To the Stranger Who Told Me I was Doing a Good Job, Thank You

This weekend, after church was finally ending and my husband and I exchanged that silent look that means, “OMG, we made it, let’s get the kids’ coats on so we can get the heck out of here,” we were stopped by an elderly woman who had been sitting behind us the entire service.

I had been nervous almost the whole fidgety hour that our kids spent in front of her, as my four-year-old was dragged out multiple times by my husband and the two-year-old had a snot trailer longer then the sermon, and the older kids gently kicked each other, thinking no one would notice if they kept angelic looks upon their faces. So when she reached out an arm towards my husband, I panicked, thinking she was going to scold us for our daughter’s cough or perhaps suggest that next time, we pack enough tissue for a small army.

Instead, a kind smile lit up her face. “I just wanted to say that you guys are doing a great job,” she said as my husband and I exchanged bewildered glances. “It’s not always easy, but it’s so worth it,” she added. “Keep it up.”

Immediately, I felt bolstered by her encouraging words, but also a little puzzled by them, because she’s not the first to express this kind of sentiment to us. Which leaves us wondering — do we look that exhausted and worn down in public with our brood of four kids born in six years to the point that people truly feel sorry for us? Or are there parents out there who truly remember how freaking exhausting it all is and just want to pass on a little kindness?

Either way, you know what? I’m downright grateful for it.

There are so many times that, as a mother, I either feel incredibly and totally invisible, or seen in all of the wrong ways. I either feel like I pass through life, just another soccer mom, or I’m front-and-center, thanks to one of my kids making a scene at the store checkout lane, and I’m “that” mom that everyone’s judging. Both ways can be so hard. So when a mother who has been through it all before me and gets exactly how hard it can be takes the time to encourage me to keep going, and tells me I’m doing a good job?

Well, it makes a difference.

Honestly, as a mom, I feel like I coast by on these little snippets of encouragement and hope. There are so many hard days to get through, but just one smile from our kids help us keep going. And there can be so much negativity and bad news and things to worry about from the news and even friends and family that one single comment of encouragement can change everything.

So to all the moms and grandmas, aunts and cousins out there who have ever taken the time to tell a mom that she is doing a good job, thank you. Your words probably came after a week of sleepless nights, when we were wondering if we were really cut out for this mothering job, or when we spent a morning crying at home, too tired to even brush our hair, or when we were so desperate for a slice of human interaction that we loaded all the kids up just to go to the store. Or they might have come when we were really struggling with thinking that our kids are growing up to be spoiled, entitled brats who get way too many presents for Christmas — and your words reminded us that, you know what? Our kids are pretty great.

If you’re a fellow mom going through a hard time, let me just remind you: You’re doing a great job. And I really mean that. Because if you’re taking the time to read this, you’re taking the time to care and to try to better yourself as a mom, and that’s already proof enough that you’re doing a great job. And if you’re feeling festive this month, take the time to pass on a little bit of encouragement to a fellow mom who may be going through a hard time.

You’ll probably recognize us by our messy buns, the dark circles under our eyes, and the sweatpants we’re wearing at the store — or quite possibly the baby strapped to our chests will give it away. But remember that if you run into one of us, just a quick smile and a, “Hey, you’re doing great,” could make all the difference in the world.