There’s this Ole and Lena joke I heard when I lived in Minnesota that I think hints at what I’ve been thinking about this week:
Ole and Lena had been married twenty years and Lena was getting worried that Ole might be seeing someone else or might want a divorce, because she couldn’t remember the last time he even told her that he loved her. She tortured herself thinking about it and finally confronted Ole saying: “You never tell me you love me. Is there someone else? Are you unhappy?”
Ole replied, “When ve got married I told you I loved you. If I ever change my mind I’ll let ya know.”
Why don’t we like sharing the good things we hear about others?
Why don’t we like sharing the good things we think about others?
When I was in college and seriously thirsty for affirmation (still an issue I’m working on), a friend of mine pointed out that while I was quick to complain that no one ever said nice things to me, I rarely shared when I heard positive things about others or even told those around me what affirming things I thought about them.
She was totally right.
I’m not always the best as this, but since then I have really tried to at least let the people around me know when someone has said something positive about them, because odds are that that person hasn’t and won’t tell them themselves (especially at work/school).
Yet, since I have become a mom, I have noticed this gap of affirmation just gets bigger. I see three main camps:
(1) bad-mouthing a mom.
This is classic and there are numerous hilarious videos that make fun of this. We see a mom – I don’t know – breathing a certain way, and we either quickly tell those around us or (if you’re incredibly confident) the mom herself how research or opinions tell us how her choices and instincts are wrong/stupid/dangerous.
(2) parenting style support groups
How are you raising your children? Tiger mom? Helicopter parent? Self discovery? How are you going to sleep train? Ferber? Co-sleeping?
Whether online, in books, or in person, these groups can either give you a much needed information boost when you feel lost, or make you feel like mud when you don’t fully commit. I have never felt more like a bad parent than when I’m a part of these groups. It’s amazing how being the most informed parents probably in the history of humanity has made us the most miserable and so lacking.
(3) well-meaning old guard
This one is tricky because new parents can really use the knowledge of those parents around them with whom they trust to give them advice, correct blunders, and pass on the knowledge that they learned themselves (usually the hard way). This is invaluable and I really hope that most parents have a few people surrounding them that they really trust to go to for advice and to help prop them up when they feel like it’s all too much. However, I think these relationships quickly fall into the pattern of new parents just hearing what they’re doing wrong or what they need to fix. I asked some of my fellow new parents and they all agreed that they had rarely heard (if at all) what others thought they were doing right – what they might actually be good at.
Don’t get me wrong. I know that if brought up, 98% of those around new parents would be SO quick to point that the new parents in their lives are doing incredibly well and that they are indeed great parents…..they just never share it.
Just like people at work rarely get to hear what their co-workers think they’re really good at and spouses rarely express those moments of gratitude and love that happen in the everyday wear and tear of life – I think those overtired, lost, desperate new parents could also use a few kind words on how attentive they are to their babies or how they are champion diaper changers.
And just in case my readers think that this is the ultimate fishing expedition for compliments – that is NOT my intention. I’m fine. I have a great support team around me.
Instead, what I really hope for is a ripple effect in which people start to tell those around them (especially women and new parents) when they think that person is doing something pretty great.
It will feel awkward at first (“Wow! You’re really good at burping a baby!” “You know, Aunt Rachel told me the other day that she thought it was really great how you make your baby laugh so much.”), but I promise that it makes a difference.
In My Sights This Week:
- The Netflix documentary on Tony Robbins, I’m Not Your Guru. I didn’t know about this guy. Seriously fascinating!
- After reading this article about some of Trump’s most ardent supporters, I seriously need to add this book to my list.
- Catching up on Gilmore Girls, ya’ll! Can’t wait for the show’s return
- Always and forever, Real Housewives of New Jersey.
- This little truth bomb made me cackle