05/20/2013 07:10 pm ET Updated Jul 20, 2013

Every Mom Deserves Your Nod

Jenn Horton

When I had my first child five years ago, I got what I like to call "mom nods" by the dozens. You know, those simple little gestures of encouragement based on pure recognition of a similar human experience. In those first few harried months with a newborn, the supportive looks and smiles came a plenty, and, I'm convinced, were critical to my survival as a newbie.

The early months have grown a bit fuzzy, but I do especially recall a few moms with older kids nodding with sincere empathy. They weren't still trying to carry 50 pounds of baby equipment in and out of the trunk of the car along with the groceries, and oh yeah, the baby. But those moms knew. They remembered, and made a compassionate effort, to show me solidarity. There was nothing better than walking down the airplane aisle with our car seat, fearful of the unwelcoming passenger stares as we approached our seats and seeing just one perfectly-timed nod and smile. Those two flight legs to visit the in-laws in Trinidad were intimidating enough. That extra You Got This, Mama made a huge impact on my sanity and faith in my own survival skills.

Something happens as we build up our parenting sea legs, though. We've hit our stride, we're busier than we ever deemed humanly possible, and who has time to look up? Then, when we do stop and assess, we don't always like what we see. We shudder at the chaos and wonder why we haven't mastered it yet. We look up for that one free second, but often, the nodder and the noddee have become two passing minivans in the daylight that miss their bonding moment because oh-crap-Johnny-just-dropped-applesauce-all-over-the-booster-seat and shoot-my-iPhone-lost-charge-in-the-middle-of-a-call-with-the-principal.

One lesson rings loudest to me in my short, five years of parenthood: Just when we think we have it all down, we're thrown out of whack, off track, our bearings all across the road. Going back to work after a baby. Epic toddler tantrums. Mean girls in middle school. Puberty. An empty nest. And that's just every-parent stuff, before life's darker challenges even enter the drama. It's those days, weeks or longer where we haven't quite mastered the nuances of the new, when sisterly sympathy might just help us hold on and hold up. I want to up those numbers of simple gestures of support well beyond the stroller years. Who's with me?

There's one rule: It does not matter if we don't share the same mom genetic makeup; we can all share supporting nods. The Still-Breastfeeding a Toddler, All-Organic-All-The-Time Feeding, Free-Ranging, Crunchy-Granola Mom and the Helicoptering, Leaning-Into That Corporate Ladder, Tiger-Parenting, Mom-on-a-Mish-to-Have-it-All, Wonder Woman all get the same level of attention. Whether you are one of these moms, all of these moms or like me, you take bits and pieces from the gazillion parenting philosophies to find what fits on any given Sunday, let's nod our heads to all of our warrior mom beats. Whatever hats we wear, similar or different in size, shade and material, they all hold similar parenting challenges. I know it's when I don't carry the same mom label as the next and have never been there/done that, that I must remember most: Behind it all, whatever our lifestyles, there is love. We lean in, we lean back, we hang on for the sake of a happy family. We are the same, because we are moms. And some days, that is freaking hard. Nod, nod, nod.

So, Moms of the World: Look up. Hey, girl! There we are again, looking back at you, nodding, smiling. You're in the thick of it, or it's just a thick day, and we get it.

And we got you.