Something really important happened on the day my daughter turned 97 days old. I was nearing the end of her bedtime routine as my husband looked on from our bed. Baby smelled fresh (only a faint sour milk stench), was in clean, soft PJs, had a full belly, and was passed out, heavy and warm in my arms. I buried my nose in her hair and then looked up, smiling, at my husband. His eyes brightened, and he whispered at me. “I think you’re a great mom. I mean it.”
He said it! And that means it’s true.
Some background: my husband and I have an awesome relationship. We are very much alike and yet very much different; our upbringings are night and day, but we share the same core values and priorities. We are also both messy, which is really helpful. Importantly, we are each other’s second marriage. While we are both less likely to sweat the small stuff this time around, we do have some hard-and-fast rules stemming from our past relationships. For example, no name-calling and no saying “F*** you.” Another one is that, if I ask my husband what he thinks of my latest cooking experiment or whether my pants are flattering, I expect him to tell the truth. And I know that he follows this because sometimes I don’t like his answer, even delivered in his respectful way. This means that when, out of the blue, my husband says that he thinks I’m beautiful, I know that he isn’t saying it “just because.” It doesn’t come out as much as I would like sometimes, but when he says it, I know it’s true. This means far more to me than a million obligatory compliments.
When we had our baby, things were really rough in the beginning. Caring for our newborn was a huge test of patience for me, and truthfully, I failed at it quite a bit. I continually disappointed myself, and I beat myself up for it big time. I would look over at my husband with almost jealousy, seeing how easily fathering came to him and how simple it was for him to just rock the baby for a few extra minutes or whisper to her softly when she screamed (as opposed to my tactic of leaving the room to throw things). I told him many times that he was a great dad, and I meant it. My husband never reciprocated this compliment, and likewise, I didn’t think I deserved it. There were a few times when I meekly fished for praise. “Do you think I’m a good mom?”
“Yes,” he would answer, “but…”
“Patience,” I finished his thought. And I knew he was right.
These last few weeks, I’ve gotten into a bit of a groove. Part of this change for the better is attributable to the baby, who has made life a lot easier lately. She started sleeping through the night (don’t hate me – it’s complete luck), which has completely changed things, and she’s just been a great baby in general. She coos and smiles throughout the day, occasionally naps, and even tolerates sitting in her bouncy seat for a few minutes while I do stuff (or nothing). Part of it is bonding – she’s my little buddy now. We’re in sync. I know her cries. I burp when she burps. But part of the change in my mothering is also on me. I’ve worked on getting the baby on a loose schedule, committed myself to pumping while continuing to attempt breastfeeding, actually got housework done, and showered and completely made myself up (not a terribly complicated process) almost every day so that we can get out of the house. In short, I’ve put a lot of effort into being a better mom lately, and excuse me while I stand up and give myself a slow clap for that one. The thing is, I don’t think I took the time to really acknowledge this until my husband’s comment the other night. Let’s bask in it one more time:
“I think you’re a great mom. I mean it.”
On the 97th day of my daughter’s life, she smiled at herself in the mirror, laughed for probably the fifth time, and almost got a toy in her mouth. I had an important mommy milestone too. My husband said I’m a good mom. Though I had already started to feel it, now I know it must be true.