Throughout our lives, we meet people who influence us. Some of the best lessons I've learned have been from fellow moms. Here are six moms I'm thankful for:
1. The seasoned mom who cheered me on. As a newbie mom, I thought I had all this parenting crap figured out. I had a mom friend with kids who were older than mine, and every single time we talked, she praised me and my parenting skills as I excitedly told her of my "parenting style" (cringe). She never once judged me, never once put me in my place, never once told me, "Oh, just you wait." She let me enjoy the phase of parenting that I was in. She made me feel so good and confident about myself as a new mom when I had only been in the game for a few months. I've since thanked her for her kindness, and she said, "We all have to experience things on our own."
2. The mom with more kids than me who validated my struggle. I have a friend who has four children. At one point, she had 2-year-old twins and a baby, i.e., much more on her plate than I had on mine. Yet, she never rubbed that in my face when I complained about a long day with my two boys. She could've said, "Try surviving with two toddlers AND a baby." Instead, she said things to me like, "You really have your hands full, Jess," and, "I remember those days -- they aren't easy." When I told her she could've totally called me out since I have it easier, she said no mom has it easy. She taught me that it's important to acknowledge every mom's struggles, whether they have one child or 10.
3. The mom of all girls who patted me on the back. I'm a mom of only boys. I don't really have any idea what it's like to have girls, besides what I witness when around my friends with girls. All I know is that with two little boys close in age, my main issues are keeping them from harming themselves and keeping household destruction levels as low as I can. My friend with all girls said to me recently, "You are so calm with them, I don't know how you do it. I would never be able to leave my house." Obviously, she was being complimentary and trying to lift my downtrodden spirits, but how kind of her to praise my efforts raising boys. Her life with girls isn't easier, but she took a moment to give me a pat on the back when I was dealing with something she doesn't have direct experience with, in a way that did not downplay or minimize my struggle. I realized that day that it's so important to give other moms a pat on the back, even when -- especially when -- we can't completely relate to their experience.
4. The mom who bought me coffee when I was in tears. I was having one of those kinds of mornings, and was in tears before 9 a.m. from sleep deprivation and losing my cool with my toddler. My friend told me to check my email and in there I found a $5 gift certificate for Starbucks. I cried. I literally cried over that $5 gift certificate to Starbucks. She took care of me. She saw me struggling down on the ground and she took action. She didn't act superior or give me advice on what I should do. She stopped to help pick me back up so we could continue the trek of motherhood together. I want to really see my mom friends and their good intentions, skip the passive judging and assumptions and just be there for them when they need a helping hand. Moms are always giving to others; it's nice to be cared for every now and then.
5. The hospital birthing mom who defended my home birth. I feel like it says a lot about someone when they defend a choice or a lifestyle that isn't their own. It may not be what they choose for themselves, but they respect you nonetheless. It's been very humbling, going into a conversation with my guns drawn and pointed only to be showered with kindness and support. Thank you to those moms who have shown me that we can love each other no matter what choices we make.
6. The mom who let me use her as my scapegoat. When I had my first son, I was determined to do everything differently from the way my mom raised me. I couldn't understand how she ever lost her patience with me when I was a small, innocent child. I told my mom about the parenting methods I was going to employ. I told her I wasn't going to do this and I wasn't going to do that. I told her about the statistics supporting my parenting choices in a passive-aggressive way, never actually calling her out for what I perceived to be her mothering flaws, but letting her know nonetheless. She never said a negative thing back to me, and only told me how proud she was of me for going about things in a different way. And now, every year that my son gets older, I understand my mother more and more. And I see what patience she actually did have. She did crafts with me and played dolls, sat through my tea parties and took me to the library and zoo. She defended me from every bully in the world and is the only person who has had my back ever since the day I was born. I can only hope to be that supportive and great of a mother to my two boys.
All of these moms have made me want to be a better person and friend because of the love and compassion they've shown me. And the lesson I've learned in general is that we moms are constantly evolving. We all go through different phases of motherhood at different times, and we're all at different stages of figuring things out for ourselves.
We are all in need of grace and a bear hug. Love and forgive yourself, and extend the same courtesy to your fellow mom friends. Continuously.