By now I am guessing that you have seen articles on The Huffington Post and elsewhere about what not to say -- to stay-at-home moms and working moms; to formula-feeding moms and moms of special needs children; to single moms and adoptive parents. The list of these types of list posts seems to go on and on. My Facebook feed is often filled with friends sharing whichever post they most identify with and passionately support.
I thought about writing my own "what not to say" post, but also started thinking about why these posts are so popular in the first place. Clearly, we have all been on the receiving end of less than appreciative statements, and want to make sure that those things are never, ever said to other women. I get that, but I think 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.
On the days when I am most passionate about what NOT to say to me, it is because there are so many things I do want to hear. 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 from others is a little positive reassurance.
While I might be alone in this desire to hear more positive and supportive statements, 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. Let's start supporting each other more by saying at least some of the following things to each other.
1. You are doing a great job. I don't know one mom who wouldn't LOVE to hear this. Because let's 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 are better moms than they are? 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 who have different strengths and perspectives than I do. Sure, I am a little jealous too at times, but in those moments I tell the mom how much I admire her. 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. That is a great outfit, but um, you have handprints on your a** and food in your hair. This is a must. If you forget to say all these other things, please, just say this! As a mom of four boys, I always have handprints on me in the worst place. Please tell me and save me from embarrassment.
4. It's hard, isn't it? Don't you just want to run and hide some days? I know I do, but I have been afraid to admit it. Motherhood can feel so lonely at times. 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!"
5. 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 am often too proud (foolish?) to ask for help, even when I need it, so when someone helps on her own, it's wonderful.
6. Do you need a friend, someone to listen or 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 tried to nicely answer every, single, one of my son's questions, through my tears, 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.
7. 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 of if they are a stay-at-home, working outside the home, single, married, 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.
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The Orange Rhino's book, Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids and How You Can Too shares her journey to stop yelling, which, amongst other things, included learning to accept help from others and learning to be more positive and supportive towards herself as a parent. Her book is available for pre-order now and goes on sale September 1.