All moms need something different, all the time. It can change by phase of life or by season. But all moms have needs. So what do we really want?
Let’s start off with what we don’t want. Some non-examples, if you will.
Moms do NOT want …
Well-Meaning Empathy, Sans-Action: “Wow, that is really hard. What a bummer.” “That must be exhausting to never have time to yourself.” “Oh man, you must be so tired.” Or even better, “You LOOK so tired.” These statements are then (innocently) followed by no action or offer to help. I’m not saying these statements are not genuine. I’m saying that they are typically in response to a mom sharing a struggle, or sometimes a cry for help.
Judgment: We’ve all had those moments of feeling judged as moms, whether by a friend, random on-looker at the store or restaurant, in a Facebook mom group by other randoms, or sometimes the worst: by family. It’s always interesting how much stock people have in others’ children (I am speaking to NON-safety judgments and more on the line of opinions).
Fakeness: Is this a word? If not, I have invented it because it’s a thing. We are all struggling in our own way. Being around moms who do everything in their power to give off an image of complete perfection do not help anyone. Oh, and two words that also do not help- social media. Need I say more.
Guilt tripping: “You will miss this one day.” “You don’t need to do that laundry, just snuggle your baby! Babies don’t keep!” Again, well-meaning. And possibly true, but not in the moment. Not when we do not have that perspective yet. Guilt is such an intense and pervasive thing that moms deal with, so adding fuel to that already well-lit fire is just not needed, no matter how well-intended the thought may be.
Moving on to what moms do want.
For this one, I actually surveyed a group of moms, and it was interesting–yet not surprising–to see the commonalities.
Moms DO want …
Understanding: Moms want to be given grace, the benefit of the doubt, and looked at as mothers who love their children while not getting every detail right. We want others to acknowledge that this is hard and we are doing the best we can. We want others to respect our parenting differences and situations, not commenting on choices we make or leading us to second-guess ourselves. This could be related to food allergies (yes, they are real), sleep training, schooling, feeding, and the list goes on. I will add that I was the best parent before I actually had children. I’ll leave that one there.
Community/Friendship: This looks different for every mom. Moms need support, whether it’s through formal groups such as MOPS or BBM, a small group of neighbors, one best friend who gets her, family, or even an online community at times. The feeling of being supported, encouraged, and being given a sense of solidarity is invaluable- especially by people who see you and get you.
I’ve heard making mom friends is like being in the dating world, and it is true. One mom described purposely dressing in casual athleisurewear to a mom’s group event to attract her vibe of mamas. You do what you gotta do to find your people! Some of us are quiet and reserved but are craving connection, and others of us are more outgoing and putting ourselves out there comes more naturally. But both types in the same boat, looking for the same thing.
Authenticity: Whether it’s on social media or in person, authenticity is something that connects us. We want others to see us, but to be seen we must be real. Encourage us to do so by being real yourself. Get past the go-to answer of “we’re great!” when asked how things are with you (and if things are truly great, that’s great!) I am personally always drawn to others who boldly share their struggles and in turn feel like that person is safe for me to share mine with, as well.
Also: paint a true picture on social media. This needs to be a movement. Can we come up with a hashtag? One mom commented on the lonely feeling of inauthentic connection that social media brings. Do you only know what’s going on in our lives because of our posts? Or because we genuinely communicate?
HELP: This one was an overwhelming common theme. We don’t just want it, we need it. And sometimes we need it when we don’t want it. Some of us have it at arm’s reach, some of us don’t. Think about a mom in your life who has no family in town or no real outlet of support- could you be that for her?
If we tell you things have been hard, offer to help. If we turn you down (often stemming from feelings of guilt or pride), respectfully figure out a way to meet a need, whether that be offering to take one of our kids for an hour, dropping off a meal or coffee, or simply checking in with a genuine “how are you?” or “what can I do for you right now? What would be helpful?” There is nothing more lonely as moms than to have our struggles known and be dismissed. Even when things are going well, help is always a welcome thing because listen, we need a break.
Often when a baby is born, people forget a mother is born, too. Just like babies and children have needs, so do us moms. We are growing alongside them. Many times we are too focused on caring for our kids that we forget to think about what we need.
So, what is it in your life that YOU really want?