September 9, 2014

gold stars in motherhood...

I believe it was author Gretchen Rubin that mentioned the concept of needing gold stars in adulthood.  It stood out to me because I totally get it.

I remember being a child, and even then needing so much the approval of those I respected, the pat on the pack, the pride in my parents' faces, the A+ from my teacher. As a daughter, I was always the mediator and the one to be relied upon; as a student, I was always the teacher's favorite and the one who would actually cry a little bit after getting less than an A. I've always been like that, no matter how old I get or how confident I feel or how much I've actually accomplished. At this point in life, I realize that much of it has to do with the actual words of affirmation being something that resonates with me more than anything else. I can do something and know I did a good job, know it isn't necessary to be praised, know I'm doing what I should be doing (or, at times, going above and beyond my daily duties as wife, mother and creative), know it is appreciated even though I don't hear the words, but still…when too much time passes and it seems as though I never hear any acknowledgement at all, it just wears me down.

It's like when I tell my husband (many times over our past 8+ years of marriage) that even though I know he loves me, I need to hear him say it. And even though I know he thinks I'm pretty, I need to hear those actual words. And even though I know he thinks I'm a good mom, there's something about a compliment that lifts me up and makes me want to be better. It doesn't make sense to him, because words don't mean as much to him, in general. (We recently took a test to figure out our Love Languages, and it was quite the eye-opener.) And that's not to say my husband never compliments me, or that I should only rely on him and his words, but considering he's one of the only people I see on a daily basis at this point in life…a lot of that responsibility ends up on his shoulders. (Ah, marriage!)

But I suppose the main thing is that I've finally realized that in this season of my life, I am essentially defined as almost exclusively wife and mom. I had a full-time job in one industry or another for nearly a decade before I had the opportunity to stay at home full-time. And maybe it's just that now I'm reaching the point where I realize there is nobody actually overseeing what I do. There are no check-ins with managers to see my progress. No coworkers to share the load. No supervisors to kick me back into gear or praise me for any extra effort. Nobody really sees anything I do for a majority of the day. It makes me wonder if that's why the transition from working full-time to becoming a stay-at-home-mom can be especially difficult for those of us who were employed for a significant amount of time before having children.

To set the record straight, I'm incredibly grateful to have the ability to stay home with my daughter, and I wouldn't have it any other way. But just because you know you're meant to do something, be somewhere, live a certain way…that doesn't mean that it will be easy or feel perfectly perfect every single day.

Anyone who doesn't feel the need for affirmation, unexpected praise, or words of encouragement may not get it. Because I'm sure it sounds like I need a gold star just for vacuuming the duplex, actually doing my hair in 90-degree heat, or managing to spend an hour at Costco with a 3 year old without losing my marbles. (Please know this is not the case. Except maybe for the losing of the marbles.)

In many ways, I've had to just get over my need for affirmation. Because my three year old sure isn't capable of fully appreciating everything I do in the span of a day—nor should she be required to dole out that sort of praise. (Although, every now and then she'll randomly proclaim, "Mommy, you're my favorite!" Which, admittedly, usually happens at exactly the time I need to hear it most.)

But I also now understand fully how the online community has been such an encouragement to so many women. (Working moms, stay-at-home-moms, single moms, moms who just need someone to give them a virtual fist bump after a day spent feeling like they haven't done anything right.) Sometimes it feels nice to put something out there in a blog post or on social media and have someone genuinely appreciate you, to see you when you feel unseen, to give you that gold star…even if it comes in the form of emojis and a handful of words.

Further reading: Becoming a Stay at Home Mom


  1. I completely understand the need for affirmation, to hear the unspoken. I have the unique position of being a stay at home mom during the summer and then back to work for the school year. Even though I have more "breaks" in the day and kid-free time when I'm at work, I barely touch social media. However, during busy, loud, sticky stay-at-home summers, I'm constantly posting on Instagram and reading Twitter feeds. I think I use social media as a lifeline to connect with other people,especially when alone with a 1&2 year old for most of the day. Don't begrudge yourself the gold stars you need, we're happy to remind you what an amazing job you're doing!

  2. Amen sister :)

    My husband and I completed the love languages quiz as part of our marriage counseling and I recommend it to everyone. It sounds crazy, but it makes such a difference if you actually do it! My husband feels loved when I bring him home a candy bar from the grocery store. I feel loved if the dishes are done when I get home ;)

  3. I love this, you write beautifully! Completely understand as well.


Thoughts? Questions? General musings? Do share!

If you are asking a question, I will respond here within the comments—so, be sure to click that handy little "notify me" box below to know when I've replied!