Yesterday, among a heap of junk mail, I discovered a package addressed to me. Inside the envelope was the book Raising Up Mommy: Virtues for Difficult Mothering Moments by Heidi Hess Saxton. On the inside cover page I read the following inscription: “For Kate – A much better mom than she thinks!”
Blame it on all the crazy nursing hormones coursing through my body. Blame it on my sleepy state. Blame it on the fact that I needed that encouragement even though I'd been enjoying perfect day that included an impromptu trip to the zoo and a picnic lunch in lovely, 60-degree weather (sorry all you folks up North!) and didn't include any tantrums from either my preschooler or me. Blame it on what you will, but those simple words reduced me to tears – happy and grateful tears for another mom out there who took a few minutes out of her busy, busy life to encourage me.
Heidi’s thoughtful act made me think of other moms in my life who have cheered me on along my mothering journey. Some have been close friends. One of my childhood pals became an official card-carrying member of the Mommy Club just two weeks after I did and we’ve always leaned on one another as we trudge along in the trenches. I trade sleep (or lack thereof) stories with another friend who, like me, has an insomniac in her midst. Then there’s my own mom whom I can call upon at any time, and she's there ready to listen and to offer me her prayers. Or, my mother-in-law, who also happens to be a lactation consultant, who is always on-hand to give breastfeeding advice or to just a lend a hand when I need a brief time out (she’ll swing by on her way home from work and hold the baby just so the dinner hour won’t be quite as chaotic). Then there’s the stranger in church on Ash Wednesday who smiled at me when I was endlessly bouncing to keep Rachel Marie content while holding Madeline’s hand in my own and said, “You’re doing a great job.” Or even the woman who came up to me in a store parking lot and must have noticed just a smidgen of weariness in me and said, “Hang in there. It gets easier.”
Fellow moms like these not only offer me encouragement, they remind me that I'm not alone in this amazing, albeit challenging, mommy road trip. There are moms everywhere who won’t think I’m crazy if I tell them that I recently noticed the beautiful curve of my baby’s ear while she was nursing and started to cry because it was just so perfect; who won’t be totally grossed out if I talk about the color of my baby’s poop (instead they might even compare notes with me); who will notice a white streak of diaper ointment smeared in my hair and still think I’m beautiful; and who can understand the flattening lethargy, the profundity of giving birth, the way an infant’s cries can rip you apart, and the intense love and joy that goes hand-in-hand with being a mom.
We all need a pat on the back from time to time, so here’s my challenge for all you moms out there today: Encourage a fellow mom. Drop a line to a mommy blogger you admire and tell her she inspires you (many thanks to all of you who have taken the time to do this for me). Smile at the woman whose toddler is having a major meltdown in aisle five and say, “I’ve been there.” Call your own mom up and tell her how much you love and appreciate her. Order Raising Up Mommy (a great book for encouraging and empowering moms, by the way) here and send it to a mom pal. (Heidi deserves the plug since she gave me this inspiration to "pay it forward" and give a shout out to my mom comrades!) Send a pregnant woman a card letting her know you're praying for her and her little miracle. Offer to watch an overwhelmed friend’s kids for the afternoon. Just don’t let the day pass by without lifting up at least one mom and reminding her she’s not alone and is a better mom than she thinks she is.