Honestly, I knew I looked like crap before I even walked out the door.
I could blame it on the long days filled with endless chores and toddler-wrangling, but the truth was, I didn’t even consider dressing up for Costco.
When a fellow shopper started oohing and ahhing over my toddler’s baby blues and curls, I didn’t think twice about it. This was a thing whenever we went out in public. I just searched for the best ground meat while she grabbed my daughter’s “toesies”.
“What a beautiful baby,” the woman said. She looked at me, then my daughter, then at me again. She lowered her voice. “Does she look like her daddy?”
For a moment, I couldn’t believe that anyone—even unintentionally—could ever say something so blatantly insulting. I kept my composure and told her that my daughter was an equal mix of both parents. Maybe it was the iciness in my voice or the fact that I walked away from her, but thankfully she decided to “let me finish my shopping.”
I caught my reflection in the freezer aisle. No makeup, frizzy hair, unsmiling face. Did I blame her for not seeing my daughter’s beauty in me?
Not really, I guess. But that didn’t stop me from ugly crying when I got to the car.
The next time I went out, I donned lipstick like a shield. I was determined not to let anyone else make me feel like a frumpy mom ever again.
Or so I thought.
I was at the doctor’s office, struggling to entertain my baby and talk to the receptionist at the same time, when an elderly woman admired my daughter. After a good, long moment, she finally looked at me. She looked back at my baby. I tensed, because even though I hid behind rouge lipstick, I knew what was coming next.
“You have beautiful lips,” the woman said to my daughter. “They’re perfect. You’ll never need lipstick.”
You can probably guess how this story ends. Me in the car, ugly crying again, calling my mom for comfort. It took me a couple of days and a few rage workouts to come to some major life revelations.
I realized that it wasn’t the opinions of some strangers that affected me so strongly—it was the fact that these opinions affirmed the insecurities and self-deprecation swimming around in my own brain.
Like so many other moms, I felt invisible, underappreciated, and worn out. Like the only part of me that still existed was Erin The Mom.
Moms give every aspect of our lives to our children. Our bodies are ravaged by pregnancy and childbirth, transformed into tools to satisfy our baby’s needs. It’s easy to feel like we’ve lost ourselves, simply based on our occupation.
Sadly, this insecurity is often substantiated by the seemingly insignificant actions of everyone else in our lives.
How often have you felt overlooked by your partner? Do you feel like he barely notices you until the food needs to be served or the baby has a major explosion?
What about on social media? Have you ever posted something significant about your life without getting a single comment . . . yet pictures of your kids instantaneously receive a few dozen likes?
What about when you’re running errands? Does your child receive compliments for his good behavior or looks while you’re lucky to receive an awkward smile?
Becoming a mother naturally shifts the focus away from ourselves. Most of the time, it doesn’t matter because our main priority is our children. We develop a thick skin and push through our own insecurities and needs.
Every once in a while, someone finds the chink in our armor and drives the dagger straight home to the heart of our insecurities. Sometimes it’s as direct as a crazy old lady at Costco, but it’s usually the casual indifference we experience every day that wears us the most.
The point of this post isn’t to suggest that we should rely on the compliments of strangers or begrudge the compliments given to our children.
But we know that many moms are feeling burned out and suffering from their lack of self. What if we can remind each other that we aren’t just moms, but beautiful, strong women too?
The next time we feel the urge to compliment another woman’s child, let’s give that woman a compliment too. It can be just as simple as, “What a beautiful baby—he looks just like you!” Or maybe, “She’s so well-behaved. It’s obvious you’ve done a great job.”
This acknowledgment could be just the thing that mom needs to remember that she matters, too. That all of her children’s accomplishments, good looks, and well-being, are because of her hard work.
Let’s build each other up and keep momming strong.
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