When I was pregnant with Gia, Will and I signed up for birthing classes offered at the hospital we would be delivering at. Our teacher was this tiny woman so in love with birth it was just shooting out of her pores. Our classes were scheduled for three hours each week and I thought surely we would be sent home early most nights. Nope. In fact, I think we got home late every single time. It was just impossible for this woman to stop talking about labor. She. Freaking. Loved. It.
I was in my third trimester and basically annoyed at anyone who wasn’t pregnant. I had heartburn during every class, Gia had lots of fun elbowing and kicking me for three hours straight, and I was exhausted after a long day at work. Oh, and also TERRIFIED about the process of childbirth. Hearing about how in just a few weeks I was about to be in the worst physical pain I would ever experience in my life was not exactly relaxing and uplifting.
So every night we would sit in the back row of class. (Side note: I am usually a front-row-er. Like, for everything. So, this gives you a little idea where my attitude was at this point in my pregnancy. I was OVER IT.) Every night I would get impatient as the third hour wrapped up. I just wanted to go home and take off my bra and lay on my side with my pregnancy pillow. I was so over this whole experience that I almost missed one of the most important pieces of advice I ever received.
She said it at the very end of class. People were getting restless and squirmy and she said “One more thing you guys!!” I think I probably mentally rolled my eyes anticipating what she might say: “one more thing guys – something about pain/vaginas/contractions/swaying/epidurals/breathing etc”. But what she said was this: “Guys, if you remember one thing – just tell her she is doing a good job. People forget to tell moms that they are doing a good job. And they really need to hear it. After labor is when the really hard stuff happens – just don’t forget to tell her she is doing a good job.”
Even with my training as a counselor, I always have a sort of tough time with saying things that I think people will perceive as not genuine. Things like “you are doing a good job” with no specific examples or reasons why are hard for me to swallow and hard for me to say. At face level the comment “you are doing a good job” seems a mediocre compliment at best.
But at that moment I softened a little bit. I heard her.
I have been a mother for 13 months. And I can tell you this: I have been called beautiful and smart. I have won awards and been recognized for achievements publicly. I have been loved and admired. But there is nothing that has meant so much to me as the words “you are doing a really good job” when said in regards to my role as a mother. Nothing. Nothing comes close.
And I don’t know about everyone else, but I can’t imagine a time where I will ever feel like I have been told “good job” enough. Being a parent is a job with no performance review. It is a job where you constantly wonder if you are doing enough. You wonder if your child will “turn out good” because of you or in spite of you. We need to hear “good job”.
Notice I did not say “you are doing a perfect job.” We don’t need to wait to give someone this compliment or reassurance only when they have done some amazing mothering feat. In fact, “you are doing a good job” feels best after a day of struggle, a day where you honestly don’t know if you are doing a good job or not. Do you notice a mom trying her hardest but failing? She is doing a good job. And she needs to hear it.
I know I don’t tell other mothers nearly enough when they are doing a good job. So in honor of mother’s day – tell a mom, hell, tell anyone that they are doing a good job. Share this with someone who is struggling, share this with someone who is succeeding beyond her wildest expectations. Share it with someone who seems confident on the outside, and share it with someone who seems like they may fall apart at any moment.
Trust me, they need to hear it.