And certainly there are moments and even days when it feels like all that hard work isn’t getting the results you are hoping for. An inconveniently timed tantrum, uneaten – yet carefully prepared – food, ears that seem to have lost the ability to listen.
In those moments, it can be easy to start to doubt. Doubt that I'm doing it right enough or as well as someone else. Validation can be hard to come by. And yet, one Sunday morning a dear woman took my hand in both of hers and said those words. “You work so hard and it shows.”
Although my experience as a mother pales in comparison to this wonderful woman’s, I’ve given a lot of thought to the impact of her words on me. And even more thought to how my words could have an impact on other moms. Taking the time to pay a sincere compliment – not about a child’s physical appearance (being cute is nothing more than lucky genes after all) - but about a child’s behavior or character, his or her kindness or good manners. Something that reflects all of the hard work that mom has put in.
I know my husband appreciates me – he tells me often (especially on Sunday evenings after spending the weekend in the trenches alongside me). My kids appreciate me and happily are getting old enough to tell me. That feels wonderful and fills a need. But validation from another mom – someone with firsthand knowledge of how I'm putting all I’ve got into these small people – means a great deal as well. And fills a different need.
So one of my resolutions is going to be to look for more opportunities to provide that validation to other moms. To notice and to acknowledge. I hope some of you will join me.