The Gift of Affirmation

What awards have you won? What titles have you earned? Close your eyes and relive those moments when you have become the recipient of a prize. Your heart skips a beat, your confidence is boosted, and you leap from your seat when the announcer says “Nominations are in and ….____ (your name) is the winner!” Many jobs evaluate your performance, and if you work really hard you may achieve a higher status or become highly respected by your colleagues. Motherhood may be a full-time job, but it doesn’t have the same professional rewards. Unfortunately, there won’t be an annual awards banquet, certainly no standing ovation for your efforts, and probably a lot of criticizing peers.

One hot summer day the only superlative I was nominated for was “Worst Mom of the Day.” I was in the grocery store for the millionth time with my children, who were clearly done with running errands for that day, when an older gentleman approached us. I told myself to be patient, the poor man may be clueless as to where some food item was located or maybe he just wanted to say hello to the kids. Nope. He wanted to make sure I knew that my children were misbehaving in the shopping cart. What do you say to that? Thank you? I clearly knew that yogurt raisins were taking flight, and that my children were arguing about their lack of personal space in the shopping cart.  Also, I am sure I had probably told them to stop a few moments before, but I was a mom on a mission who just needed to get some milk!

His comment stung. It hurt my feelings and ruined my day. I put enough pressure on myself to be a good mom and my children certainly tend to keep me accountable for my actions as well. What mom needs another person making them aware of their faults and failures?  Motherhood is already a job that gives no reassurances and certainly never offers a pat on the back.

I had a completely different experience in Panera one Sunday afternoon. A mom came up to our table and complimented me. She said she had been watching my kids and said that she had four kids herself and knew how hard restaurants can be with young children. She said that she was really impressed with how my kids had behaved while eating their meal. My first thought was, she must have missed when Andrew accidently fell out of his seat. However, I looked up at her with a huge smile on my face and thanked her for the kind words. That sweet woman has no idea how much she “filled my bucket” that day!

After the grumpy man incident and the encouraging Panera mom moment, I realized the importance of positive affirmation. Mommies don’t win awards. We certainly don’t get praised for all the things we do and sacrifice for our children.  We need to surround ourselves with people and things that lift our spirits. When I was a teacher, I had a “Smile File.” I kept pictures from my students, funny and inspiring teaching quotes, notes from colleagues, and letters from parents. Those scraps of paper became my lifeline on hard days, helping me remember that I was making a difference. I encourage you to create a parenting “Smile File” to keep those sweet moments near to you and to provide you with “two pumbs up” (which is how my son says the common phrase). After those two incidents I also learned the importance of praising each other. We need to form a club, a group, a tribe, a band of moms who rally around one another, starting a chain of compassion and motivation. Send a note to a friend, compliment another mom, and smile to each other! Little acts of kindness go along way! As adults we have learned the best gifts don’t always come in wrapped little packages- a bigger mommy-mobile, a new addition to the family, or a shiny new laminator. So today, give the gift of affirmation!