Thursday, January 20, 2011

Day 18: A Little Validation Goes a Long Way

I will choose to find a positive perspective under even the most negative circumstances.
I will choose acceptance over resistance.
I will choose to focus on the things I value about my children, not the things that drive me nuts.
I will choose to extend the same grace, love and forgiveness to myself that I try to lavish on my husband and children each day.

If you know me, you know I'm very confident in the choices I make for my family. And if you've met me, you've probably witnessed or heard something "crazy" because nearly all of the choices we make are well outside of mainstream. What you might not know, is that even I appreciate a little validation now and then. 

Don't get me wrong, my kids validate me every day. Every time Max nuzzles in closer to me at night or gives me a milky grin, I'm validated. And when I see Jackson communicating and relating to us and his peers (better than some adults I know!), I'm validated. But no matter how firm you are in your beliefs, your parenting philosophy, or your sense of self-worth, at some point a little external validation feels good. If for no other reason, then because it's a break from standing strong against all the criticism - spoken and unspoken. 

Outside of the political realm, there is no job that draws as much scrutiny as mothering. Everyone has an opinion about how your child should act and what you should do to make it that way. And if at any given moment you don't live up to those standards (God forbid someone's tired, hungry or having a bad day), your job performance in its entirety is called into question. 

You'd think it would go the other way - that when the behavior meets and exceeds standards, we would get accolades - but that's rarely the case. I can't count the number of times I've been told how "lucky" I am to have a healthy kid (yah, no thanks to his natural birth, two and a half years of breastfeeding and counting, or perfect nutrition) or a sweet kid (you're right, I taught him absolutely nothing about kindness, gentle communication, or empathy, nor did I give him emotional stability) or a bright kid (nope, must not have had anything to do with the 3 million books I read him, the constant narration and communication through our day or the time I spent playing with him).

The beautiful thing that has come to my life out of all this negativity is a community. There has never been a time in my life when I've been surrounded by so much loving support, probably because I've never needed it so much as I do now. No one can stand alone, not even me. And I have so many wonderful women (and children!) in my life now because all that scrutiny led me to seek out like-minded moms at La Leche League and Holistic Moms Network. When the weight of criticism, external expectations or just being a mom gets to be too much to carry on one set of shoulders, we all share the load.

With these women I feel understood and validated - something I don't get anywhere else. We don't all do things the same way, we don't even necessarily share the same philosophy, but we do share values. We value our children above all else (even outside approval) and we value our critical role in their lives. 

In a society that says mothering has no value because it's not a "job," we remind each other that what we're doing has infinitely more worth than anything else we could choose to do with our time and energy. That the lack of recognition has nothing to do with whether or not the job is important. And that someday we'll see the fruits of our labor, even if no one else acknowledges that they were a product of our efforts.

So I'll take the sideways glances and disapproving eyebrows, because I know without doubt that I'm doing is right for my kids. But more importantly, because without them I wouldn't have these meaningful relationships. It's truly a privilege to be part of such a supportive community.


  1. I'm with you ! Being a mother and bringing up children is really important, it shapes the world of tomorrow.
    Don't I know the "you're so lucky with your child's personnality" or the "your method with your child is wonderful but it wouldn't work with mine", denying all the good work I do with my children. And if they *misbehave*, it is all because I am making mistakes raising them. Ugh !
    GOOD JOB, Meredith !