At the airport yesterday was one of the worst days of pregnancy I’ve had.
We flew back to Houston after a fun and action-packed vacation to Florida with Josh’s parents and brothers. But after five days of fun and at twelve weeks pregnant, I was pretty exhausted. I sat through the flight in a kind of stupor, trying not to fall asleep, while the kids sat on either side of me and played iPhone games. After a rough landing, I just lay down on across the seats, not caring how I looked to the other passengers around me, until it was time to de-board the plane.
As I stumbled down the jet bridge after Josh, dragging Annelise by the hand and trying to get her to go faster because a man was behind us and I was sure we were inconveniencing him by slowing him down, the man spoke.
“What’s your secret?”
I turned around. I hadn’t showered in two days, my face was breaking out, I was wearing a dirty t-shirt, I was exhausted, I was snapping at the kids, and I felt like I was going to throw up. (This was, in fact, about two minutes before I ran to the bathroom and really did throw up.) I didn’t feel like a mom with a secret. I wondered if my voice came out sounding as frazzled as I felt in my head. “I have a secret?”
The man talked about his many young nieces and nephews and how they never seemed to behave well on plane rides. I murmured something about the treat bags and activity books that I had made for the kids before the flight (but in retrospect I should have just said, “iPhone games”) and the man smiled and said he would have to try it and walked off.
Then I ran to the bathroom and threw up.
Walking to baggage claim, with the taste of throw up in my mouth because I didn’t have a toothbrush, feeling exhausted and sick and so incredibly low on patience when the kids walked slow or fought, I thought about what the man had said.
I started wondering, how did that man not hear the meltdown Carson had as we landed because he didn’t get to finish his Sprite? And then the meltdown that Annelise had because she was making a mess with her M&Ms so Josh and I took them away? And didn’t the man see me laying down across the bench, and overhear Carson tell me that I was taking up his seat? Anyway, I guess the point was, of all the motherhood moments I’ve had, that was one where I felt the least like a star mom. I wondered if the man could tell how falling apart I felt. Was he trying to make me feel better, to build up a mother who seemed at the end of her rope? Whether he was or he wasn’t, I thought about how kind it was of him to pay me that small compliment, and how a comment like that, to a mother, can mean a lot – especially at those very worst times. Probably more than the man could know.
So that’s my challenge to everyone (including me). Mother’s Day is coming up – so go out and compliment a mother somewhere. And if it looks like she’s barely got it together, maybe with spit-up on her shirt or a rambunctious child or no makeup on, maybe she’s the one who really needs your compliment. She’s doing amazing things and working dang hard. Tell her.
But actually, I guess it doesn’t even matter what a mom looks like on the outside. Makeup or no makeup, daughter’s hair in cute braids or uncombed, in skinny jeans and heels or in yoga pants, kids sitting politely or running in circles around the sofas in the waiting room. Motherhood is hard on the good days and on the bad. Mothers try hard on the good days and on the bad. We all have some of the good days and some of the bad. We’re all alike that way, even though in other ways we’re different. Moms make different choices on what’s best for them and their kids. Moms have different strengths and weaknesses. Moms have different past experiences and struggles and challenges. We never know the whole story. Maybe that’s why I think I should make this my new life motto:
And I’m going to try to pay it forward and compliment another mom this week. Because moms, all of you, you really are amazing.