In the past decade, my enjoyment of being a mom at home has ebbed and flowed. I've filled pages here with many thoughts on mothering, and I am so grateful I've captured the plenteous highs and the very real lows.
This week, my darling friend Ashleigh - who is both crazy-talented and insanely-thoughtful - sent me a box filled with goodies that just flooded my soul with delight. Each item in the box was an affirmation to me, a gift of grace from God through her that made me feel seen and known and loved.
For me, one of the hardest parts of being at home with little ones all day, every day, is the sense of being forgotten. We push our passions and dreams to the side to devote ourselves to the care of our kids, and sometimes we fear that if we've forgotten who we used to be - who we are - then surely others have forgotten, too. The treasures inside that box from Ashleigh were a gentle whisper that spoke to my spirit that I had not been forgotten.
Being on the receiving end of such a generous gift has reminded me of all the ways that the people in my life have loved on me through the years. I've put together a little list to inspire you to love the moms of little people in your life - whether that stage is ahead of you, behind you, or even if it's the one you are currently in.
10 Ways to Love the Mom at Home with Little Ones:
1. Borrow her kids
When AJ was born, one of my friends came and picked up Dacey more than a few times and took her to play with her own children at her house or at the park. This meant so much to me! Dacey had a great time getting out of the house and escaping all the attention focused on the new baby, and it gave me a few hours of time to bond with AJ without feeling like I was neglecting Dace.
Make arrangements to borrow a friend's little ones - maybe when a new baby arrives, or maybe for just an ordinary Saturday morning. Sure, there will be carseats to shuffle and naps to work around, but trust me, it's worth it.
2. Be an insistent babysitter
Instead of taking her kids with you somewhere, offer to babysit for a while so she can get out of the house and get things done. She may resist the offer at first, and so you may have to get direct with her (gently, of course) and ask her, "Hey, what are you putting off doing that you need to do but it's too big of a hassle with kids in tow?" Because maybe she really needs to get in to see the optometrist. Or maybe she could really use a haircut. Or maybe she just needs to go sit under a tree and read a book.
I've found that moms are on a continuum when it comes to leaving their kids with someone else, with some moms scooting happily out the door with a kiss and a wave, while others leave with much hesitation and stand hidden outside the door for a few minutes to make absolutely sure that everyone stops crying (I might possibly be speaking from personal experience on that). That's why I included the word insistent, because for some moms, you may only be able to talk her into a twenty minute absence from her home, but hopefully in those twenty minutes, she'll find the refreshment she didn't even know she was needing.
3. Compliment her kids
And when you've spent time with her children - as a babysitter or a teacher or just as a passer-by - offer her a genuine compliment on her kids. One of the most difficult parts of mothering kids full-time at home is that you rarely get an atta girl on a performance report. You read the books and listen to the podcasts and trust the experts and hope and pray that you are doing this right.
Saying something as simple as "your children are an absolute joy to be around!" will make her heart grow ten sizes bigger. I promise.
4. Drop off dinner
I've mentioned before that dinner can be quite the bugaboo for some of us. Few things on this planet make me feel quite as seen and loved as someone calling and saying, "Hey, I know you're tired. I'm dropping off dinner for you at 4:30 this afternoon." That's like winning the lottery for that day.
5. Extend grace
You've texted a few times but she hasn't texted back. She flaked on a meeting at church. The last time you saw her, she promised a coffee date but that was weeks ago.
Here's the thing - unless you've lived the season of being at home with small children, you just can't know how it consumes all of your brain cells. One of the best ways you can love this woman is to extend grace to her when these things happen. Don't take it personally. Assign positive intent. Practice the fine art of believing in trying again. It will mean more to her than you'll ever know.
6. Surprise her just because
The basket above is filled with the treats that Ashleigh sent. She didn't send it when the twins were born or for a birthday or a holiday. It showed up on my porch out of the blue, just because.
A box of goodies is delightful, but it doesn't even have to be elaborate as all that. A card in the mail works just as well. Or call her up and say, "I'm at Sonic. What do you want to drink?" and deliver her a big ol' Route 44 cherry limeade for no other reason than to love on her with a small gift.
7. Invite her over (and don't clean up)
As I write this, there are wooden blocks and board books scattered at my feet. I usually try to clean up during nap time, but today I chose to write instead. As parents, we all know that the quest for tidiness is a Quixotic effort in futility.
So the next time she's in your home for coffee or small group or Bible study or a planning meeting, just leave the house the way it is. Don't clean up. Maybe even get some clutter out if you are normally fastidiously neat. There's a sacrifice of pride in allowing someone to see that this is real life, but the reward is the restoration of dignity for those who are ashamed of their own messy realities.
8. Show up for her
It takes monumental effort to plan or organize an event in the midst of days spent mothering at home. If she plans a baby shower or a Pampered Chef party or a book club meeting, just show up for it. She'll remember your presence long after the event has passed.
9. Give her a gift that is only for her
When her birthday or a gift-giving holiday rolls around, go out of your way to find something that is a gift only for her. If she's an extrovert like me, an evening out with friends may fill up her energy cup. Or get a gift card for something that absolutely cannot be spent on her children - a gift certificate for a StitchFix box perhaps, or a gift card to Sephora.
We get so used to giving all of us, all the time when we are home with kids that it becomes natural to allow the generosity of others that is meant to bless us to be funneled to our children instead (says the woman who once spent all of her Christmas money buying new cloth diapers) (true story). Be super intentional in gift-giving so she is all but forced to actually do something that is a treat for herself.
10. Acknowledge how hard her days are and affirm her good work
Kyle's ninety-seven year old grandmother raised eight children, and she has been famously known to encourage the young mamas in our family that "whether you have one child or eight, that's all you do." Oh, how I have treasured the wisdom in that! My days were filled with mothering when I had only Dacey, and my days are filled with mothering now that I have a nine year old, a six year old, and a pair of one year olds to keep up with.
Few things make a mom at home with little ones feel more seen, known, and loved than to hear the affirmation of others that the work they do is hard, but that they are doing a great job. It's something we can never hear too much, and it costs you absolutely nothing to share.
Okay, now that I've rattled on for fifteen hundred words, I would love to hear your thoughts. What are the things that in this moment of intense mothering make you feel seen, known, and loved?
* link to StitchFix is my referral link.