The best thing about this sentence is that there is absolutely no judgement, no prejudice on who can receive it. It’s for mothers and fathers, breast feeders and bottle feeders, a parent with one child or suffering from infertility or with seven kids in tow. This sentence can be used for the perpetually happy, for the admittedly exhausted, or for the new parents overwhelmed by a tiny person’s constant needs. This sentence is for the stepmom, the foster dad, everyone. We all need to hear this at one time or another, but probably way more, on our parenting journey.
It’s so hard, but you’re doing a great job.
The first part is important. The “It’s so hard” part is totally necessary. It means that the speaker sees how difficult this milestone or that roadblock is. It’s an acknowledgement that the work isn’t easy, sometimes it’s damn near grueling, and you are being strong just by living through it. Whether it’s the teething faze, the unexpected fevers of first flus, the early days of talking back, the first time your child gets teased, this sudden distance of an adolescent child trying to find themselves, or the preparation of sending a kid off to college, every parent is struggling right now. Being a parent is hard. Sometimes just being a person is hard. When you’re a person in charge of the survival and emotional wellbeing of other people the task can seem monumental. It’s hard. It can feel good just to have someone acknowledge that part. Parenting is so, so rewarding. It still takes an inestimable amount of work.
The second part, that’s the part where the lifting up happens. “You’re doing a great job.” I know exactly zero parents, myself included, who think they rock this parenting thing every day. However, every parent needs to be reminded that one stressful day, week, or even month doesn’t lead a child to a life of crime. Your kid got fed that day and was therefore energetic enough to explore his/her toys? You’re doing a great job! Your child learned a new word (except, maybe, those you wouldn’t want him/her to repeat in public)? You’re doing a great job! Your children slept enough, laughed enough, peed enough? You’re doing a great job!
I think we all have that one friend/cousin/acquaintance that seems to have it all together. I know I do. Her nearly two year old goes pee on the potty, is bilingual, is always dressed like an ad in a parenting magazine. This woman balances her relationship with her parents and in laws with such ease and grace. She works but still manages to pick up her oldest from school and help with homework. Yes, even she has bad days. When we get together I try to always reminder her, “It’s so hard, but you’re doing a great job.”
The best part? She does this for me as well. I can’t tell you how freeing it is and how much it is needed.