I lovingly refer to myself as an affirmation tramp. I love when people not only notice me doing a good job but also tell me I’m doing a good job. The comment can be as big as “Your ambition is going to change the world” or something as small as “Wow, your floors barely have any Legos on them.”
I collect pats on the back like Target gift cards. I love being told I’m good at something.
The attribute I love receiving the most kudos for is being a mom. What parent doesn’t want to hear they’re doing an awesome job raising their kids? And how amazing does it feel when someone, anyone — friend or stranger — takes time out of their day to look you in the eye and say, “You’re killin’ it. Well done.” Don’t those comments elevate you to cloud nine and make you feel invincible?
Since raising kids is one of our most important jobs, receiving praise for doing that job feels incredibly validating, especially on the hard days.
There’s nothing wrong with receiving compliments or enjoying them of course. Everyone should give and receive a kind word sometimes. The problem that I have (and maybe you do as well) is that I live and die based on what someone else says or doesn’t say instead of being proud of myself. I seek out too much validation and affirmation from others instead of just recognizing my own strengths and accomplishments. It is often a self-defeating, draining cycle.
Let’s say my kids and I spend all day with a friend of mine. The kids’ behavior is on point. They are polite. They wait to speak. They wipe their noses on a tissue instead of my shirt. They eat with their mouths closed. They are essentially miniature angels. And all day I keep waiting, hoping, wishing for my friend to say, “Your kids are so well-behaved!” I’m looking for her to say that because I want someone to notice them, notice me, and tell me I am kicking ass at this mom gig.
The problem is that I keep waiting for someone else to tell me how well I’m doing when, in fact, I’m damn near stunned by my children’s behavior and can’t believe they’re mine. I am so proud. But instead of saying to myself, “Damn, girl, you are doing a bang-up job at this parenting thing,” I just keep waiting for my friend to say something.
Talk about a waste of time.
I totally understand that sometimes you just need someone to look at you and say, “You’re doing a good job.” But you know what? Sometimes that person has to be you. Sometimes you have to step back, look at all you’ve accomplished, and give yourself that pat on the back. Revel in the fruits of your labor.
Parenthood is hard, and so often, all we focus on are the negatives — our shortcomings, our failures. Let’s knock that shit off. It’s easy to focus on the bad, but when was the last time you congratulated yourself on how well you handled a tantrum? When’s the last time you didn’t let your teen’s behavior get under your skin? When’s the last time you looked in the mirror Stuart Smalley-style and said, “I am an effing gift to the world, and my kids are lucky to have me”?
I know all of us want to raise smart, kind, confident children. We want to raise little people who believe in themselves. That’s why we spend so much time telling them, “You can do it,” and “I’m so proud of you!” It’s because we’re not always going to be there to be their cheerleader, so they need to learn to believe in themselves. Which means we, as parents, have to believe in us. We have to model that confidence for them.
So stop waiting for that grandiose compliment from the babysitter or your mother-in-law or your spouse. Give yourself a compliment instead. Repeat after me: I’m a great mom, and I’m doing a great job raising these kids.