Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Support Among Parents: 15 Simple Acts of Kindness

Support Among Parents: 15 Simple Acts of Kindness (via Bubby and Bean)
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This year, I've gotten personal about my parenting experience in a couple of different posts. I shared lessons I learned in my first year as a parent (here), and more recently, in a post about transitioning to solid foods (here), I got more specific about the unfortunate judgment that exists in parenting circles - and why support and encouragement are so important. It would be easy for me to go on and on about my feelings on the scrutiny I've seen when it comes to parenting choices, or how fear of judgment initially made me feel insecure about my own parenting journey. But today I want to focus on the positive. Because despite any negative energy that may be present between parents with differing opinions or methods, there is also an incredible bond that inherently exists between people who are raising children. Sometimes it's just a matter of uncovering it. And in my eyes, the easiest way to uncover it is through simple kindness.

After an incident at the grocery store earlier this month, I had an idea. Essley and I were in the same aisle as a mom who was wearing a baby in a carrier and had a toddler in her shopping cart. The toddler was whimpering and had his hand in his mouth (he was clearly teething), and the baby in the carrier was crying loudly, as babies are known to do. Their mom was obviously distressed but doing her best to quickly grab her groceries when two women walked by and one, quite audibly, said to the other, "Maybe that poor child wouldn't be so upset if it wasn't trapped in that newborn carrier and had a little room to breathe." Wait, what? I'm admittedly very pro-baby wearing (even though Essley has never been a huge fan and it didn't work for us like I'd hoped), but even if I hadn't been, I'm fairly certain that my jaw would have dropped equally as far. Clearly this woman had no idea what she was talking about, because carriers can be used well into the toddler years, but regardless - the fact that she felt the need to vocalize her opinion in such a condescending, combative manner (or at all, in that moment) was baffling to me. My first reaction was to defend the mother and confront this woman (I kind of wanted to slap her, if we're being honest here), but I quickly realized that would likely only provoke her to be even more rude, and the mom was already close to tears. So instead, I walked over to the mother and said something along the lines of, "That lady must be a really unhappy person, and I'm sorry that she felt the need to take it out on you. From what I can see you're doing a great job. And your children are beautiful." She looked at me with her chin quivering, then smiled, then reached out and hugged me. She thanked me and told me that I just turned her day around. I didn't even do anything! I just said a couple of nice words in attempt to encourage this mother - but it obviously made a difference, even if just in that moment.

After I got home, I couldn't stop thinking about what had happened. I continued to think about it for several days. If ten seconds of kind conversation could make another parent feel supported instead of judged, then why not continue to do that, and come up with other ways to promote benevolence among parents in the everyday? I decided to put together a list of ideas of how I (or anyone else) could brighten the days of other parents through small, easy acts of kindness. And today, I'm sharing this list with you. Some of these are so simple that they may just seem like common sense, but when we're rushed or stressed, we might not pay attention without a reminder. Others take a little more effort, but often result in great reward. Whether you're a fellow parent or just a kind spirit, these are simple ways to spread good vibes to moms and dads, and to advocate encouragement over judgment (which is the whole premise of the Sisterhood of Motherhood campaign on which I've been working).

1. Say something nice to a fellow parent. That's all. Easy but effective.
2. Hand out positive notecards. Buy or make some fun postcards or notecards, and write something like, "From one mom to another, you're doing a great job!" Hand them out to fellow moms (people you know and strangers too!).
3. Give a gift card to a stranger. Buy a $10 gift card to a local coffee shop or grocery store. The next time you're out and see a busy mom or dad, hand it to them and simple say, "This is for you. Enjoy."
4. Pay for the coffee order for the mom or dad behind you in line. Someone actually did this for me today! It made my whole morning.
5. Hold the door open for a family. You can't get much easier than this, but you may be helping more than you know.
6. Offer to babysit. Tell a neighbor or friend that you're willing to take their kid(s) for an afternoon or evening so that she/he can have a few hours to her/himself. This is truly a special luxury when you're a parent!
7. Send flowers (on an average day). Instead of sending them on a special occasion, just send them on an regular day, along with a note that says "Enjoy the flowers. You're a great parent!" Or deliver a plant or bouquet yourself and leave along with a note on their doorstep.
8. Give up your seat on the train or bus for a mom or dad with a baby. Another super simple way to be kind.
9. Switch seats on an airplane so a family can sit together. I see families having to sit away from each other on flights all the time because people aren't willing to give up their seats. Everyone deserves a comfortable flight, but if where you're sitting doesn't matter much to you, this can be a truly good deed.
10. Offer to help carry groceries. If a mom or dad has her/his hands full (literally or figuratively), this can make a huge difference.
11. Make a homemade treat for a fellow mom or dad. Bring over a pie or some cookies to a friend or neighbor along with a note that says what a great parenting job they're doing.
12. Donate to parents/families in need. Make a donation to a charity that provides assistance for parents and their children who are homeless, have serious financial struggles, or are survivors of abuse.
13. Let a family cut in front of you in line. If you're out on a shopping trip alone and parents with young kids are standing behind you, offer them your spot in line. It's another simple act that can provide great relief.
14. Give your gently used baby or kid clothing to a fellow parent. Instead of selling clothing that your child has outgrown, offer to give them to a mom or dad who could use them for their child.
15. Smile. This one is so easy that it almost feel silly to suggest. But in reality, how many times do you walk quickly by strangers and make zero eye contact? I do it all the time. The next time you see a mom or dad in public, give them a genuine smile. Maybe even step it up and say hi. And notice how good it makes you feel when others do it to you as well.

I hope these random acts of kindness provide helpful ideas for those of you who, like me, are determined to spread support (and lessen judgment) among parents. You can download the high res printable PDF of this list, as seen in the photos above, right here. For even more inspiration in the quest of kindness, watch this amazing video for the Sisterhood of Motherhood (you'll laugh and probably cry too). And please share your own ideas for or experiences with acts of kindness in the comments. I'd love to continue to add to this list over time until it's a massive, comprehensive list of parental positivity and good deeds!

Similac partnered with bloggers such as me for its Sisterhood of Motherhood Program. As part of this program, I received compensation for my time. Similac believes that consumers and bloggers are free to form their own opinions and share them in their own words. Similac’s policies align with WOMMA Ethics Code, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines and social media engagement recommendations. Find Similac on Facebook here.  #SisterhoodUnite #ParentsFirst #sponsored



  1. I love these things whether or not people are parents. I think it's important to think about these things daily regardless of that. A lot of people are going through tough times or might be having a bad day, and simple gestures can go along way. People often forget to be kind to one another and if more people remembered, our world would probably be a completely different place. I'm definitely the person that is always smiling or letting people go ahead of me in the grocery line, and it always seems to change their attitude. Kindness goes such a long way!

    1. I absolutely agree that these are idea that can apply to life outside of parenting as well. It's so easy to just smile at someone, or hold the door for them. It's just a matter of being intentional about it. And you are right - kindness goes a long way!

  2. This is actually quite encouraging as I just put my little boy in a music class and already see judgment among parents there. It's been surprising and honestly left a bad taste in my mouth. I think I'll try some of these this week and hopefully restore my faith!

    1. I'm so sorry you're seeing judgement among parents in your son's class. Essley starts a class in a couple of weeks too, and I do worry about this - but I'm trying to focus on projecting kindness as much as I can. I hope your faith is restored and as you practice these kind acts, they're returned to you! :)

  3. I think this is wonderful, and like Heidi said I think it can be applied to life outside of parenting too. Thank you!

  4. Love this, Melissa! It's really crazy how many negative things people have to say, and it's such a bummer. Positive vibes, encouragement and support can go such a long way. Especially when you're having a really bad day. Thanks for the PDF printable (gonna put it to use!), and I'll stop by later and watch the video when I have more time. =0)

    Another idea --- carry a pack of stickers with you in your bag. When you see a kiddo fussy in line like that, ask mom/dad if he/she can have a sticker. We've done this a few times, and it's worked every single time (especially if the stickers are sparkly or something like that).

    BTW, you're doing an awesome job as a parent! Thought I'd throw that out there. ;)

    1. The sticker idea is brilliant! And thank you so much for your kind words. :)

  5. What a horrible woman! I'm glad you were there to cheer that poor mom up. Anyway, these are great! I obviously haven't had anybody do these specifically because I'm a parent, but a random woman in front of me at Starbucks bought my coffee about a year ago and it was AWESOME. Totally made my whole day. A little kindness is always a good idea.

    1. Right? I had the same thing happen at Starbucks the day I wrote this post and same - it made my whole day.

  6. This is such a great reminder.


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