Validation in motherhood

I crave validation. I was the kid in school who loved report cards and tests. The inner me screams out for approval. Evaluate me! Rank me! Grade me!

Sadly, motherhood is basically void of any such validation. There are no report cards detailing suggested areas for improvement and applauding my success. No employee-of-the-month plaque hangs on the wall, and no grading system buoys my confidence.

Of course there is the intrinsic, long-term fulfillment of being a mother. But honestly, sometimes that just doesn’t cut it. I need a daily reminder that I am doing well – that I am an A+ mother.

My husband asked for some specifics on how to validate me. My answer to this often changes with my mood. Sometimes I need compliments. Sometimes I need physical affection. Most of the time I have no idea what I need, I just know I need to feel appreciated.

So, instead of trying to pin done exactly how husbands can validate their wives, I’ve been thinking about the sure-fire ways to make your wife feel like she is not good enough. These four things can deflate self-esteem for a mom (or any woman) in an instant:

Ridiculing her hobbies: Scrapbooking may seem ridiculous to you. Photoshopping until 2 a.m. may seem like a waste of time. But women find a lot of self-esteem and pride in their hobbies. Do not make fun of them. Do not make little jokes about the money she wastes on eyelets and ribbon. Every time you belittle her hobbies, you take a little dig at her and her worth.

Instead, try to understand her hobbies. Be a part of them. Ask to see her scrapbook pages. Let her teach you how to photoshop. Or, even better, find a hobby you both enjoy and do it together.

Making fun of her in front of other people, especially your children: Kids will follow a father’s example on how to treat her mother. If you make fun of her or point out her flaws, they will too. If you compliment her, say thank you and help her out, however, they will not only follow suit, but actually appreciate her more.

Swooping in to save her: Now I know this is going to be a mixed message for most men out there. Sometimes women want a knight in shining armor. But sometimes, we want you to get back on that horse and keep on riding. Don’t swoop in to save us when we are clearly trying to accomplish something ourselves. It makes us feel small and ineffectual. It makes us feel like you don’t have enough faith in us.

This week, for example, I was cutting out a tree for a nursery lesson. My well-meaning husband swooped in because my tree was lopsided. His tree was much better, so like any sane person I fell apart. I don’t really pride myself on my tree-cutting skills, but was actually upset about my daughter’s lack of progress in her school’s reading program. My husband had swooped in to get her back on track, leaving me feeling like a failure. So when he swooped in to save my tree, it was more than I could handle.

Giving Gratitude Lip Service: Words simply are not enough when it comes to validation. Show your wife you appreciate her. I felt the most appreciated recently when my husband took a day off work as a surprise to let me do whatever I wanted. I knew he appreciated that I work hard as a mother. Of course, at the end of that day, he said the seven words that were better than any A+ report card: “I don’t know how you do it.”

2 comments

  1. Cat

    Thanks for the reminder of how to treat anyone especially your spouse whether or not you have kids. I have been painfully reminded of two of your points and think maybe I need to work on one or two of them meself. I have many interests. Most of them my husband thinks are dumb and boring. I recently started helping with my daughter’s Lego Mindstorms club. They get to build and program robots. They sent me home with a kit to help me try and get ahead of the kids so that I can teach them better. I tried to tell my husband about my first day with the kids (which was awesome). He tuned out. I knew he wasn’t listening when I told him about the pink and purple elephants distracting the kids from their work. I’m not sure he even noticed that I left the room. When I wrote my first robot program and it worked, my kids were all excited and wanted their dad to see. He left the room or turned on the TV. It makes me wonder if he’s really proud of what I do for my job to earn money for the family (program computers) or if he just sees it as a way to relieve pressure from him to be the main bread winner (I make between 2 and 3 times what he does which I try very hard never to say in front of him or to others). He also tells me all the time how awesome I am and how he appreciates all I do. However, all this does is makes me wonder if he really does or if he is just glad that I will take care of things and he doesn’t have too. Do I save him too often? I think I just save him in the areas that affect me. I don’t think I do it in the areas the don’t. But maybe I do and he resents that. All this also makes me wonder if I am putting him down. We tease him about his lack of computer knowledge. He very often refuses to learn how to do things and in the areas that affect me directly, I take care of it.

    You’ve given me much to think on and consider. I’m going to be watching myself and see if I’m falling into the trap too.

    BTW I’ve been married 25 years and have 6 kids ages 21 to 5. You’re never too old to learn and reminders come from unexpected places. Thanks.

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