Validation is a powerful exchange. Without validation, I don’t know how far I would go on in life.
I don’t live for validation, but receiving just an ounce? Yeah, that’s a life changer.
It wasn’t long ago that I shared a personal experience of feeling validated by a stranger at my local grocery store. The exchange took just a few seconds, but the impact it had on me that day was eye-opening.
I wrote a letter to the woman I didn’t know. I let my heart sing its song as I began to realize all of the built-up raw emotion I had felt in that one moment when she validated my existence.
She didn’t validate my life in one specific way. She didn’t know my story. She just validated that I was a fellow mom, and that was enough.
I share with you my open letter to her in the hopes of demonstrating just how much we can impact those around us if we take just a few seconds to validate someone’s existence. I think back on this day so many times.
It never stops being enough.
It’s the perfect reminder that I need to extend myself out to others just like she did to me.
To the Fellow Mom who Validated my Existence,
We interacted for about 45 seconds a few months ago at the checkout stand at Safeway on 85th street in Kirkland. Your willingness to reach out to me while I tried to soothe my sleepy toddler in his stroller, all while trying to check out more items than I could carry, made a deep impact on me—more than you could ever know.
All you said was, “How are you hanging in there momma?”
That short sentence was like a buoy that someone finally threw my way. I had been drowning for months, and you didn’t know that saying those words was about to save me.
You saved me.
You saved my sanity. Saved the little hope I had left for myself. You validated my existence as I was slowly disappearing in my own little world.
Normally I don’t make small talk, so forgive me if I didn’t seem friendly, but the entire ride home and these past few months since, I couldn’t help but think about you, wishing so hard that I could say, “Thank you for validating me” in person.
What you didn’t know was that this past year I had been diagnosed with Lupus. Or that I embarrassedly asked my doctor to see if I should get a temporary or permanent placard, because some days I simply couldn’t stand the idea of even going to the grocery store when the inflammation in my knees and back was unbearable.
I turned 26 this past March. I often don’t believe my own age, but being 26 and in need of a placard, well, let’s just say it’s been a humbling experience.
You also didn’t know that last year my husband changed careers, which in turn put a pause on our health insurance. So all of my needed visits had been out-of-pocket expenses for months, causing us to budget more tightly than we would like in all other areas of our lives. That day, I paid with the last check I had, hoping it would buy us time before it cleared.
I learned to budget more tightly since.
I now appreciate that time of my life, but I wouldn’t have had you not taken the time to validate me. I saw the compassion in your eyes, and I felt it in your voice. It was the first time I wasn’t being judged for just trying to survive.
This past year, friends and family were having babies left and right, and although I know I’m done, much sadness surrounded me at times knowing what I will miss. My two children are blessings, as are my two angel babies I will meet one day, but trying to appreciate those last “firsts” had been hard. Those days have come much easier now, and I thank you for that.
Your willingness to be caring toward me has made me realize that I could offer the same solace to other struggling mommas. Even if it’s just for a few seconds, I know the impact it can have. I’m not too sure if you knew it then, but I hope you do now.
The week before you reached out to me, I had honestly contemplated separation and divorce from my beloved husband. He’s a good man; we simply hit a rut in our marriage. But there is so much more to be done and to experience with him, and I am looking forward to it now.
I couldn’t even stand to see other couples’ happiness without feeling sad—as if that no longer existed in my own marriage. It does; I had simply been so overwhelmed in my life that I was drowning, not knowing how to stay above water.
The day you spared those few words to me made all the difference. I was finally able to breathe.
I don’t know what inspired you to reach out to me in such a simple way, but please know how much it has meant to me.
As moms, our everyday job is hard. Whether you work, stay at home, have one or 10 kids—it’s not easy. Not one child is the same as the next. We question our abilities as mothers, and yet somehow we find the ability to move forward.
I, however, had been stuck.
Every day I struggle with being a mom; I admit this proudly. I have good days, but I also have bad days.
Truth be told, I keep my windows closed during the nice, hot and sunny days where an open window would feel great, because I fear that my neighborhood will hear my frustration when I raise my voice asking the kids to stop fighting, to stop whining, to stop crying because I didn’t give them water in the right colored cup. Or because my kids were all of a sudden starving two minutes after snack time was over.
Sometimes I need a second serving of wine at night. Sometimes I don’t even remember when was the last time I took a shower.
Truly, the stress of motherhood hit me hardest when I began dealing with postpartum depression (PDD) after my second child was born. I don’t think I ever confessed that until now.
It’s not easy.
Although I didn’t know this at the time, my recovery didn’t begin until you reached out. Your taking the time to validate me, a stranger, when no one else would, that saved me.
I hope that you will see this letter somehow and know that because of you, I have taken it upon myself to search for opportunities to tell a fellow mom that they are doing a great job, and to hang in there. I don’t know everyone’s struggle, but I definitely know my own.
So, thank you, fellow mom at the checkout line.
Thank you for validating my existence.
For not blending me in with the crowd. For not playing along to the “mommy wars” that surround us daily. I believe God placed me in that line just so that you could spare those few seconds for me that day.
I now know I’m not alone. I have received so much help since then, but it all came about because of how you motivated me to look beyond my self-doubt and self-pity.
I have wondered many times since then: What, or who, was it that impacted you to make sure you left no mom behind? What was it that whispered in your ear to look up and reach out?
I wondered, but then I realized I do know why. I know, because it’s the very reason I do it for others now. There’s no greater pride than validating another momma—another woman—when I know just how big of a difference it can make.
I have it together some days—not most, but some. On those days, I do my best to tell a fellow mom that she’s doing an amazing job. That her kids are so lucky to have her.
I ask, “How are you hanging in there momma?”
Validation has now become my theme for this year. You set that up for me, and it’s perfect. I believe everyone needs some form of validation. Especially moms.
Every day since that day, I have looked forward to “ tomorrow.” Every day, I look forward to my husband’s arrival home from work, to cooking dinner for my family and to giving my kids a bath (and quickly sending them off to bed). I hadn’t felt like looking forward to much for months before you came along. So, thank you.
I’m not supposed to travel this journey alone. It’s my duty to check in when I can, because if I don’t, who knows how many mommas will continue to drown in their own world, never realizing they have an army of fellow moms walking this same path of motherhood, with all its ferocious twists and turns.
I think Rocky said it best: “It ain’t about how hard you hit; its about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. Its how much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.”
Winning. What does it even mean to win in motherhood? The equivalent of winning would be survival. So yeah, that’s how survival is done.
Only, you don’t have to survive alone.
A Fellow Mom Who Now Gets It.
Author: Jazmin Leader
Editor: Toby Israel
Image: Sebastien Hamel/Unsplash