They say actions speak louder than words. They, whoever they are, aren't wrong. But that doesn't mean our words don't matter. In fact, I think there are things every mom needs to hear at the end of the day to help her get through the next one. And not just moms, either, but probably every parent.
(Though, let's be honest here: moms often do not get the recognition dads do for the same tasks. I love you, dudes, but your bar is low and you're graded on a curve.)
A lot of these things can be said by anyone, but I'm mainly focusing on this from the perspective of a mom hearing these things from her partner because, realistically, that's who is going to be talking to her at the end of the day. The main things I feel moms need to hear all come down to teamwork and acknowledgement. Communicating what the hell is going on is clutch if you're going to be parenting with another person and acknowledgement because, come on now.
No one gets into motherhood for the praise or because it's simple, and if they did they're in for a helluva shock once their little poop-machine arrives. Don't get me wrong, motherhood is wonderful, or can be, but it's not glamorous and no one gives you glowing quarterly reviews or bonuses. It also requires careful planning and coordination; the kind of emotional labor that's rarely acknowledged.
So with all that in mind, here's how a partner (or, you know, whomever) can let a mom know they see her, they appreciate her, and they're there for her:
"How Was Your Day?"
It can be easy to get home and hit the ground running, but you know what? Taking just that little bit of time to check in with the mom in your life is going to make everything run more smoothly. I'm not saying you have to dedicate an hour for a therapy session as soon as one or both of you gets through the door or anything, but it's good to create a space up front for her to talk about the good and the bad. For one, it shows you care. For another, if she had a super terrible day it's going to show anyway. And if she had a good day, everyone can be happy together as you move through your evening.
"Do You Need To Take Five?"
This is huge. Sometimes people just need a couple moments to decompress or shift gears or recoup their best self. Sometimes they don't even think to ask for that very necessary moment, so go ahead and remind them it's OK. And, hey, if you really need that time for yourself, feel free to communicate that as well, because a few minutes to decompress and then having you at 100 percent is better than you not being completely present for the rest of the night. (Just remember to come back. Don't fall asleep. Set a timer. We'll do the same.)
"Do You Need Me To Do Anything?"
Honestly, you shouldn't need a mom to tell you what needs to be done around your house or for your child. That's often adding more stress by making her the de facto manager. Say, for example, that your child takes a bottle every night at 6 pm, don't ask if "your partner" needs you to feed the baby. Your baby needs to be fed. Feed them.
If you're doing the things you know you should do and you have it under control, then reach out and see if there's anything else you can help your partner with.
"I'll Handle [Specific Task]"
Communicate your plan, that way everyone is on the same page. Also it's sexy to see someone take initiative.
"Nice Work Today!"
Who doesn't like a little encouragement from time to time, right? Or, if you're like me, a lot of encouragement basically all the time because I live for praise. Point is, it's easy for us to focus on the things we screwed up or still need to do, and it's awesome if our partner is there to remind us of the things we crushed.
"Here's What I'm Up To This Week. What About You?"
Even a simple life with a child is going to be just a titch chaotic. In chaos, it's easy to forget to communicate plans — a dinner with clients, a meeting of a board you're on, an evening with a book club. In my experience, if everyone is not aware of everyone else's plans, badness can arise. Badness like, "Wait... I can't stay home with the baby tonight. I need you to do that!"
I find it's helpful, once a week or so, after all little ones are down for the night (or at least for a stretch) to sit with your calendars and see what's on tap for everyone so no one takes anything for granted.
"This Is Hard, Isn't It?"
Parents are always thinking this and it's really cathartic to hear someone say it out loud. I'm not saying whine all the time or anything, but I am saying that acknowledging that the struggle is real can go a long way in making it less of a struggle emotionally.
If your partner had a bad day, just give her reassurance that one bad day does not a bad job (or a bad mom) make. We all have bad days, but we can and will get over them. Her hearing from you that everything is OK will make her more apt to believe it in moments of hopelessness
"I Love You"
The idea that anyone would forget to say this absolutely horrifies me, but I feel like it's something that needs to be heard from your partner at least once a day.
To me, this is hands down the most valuable thing a mom can hear. Because being a mother is a thankless job. I get it. I mean, we're supposed to take care of our kids and it's not up to them to fawn all over us for, like, feeding them. But it's still a tremendous amount of physical, mental, and emotional labor that just sort of goes unacknowledged a lot of the time.
If your partner cooks dinner, even if it's "her job" to cook dinner, thank her for it. If she got up with the baby the majority of the night before, even if she usually gets up with the baby, thank her for it. If she managed to finish a household project that's been unfinished for a while, thank her for it.
Because a thank you is more than just one thank you for one task. In the end, those isolated moments of appreciation become a kind of code for everything the mom in your life does that makes family life possible. It's nice to know that all those things are appreciated.