What Moms Do

I’m sitting here in a quiet corner of my local library, tapping away on my keyboard. 

A few minutes ago, a mother and her three children sat down at a table a few feet away from me.  The girls are, by my best guess, about six and ten years old.  The boy seems to be somewhere in the middle.

They’re just an ordinary family.  Like yours.  Like mine.  There’s not really anything terribly heroic about a trip to the library, I suppose. 

And yet there is.

I’m observing this woman, out of the corner of my eye, as I sit safely and anonymously behind my laptop.  They have captivated me.  The youngest daughter is reading If You Give a Mouse a Cookie aloud to her mom.  The mother nods encouragingly. 

"I can’t believe you can read that whole page!" she laughs.  They shoot each other a high five.

To her other side, her son flips through what appears to be a book on anatomy.  He leans in to his mother and points out a word.  She seamlessly pauses in her work with her other child to help him.

"Abdominal," she helps him sound out, pointing to the page, and then pointing to her own belly.  "It means your stomach muscles."  The boy settles back in to his book.

The older daughter has been browsing the shelves, and she walks over to her mother, handing her a book.  The mother glances through the jacket description, and she shakes her head.

"I don’t think so," she says, her nose slightly crinkled.  "I don’t think that’s appropriate for you."

She’s really not doing anything that you and I haven’t done dozens–maybe hundreds, maybe thousands–of times.  She’s multi-tasking.  Whispering words of encouragement.  Setting good boundaries.  Stopping what’s she’s doing to help.

It’s just what moms do

But I sit here, in this quiet moment, struck by the simple beauty of what she does, and what I do, and you do, everyday.   

It’s ordinary.  It’s common. 

And it’s heroic.

140 thoughts on “What Moms Do

  1. Elizabeth says:

    People-watching is so much fun. It’s always encouraging for me to watch other people doing what I do every day, and enjoying it. It reminds me that I need to enjoy it more.

  2. Beth/Mom2TwoVikings says:

    Finding that family, noticing and documenting what’s going right in that situation is WAY better to hear about than the thousands of times we’ve all gone to the library and can’t get anything done due to the a gaggle of children swingin’ like monkeys from the chandeliers and rampaging like elephants thru the non-fiction! *wink*

  3. suburbancorrespondent says:

    I wouldn’t mind being blogged about by a stranger in a complimentary way. Sharon is admiring this mother’s style; and this mother was in a public place. I’ve seen plenty of invasions of privacy on other blogs (nasty stories about relatives, etc); but this one doesn’t qualify as such.

  4. chaotic joy says:

    Oh, this one gets the link. How beautiful. It’s amazing how watching other people do the same thing gives us perspective. Although I must say with a 2 & 4 year old our trips to the library would appear slightly less inspiring.

  5. citystreams says:

    I can picture every detail. You’ve captured such a beautiful moment. It’s easy to forget how blessed we are, and how hard we work in this job. Thanks for the reminder.

  6. Brittany says:

    Thank you for reminding me that what I do is worthwhile and does not go unnoticed. This was just what I needed to hear this morning. Thank you for making my day.

  7. Ariel says:

    I completely agree!! I am not a mother yet but I was just thanking my mother this weekend for all the things she did for us growing up. Moms everywhere are heroic!!

  8. Chatty Kelly says:

    This is my favorite post you’ve ever written. Because it’s honest, it’s true, it’s life, it’s you, it’s me.
    Thanks for the encouragement!

  9. Tracy says:

    It is a beautiful post and just shows that everywhere we go someone is always watching and that we must be aware that EVERYTHING we do is a chance to be a witness to someone not only by our words but also by our actions and mannerisms.

  10. Sarah@because of abigail says:

    Thank you. This morning I don’t feel like a hero, basking in the moments my child is sleeping later than usual and counting all the ways I don’t get enough done. Thank you for reminding me that my call is a call of value and of worth and of heroism. I am encouraged and I must say again, thanks.

  11. Holy Experience says:

    This, the ordinary extraordinary that we’ve grown blind to. And you saw it, captured it memorably, nudged us awake too.
    Thank you, friend, for this, and the awareness of another day saturated with Simple Beauty. Today, may we revel…
    All’s grace,

  12. Holy Experience says:

    This, the ordinary extraordinary that we’ve grown blind to. And you saw it, captured it memorably, nudged us awake too.
    Thank you, friend, for this, and the awareness of another day saturated with Simple Beauty. Today, may we revel…
    All’s grace,

  13. Amy in TN says:

    Thanks for this post. Sometimes in the day-to-day routines of motherhood, I don’t see too many instant rewards. Three meals a day, diaper changes, summer reading lists, baths, lullabies–the days are full of tasks. Thanks for reminding me that what I do matters. I’m sitting a little taller now. I’m a hero!

  14. April says:

    A wonderful post. My children are all grown and this brought a smile to my face remembering the days spent with my three that are long gone.

  15. Lori says:

    Wow. That’s such a beautiful description of the ordinary things we do every day that really shape the lives of our little ones.
    Thanks – I needed the reminder!!! 🙂

  16. Tara@From Dawn Till Dusk says:

    You are so right to notice and write about the ‘ordinary’ and ‘heroic’ things a mum does. All too often we look around and notice the ‘bad’ things (mummy feeding her tot Cola, mummy slapping the backs of her child’s legs in a packed shop) that the everyday beautiful things go unreported.
    Excellent read (sorry if I sound like a school teacher!)

  17. Stacey Sickmiller says:

    Watching other moms, who are gentle and kind to their children, has more than once helped me to get my attitude checked. Thanks for observing and sharing. Maybe we will all be encouraged to take the extra time to sit with our children today, like this mom did.

  18. Annabelle @ Christian Momma says:

    I love to people watch…and even though they aren’t doing anything different than what I do, I’m still intrigued by what they are doing. There have been times that I’m out to eat with my hubby and he tells me to stop staring…apparently, I’m not as discrete as I should be! 😀

  19. Shelly W. says:

    What a beautiful post. I may link to it sometime because moms need to know that they are heroes–every day. Thanks for the reminder!

  20. Shelly W. says:

    O.K., sorry about the double post–my computer went wonky when I was trying to post the first message, so I did it again. Sorry about that!

  21. Fuschia says:

    Thank you, I’ll take that compliment to motherhood personally 🙂
    My husband and I have made it a point to compliment parents on their children’s good bahavior when we notice it. I’m going to add good parent behavior to the list!

  22. AmyDe says:

    Thank you. It’s often isolating and frequently “thankless” (by outside standards)to be a homeschooling stay at home mom. Thank you for noticing and championing the beauty and wonder of being “just mom.”

  23. Megntally@Lonesome Pine says:

    What an insightful post! You painted such a lovely picture of motherhood. Being the mom of a teen now, I truly miss those days when I was needed for those ‘little’ things. Now, I only get called on for the ‘BIG’ things! LOL!!

  24. leslie says:

    What a great way to start my day! I’m off to be my own version of a hero, the family’s laundry awaits. I wish that mom could read this post and know it was about her.

  25. Jane Anne says:

    Thank you for this post! I have been taking my kids to the library summer reading program this summer. It seems like a huge challenge. It absolutely wears me out. The kids LOVE it. They are 7, 4, 3, and 7 months. Your post is wonderfully encouraging!

  26. Mama Belle says:

    So true.
    My youngest daughter actually tells me now what’s “inappropriate” for her to watch, read, wear, say, etc.
    I guess that means I did a good job. I just hope she keeps that up through her teenage years.

  27. Jane Anne says:

    I really enjoyed this post! I have been taking my kids to the summer reading program at the library. They LOVE it! It has been exhausting for me. In fact we are now going 2 days a week: Tuesday to get books and Wednesday to the special program. My kids are 7, 4, 3, and 7 months. They are loving being at the library this summer and I appreciate your encouraging post!

  28. Dawn says:

    Beautiful. Although I have to agree with another commenter – with a 6, almost 3, and 1yo, our trips to the library are not as inspiring, lol!! 😉

  29. Gabby says:

    Isn’t it nice to see good parenting in action when you are out. It is so easy to feel like all the hard work is unnoticed.
    A while ago, I had to start surrendering to God all of my needs for appreciation, acknowledgement, and “words of affirmation”. He is so good, because his word if full of affirmation!
    His words are so much more fulfilling than any human voice could ever be.
    I hope He blesses that precious Mom today!

  30. Joanne says:

    Oh my, thank you for the encouragement.
    I must go now and type in the password so my teenager can get online to work on her summer AP English class, then will be checking to see what my three youngest are doing.
    It is too quiet.
    Silence can be quite dangerous. I must proceed with caution, with the stealth movements of a jaguar.
    I am truly heroic.

  31. Anonymous says:

    Whenever I see something like this in a park, eating establishment, grocery store…I always stop and say something like “what a lovely family you have, what nice manners your children have, it is so refreshing to see a parent being patient with their children”. I think it is very important to encourage others….God Bless, Pam, South Bend

  32. Shalee says:

    Amen and amen. Everyone has a chance to do something heroic, even when they’re changing diapers, washing dishes or giving a hug. Excellent thoughts, Shannon.

  33. Connie says:

    Your post brought tears to my eyes…for what that mother was doing, what all moms do and for the memories I have of having done the same thing with my two now-grown children…those days do make a difference for our children …we may not see it while in the midst of it all, but they really do!

  34. Beck says:

    It IS heroic. I rarely think of how much work everyday decent mothering is until I’m confronted with bad mothering and then I think about how hard it just is to be PRESENT. Beautifully said.

  35. Diana says:

    This post has made me ridiculously weepy. But you’re so right. It is heroic. And that? Is what makes Motherhood what it is, the heroism in the mundane everyday.

  36. Jackie Sue says:

    Shannon, that was so sweet. Thanks for the encouragement to keep doing what I do. Sometimes the training of our children becomes so tiresome…and then I remember “do not grow weary in doing good, for in due time you shall reap a harvest of righteousness and peace” (I hope I quoted that right…sometimes I mix up my versions and add parts of other verese together, but you know the jest of what I’m remembering. The point is, don’t give up…keep at it…give it time and your post reminded me of the today.)

  37. Kristin says:

    I just started reading your blog about a week or so ago. Can’t remember how I came across it – but I LOVE it. I wake up in the morning – the kids are still asleep and drink my tea and read it. So lovely! I really enjoyed this story and hope that when I am in public that someone thinks of me in that way. (When my kids are behaving of course, when they aren’t I dont’ want to know what they are thinking!) hehe

  38. Veggiemomof2 says:

    Yes it is what we just “do” without even thinking. Yet ask a man who thinks mothering is not a full-time job to multi-task mothering duties & they will end up confused & quitting. 😉
    Thanks for the reminder that what we moms do is appreciated even if we don’t hear it.

  39. genny says:

    Those ordinary moments–the stuff of life–are the most beautiful moments of all.
    One of the most memorable funerals I ever attended was one of a quiet, ordinary man who did ordinary things with his ordinary family.
    But all of that ordinary stuff ended up being heroic, like you said, and amounted to a family overflowing with love, and a legacy of hope and faith.

  40. Rena says:

    I’m awestruck as well. Just as if I were sitting there next to you.
    It actually gave me goosebumps. Thank you. It is a beautiful thing. Motherhood.

  41. Cori says:

    It is what we all do, but how many times do I unconciously, selfishly, multitask with my kids because I HAVE to. Being frustrated that I can’t have time alone, to write ONE email without being interrupted. The encouraging part to me is that she seems to be multitasking while loving on her kids together. That’s probably why they seem to be okay asking a question here and there and not nagging and pestering, because they know she’s really listening and caring. I need to remember that over and over!!! Thanks

  42. Jennifer, Snapshot says:

    I just returned from the library with my four-year-old son. The scene would look much different than the one you described, but you are spot on.
    What a beautiful picture.

  43. Jolanthe says:

    Ahh….you were apparently not watching me at the library this morning. Because you either would have been hiding under the table in sheer fear of my 3-year-old, or covering your ears from the screaming when the boundaries were set, broken, and we left – but not quickly enough to satisfy the librarians…

  44. diXymiss says:

    I wonder if she reads your blog and will recognize her reflection ~ the eloquent word picture you painted of that small moment in time? A glimmer of the eXtraordinary within the ordinary. I hope so. No doubt she would be deeply moved. I know I was.

  45. applesofgold says:

    This made my day…I know I wasn’t the one in the library, but it felt like my own personal kudos for the day! I feel very valuable all of the sudden *huge grin*

  46. Missy @ Finding Bright Spots says:

    Wow. How easy it is to forget just how important our job is. Thanks for the reminder!
    Although, it is a little scary to think about how I appear sometimes with my three little ones in tow – who all is watching me? Someone always is and I need to remember that it’s my chance to be a light in their world!

  47. Mel says:

    I love how you can take an ordinary moment and turn it into something even more special with words. Thanks for reminding me that what I do is special!! I’m a people watcher to, but I have to admit that I usually find myself more poking fun at them.

  48. Stephanie says:

    Wouldn’t it be great if she reads your blog and saw you pointing her out as a great mom? I think it’s great that you highlighted her here. We could all use the encouragement that we’re doing a good job.

  49. md to four plus says:

    wow.. you just wrote about me! Thank you for a very well written post about the beauty of being a mom.

  50. Superchikk says:

    Thanks for that reminder.
    I was just feeling like I hadn’t gotten anything accomplished today because I spent the afternoon browsing through clearance items at Old Navy and navigating my way around the Wal-Mart that’s being remodeled.
    But I played with my son and sat down to dinner with he and my husband. And I rocked that sweet boy and kissed his forehead when I put him to bed. That’s really the best day ever.

  51. Bonnie says:

    Thank you for that post! It made me cry because sometimes we forget the little things that truly are the big things! Thank you for noticing!

  52. Cheryl says:

    What a lovely reassuring word of support, Shannon…as a library-frequenter as I do my multi-tasking, I’ll be sure to appreciate it in others as you have so deftly!

  53. emily says:

    Thank you for stalking this lovely family in the library and bringing us along with you. You are so right on with this post…Sometimes I find myself wanting to be appreciated and noticed in what I do as a mom. It rarely happens. Until it does.
    And here I am reading on your blog the truth about us as moms. It’s not because we’re so great or wonderful or any of that. It’s just what we do. Period. Thank you for noticing this holy moment in the midst of your ordinary day.

  54. Patti P. says:

    so refreshing and exciting to know they were at the library in the summer! I do hope many visits were done this June and July…it sure makes for an easier Sept through May next school year…

  55. Becky says:

    thanks for that. it is heroic what we do daily and without thinking. also selfless, no one pats us on the back to say “good job”, but we see the results in our children.

  56. pinkcamojeep says:

    Thanks, Shannon. As I began to read, I wondered where you were headed with this post. As I neared the end, I realized, “She’s telling ME I’M a hero” … and I got choked up! (No, I wasn’t the actual woman at the library) This was the first time I’ve been thanked in weeks. Thanks. You’re awesome.

  57. Denise Nielsen says:

    I’m new to blogging, so have been checking different sites. I came across yours thanks to a link from Canadian Living website on WFMW (great idea, by the way). But I LOVE this post on the simple heroism of everyday life – you got it bang on! Thanks.

  58. Rhonda says:

    I agree with your heroic tag here. It sounds so basic, what you describe, but I’ll tell you as a public librarian, it is becoming more rare all the time. I can’t tell you how many adults come into the library in my small town and say, “I grew up here but it is the first time I’ve ever been in this library!” And how many children I have met whose parents never routinely spend this kind of time with them. Kudos to that mom, and kudos to you for noticing and for writing about it.

  59. Kelli says:

    Thank you for such a thoughtful post. I’d like to link this too. I’ve never done that before, but this is such a great reminder that moms do truly heroic things everyday.

  60. Jen says:

    WOW!!! I love your writing and appreciate the insightful and tender way in which you captured this common moment that we have all experienced and yet fail to recognize at the time.

  61. Kirstin says:

    That was so encouraging. Sometimes as a mom I think “what am I really doing”, but I read this, and think “I’m doing alot!” And I’m doing a pretty good job of it too.

  62. Andrea says:

    I have been lurking on your blog for months…just want to say how much I enjoy it! You are a delight.
    God Bless,

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