Marie Osborne is a wife, mom, coffee drinker, loud laugher, & Jesus follower. When she isn't laughing with her husband, texting with her girlfriends, singing with her preschooler, or chasing after her toddler twins, she's probably writing at her blog while binge watching Netflix.
"You're such a good mom."
What does that even mean?
We say this to each other all the time. We say it when the kids are crazy and mom is on the verge of tears. We say it when mom has a spotless house, adorable lunches, and super creative outings & educational activities.
"You're such a good mom!"
I hear it at the park, at church, read it on Facebook & Instagram, even see it in TV shows and movies.
"You're such a good mom."
It's also a phrase we use to put ourselves down. We say it to someone else, "You're such a good mom..." but finish it in our own heads... "so much better than me." Because we see another mom's strengths and only our weaknesses. And we classify her as a "good" mom.
"You're such a good mom" also insinuates there are only two kinds of moms. Good or bad.
But what happens when you fail (and we all do)? What if you meet a challenge that brings you to tears? How do find strength to try again when you don't feel like a "good" mom?
My son has been learning new stuff like a crazy person. Just one of those weird "learning spurts," I guess. Of
course, this often elicits comments like, "You're so smart!" from proud family members.
In response to this type of praise, my uber-informed husband mentioned an article he read recently about how children respond to praise. I had to look it up and read it for myself, and I found this study done by the University of Chicago which states:
"Praise that is focused on the child’s characteristics, such as 'You’re a big boy,' [or 'You're so smart'] sends the message that a child’s ability is fixed and results in decreased persistence and performance."
On the other hand...
"Praise focused on effort, called process praise, 'sends the message that effort and actions are the sources of success, leading children to believe they can improve their performance through hard work.'"
Dang. Ain't this true for mamas?
"You're such a good mom."
I've heard those words myself. Spoken them to others. But I can instantly write them off with a damaging inner monologue chronicling my failures. Even if I let the words sink in, speak them over myself, repeat them in my heart, it doesn't last for long. "You know, what, Marie. She's right!
You are a good mom!" And I believe for about…
Oops. My kid just bit another kid. Or wouldn't nap or eat or listen or obey in general because of his darn sinful streak. Or another mom happens to be better at discipline, or more put together, or calmer or cuter or whatever-er. And there it goes. In one ear, out the other. Those encouraging words. "You're such a good mom!" just floats away, unattainable, untrue.
I've failed. I've struggled. So how could I possibly be a "good "mom?
But what this study says about "process praise"... that hit home.
That kind of praise might actually empower and encourage!
What if we threw out the old and started new? What if we stopped talking about "good" moms, and broadened our use of the English language. Use all the adjectives we could think of to praise the effort, actions and strategies of one another in motherhood.
Sweet sister. You're not a "good" mom... your are so much more.
Thanksgiving 2013 (with my beloved nursing pillow) "I AM the kids table."
Nursing is hard. Period. For even one baby. It's nuts.
I don't really know why I keep doing it. I just do.
If you had the fabulous fortune of an easy nursing journey, praise Jesus and His Holy Name for all of your days. And I will praise Him for you and thank Him for your good fortune.
As for the rest of us, there are stumbles and struggles and sobbing for weeks on end. At least that's been my experience. With one baby and with two.
With my first born, I wept and wailed and "woe-is-me"-ed for the first couple months of nursing. I made several visits to a lactation consultant for life-saving advice and affirmation. I struggled and stumbled and sobbed my way through cracked, bleeding nipples and the dreaded... thrush. (I still quake in fear at the name.)
With the twins, I wept and wailed and "woe-is-me"-ed all over again. I made every lactation consultant in that hospital assist and advise as I attempted to nurse each babe individually and the two simultaneously. I took home every bit of paraphernalia they could throw at me: nipple shields, latch assists, creams, brochures, hotline numbers, pumps, and pump parts.
In both cases, with my first born and the twins, I nursed them each as soon as I could after delivery, and I just kept doing it. Each day, week, month has been different. I'm hoping by month 6, I'll feel like I know what the heck is going on, but I'm not counting on it.
This is the road we've traveled thus far:
How I talk to my friends about my husband has a huge impact on how I feel about him and our life together. Do my friends encourage me to stay positive or is "Girls Night Out" just an excuse to complain about our men? How should true friends talk to each other about husbands or marriage?
When I was a single lady, before he put a ring on it, my girlfriends and I would talk about guys. Our conversations were all about looking out for "number one" and rightfully so. We looked out for ourselves and one another. We were vigilant against any bad attitudes, harsh words, or unkind treatment inflicted upon us by these guys. They had to live up to our high standards. We made lists of what we were looking for in a perfect mate. We would not allow any guys to treat us badly or come between us as friends.
I've been married for 8 years now, and I need a very different type of support from my girlfriends.
I need friends who, mixed in with the laughter, chick flicks, mani/pedi's, and tearful talks, will push me to fight for a happy marriage.
Our conversations can't be about looking out for "number one" anymore. I need girlfriends who will look out for my marriage. Friends who will be vigilant against bad attitudes, harsh words or unkind treatment... that I unleash on my husband. Friends who won't just "allow" me to put my husband before them, but who actually encourage me to do so.
When I got married, I took vows, irrevocable vows, "for as long as we both shall live." And though I hope to maintain my female friendships until the end of my days, I never "vowed" to do so.
This is a difficult role for most women and counter to our culture. Women are supposed to support women, take the side of their friends, not their friend's husband. "Don't let him treat you like that! He’d better apologize! What an idiot! I would never let anyone talk to me that way! I can't believe him! What a jerk!" None of these things help our friends stay married, let alone happily married.
I need friends who will help me remember his strengths rather than encourage frustration and bitterness.
My husband may not always be perfect. In fact, I am 100% positive he will never be perfect, because none of us are. But I don't need someone else to remind me of that. My own imperfect nature has no problem finding (and pointing out) my husband's imperfections.
Remembering his strengths can be difficult when everyone is discussing what’s wrong with their men. Who am I to bring up all the things right with mine? And when you bring up an annoying trait in your husband, you just reminded me, my husband does that too! And on we go. Pointing out the weaknesses in the ones we said we’d love and cherish.
I need friends who will encourage me to show him unconditional love, bathed in grace and mercy, the way Jesus loves me.
We can't control our husbands, but we can control how we treat them. I, for one, want to stand before my God knowing that with single-minded determination, I did everything in my power to be the best wife I could be, whether my husband deserved it or not.
After all, that's what Christ has done for me. He loved me and sacrificed for me, even though I didn’t deserve it. And that’s what I want to do for my husband.
This is not only the kind of friend I need. It’s also the kind of friend I strive to be.
I sometimes wonder, which of my friends will still be married years from now? Who will have had a happy life together? And could I have had a better influence on the outcome?
Marriages aren't built in a day, and they don't fall apart that quickly either. And of course, I don't have control over other people's marriages. But I can control my own tongue. I don’t want to look back on times when we sat around complaining about our husbands or making what seemed like innocent jokes at their expense. I don’t want to wonder if my conversations helped sow seeds of discontent.
That’s why I say friends need to help friends stay (happily) married. Here’s some practical ways to make that happen.