Children, especially young ones, don’t always have the language to explicitly tell us that we’re doing things "right." They may smile and giggle when we care for them, or reach for us first in an unfamiliar situation or give us hugs and kisses and act like our little shadows throughout the day. But especially when they’re very new, they can’t just say, “Hey, Mom! I know you’re nervous and doing your best to keep me alive and help me grow into a decent person, and I just want to say that you’re awesome.” That’s why one of the best moments in the life of a new mom is when another mom compliments your parenting.
A few months ago, my son and I were enjoying a perfect spring Sunday afternoon. I had performed that morning, so I was a little more dressed up than normal, and the weather was gorgeous, so we decided to take advantage by spending the rest of our day at the zoo. We had been there about an hour, laughing and talking about the big cats (his favorite) when another mom passing by caught my eye and said, “Aww! You look so together. Wait, how many kids do you have? Just one? OK, that’s why. You’re not better than me, haha!”
“Uh, thanks?” I responded, flattered by her praise but a little taken by surprise by the unexpected peek into her inner monologue and self-comparison, in the end. I thought she had it plenty together; she was out and about with her three kids, who all appeared healthy and like they were having a great time. I said as much and thanked her again, and we had a quick laugh. As we kept moving, I kept reminding my son, who was new to walking (at the time) and still learning the ropes of being on his own two feet in public, to “Hold hands with mama, and leave things that are on the ground, on the ground.” Just then, a passing dad with older kids told my son, “Those are good rules,” while another mom said, “Good job, Mom!”
I felt amazing. Later, I actually wrote in my journal about how great it feels to be acknowledged by my still somewhat-new community of parents. There’s so much conversation out there about parent-shaming and judgment, and it’s especially common for moms to be the target of criticism over every little choice that we make (often in situations where our male counterparts would get a pat on the back just for bothering to try at all). When everything feels new and you’re not always sure if you’re doing things right, being caught doing something right feels all kinds of fantastic. So, with that in mind, here's what every new mom thinks when another mother compliments her parenting, because a kind word can go a very long way.
“Wait, Really? Thanks!”
Being new to motherhood, like being new to anything, can make even the most confident person feel a bit insecure at times. We also don’t always get the affirmation we need or deserve. Actually hearing from someone else that they think we’re doing something really right can be a bit surprising. Like, “Wait, she’s talking to me? With my tired eyes, messy bun, and stretchy pants? Whoa!” It's gratifying, to say the least.
Even now, a few years into being a stepmom and a mom, I still have moments of being like, “Wait, I’m somebody’s parent? I’m the grown-up in charge?” Having spent my whole life as someone's daughter, and a young person under the wings of a grown-up, it’s very odd to be the person calling the shots. It can feel a bit surreal at times, so when another mom (who seems like a way "mommier" mom than you) ays you’re doing all right, it’s so validating.
“I'm Glad Somebody Notices”
When your children are young, and they have no perspective on everything you do for them, they can’t necessarily affirm that you’re making great choices on their behalf. Partners, if they’re in the picture, don’t always think to offer that affirmation, either, because it’s easy to take day to day presence and contributions for granted. So, when another mom sees all that you’re doing and acknowledges it, it can really make you feel like a million bucks.
“I Am Really Doing This!”
Look at all that extra spring in your step. Compliments from other moms, who know how real the struggle can be, can boost your confidence in a special way. Being noticed by others when so much of what you do feels invisible makes you feel like yes, you got this.
“Oh, Not Really…”
At the same time, it can be really hard to accept a compliment sometimes. Plus, realizing that you've been seen doing something good reminds you that you're not as under-the-radar as you think, and that others can see stuff you might not be as proud of, too. Of course, in that moment you can’t help but remember the dozens of not-so-graceful moments in your mom life that you’re glad she didn’t see instead, and wonder if you have any spit-up on your shirt, or sticky fingerprints on your pants.
“People Are So Nice”
The whole world feels like a friendlier place when someone goes out of her way to say something nice to you. You start to think maybe you are part of a village, and actually feel like you really are in this together.
“I Should Say Nice Things To Others More Often”
Immediately, you go into pay-it-forward mode. If you managed not to un-compliment yourself after hearing her praise, you probably thanked and complimented her back, and then started looking out for all the good things you see other people do.
“Maybe We Should Try To Be Mom Friends?”
If the mom who compliments you is a mom you don't already know, you'll probably start mom-crushing on her right away. Obviously she's awesome, if she sees how awesome you are, right? This could be the start of a truly epic mom-romance, the kind of meet-cute you can't wait to tell your partner or other friends about.