Mothers can communicate a thousand words with just one look, and I think we have all been on the receiving end of it. Sometimes it wasn’t even from our own moms. It is a look so powerful that a child immediately knows who it is directed to, what it is for, and what the kid’s next move better be. When you see it, you know.

Mother’s have another “look” too, and it is a little less well known but again when you see it, you know. It is the mom communicating with another mom “I get it. I’ve been there.”

When there is a mom trying to quiet her fussing newborn, you will see another mother giving her “the look.” Not the look of frustration that everyone else is showing (or at least it feels like). Rather, it is a gentle and sympathetic smile that communicates: I get it. I’ve been there. I know it is so hard right now, and you feel like you are just surviving. You’re doing a great job and you will make it.
When there is a mom at the grocery store with a two year old in a superhero costume asking their thousandth question on that aisle alone, you will see another mom giving her “the look.” This one is a half chuckle (because they remember picking battles and sometimes that meant a Superman costume worn to City Market) and half wink: I get it. I’ve been there. I know this is an exhausting stage of life. It is fun but chaotic. You’re doing a great job and you will make it.

A working mom juggling the schedules of her elementary kids. A mother of preteens wondering what just happened overnight. An emotionally stressed mother worrying about her teenagers. The proud but uncertain mother of children growing up. Everywhere around them is another mother giving “the look”- I get it. I’ve been there. I know this is hard, you’ve got this. You’re doing a great job and you will make it.

Mothers are often pitted against each other in so-called “mommy wars.” If two people have opposing views, then it is assumed the moms are against each other. But the truth is you will never find a group more empathetic towards, or rooting harder for, one another. If a woman is arguing for her belief, it is simply because mothers are passionate about parenting and what is best for a child. It is not because they are against another mom. It is usually the opposite- they want to help that mother be the very best she can be. Maybe some could communicate it better, but the heart is there. Moms cheer on other moms.

I have a group of friends that I met when I was pregnant with my now 10 year old. We all had children born around the same time. This group could not be more diverse. It has several dozen women from different cultures with different beliefs about everything. It logically would not make sense to put these women together and predict that they would be a close and supportive group for over a decade. But, we have one thing in common that is greater than all the differences: we’re mamas. Being a mother is the ultimate unifier. Because we have one thing in common, we love our children, we can see past the differences and opposing viewpoints and recognize we have a group rallying beside us saying “I get it. I’ve been there. You’re doing a great job and you will make it.”

Why is this? What is this unifying force of motherhood? Any mother can attest, something changes in your heart when you become a mama. It doesn’t matter if the child is biologically yours, yours through adoption, or yours by capturing your heart- when you become a mother, you know. With that comes empathy that is overwhelming- you suddenly can walk in the shoes of every mother around you. You understand the overwhelming joy and the greatest nightmares. It is why I cry during a television show when a child is hurt, because I can imagine the fear felt by the mother. I hold my breath for the kicker who has the field goal to win the game on the line, because I am thinking of his mother who only sees her son at that moment. When I hear about bad news, I am praying for the mamas who are terrified they will get the call that their child won’t come home. We learned this from our own mothers, because of how they loved us. We saw it in our grandmothers and aunts, in the women who we looked up to and in our friends. The example is passed down from one mother to the next.

As mothers we get to be a cheerleader and share wisdom to other mothers. It is not because you did it all correctly. Rather it is because you’ve been there, and you get it. A few nights ago, I was with a few women who also happen to be moms. One asked for advice pertaining to the stage of life her family is in with her kids’ ages. We offered a little advice, but the truth was we all knew that stage was hard and there weren’t necessarily easy solutions. What we were able to do was say that we’d been there and know it is hard and assure her that it would get easier down the road. Sometimes people just need to know that they aren’t alone in their difficulties. Those same friends celebrate when each other’s kids achieve their goals, hurt with each other when their kids are struggling, laugh and enjoy the cute stories that only mamas appreciate.

If you are a mother, remember that you get the honor of standing alongside other mothers. Remember how much you have needed that! Celebrate with the ones who just found out they are pregnant (and don’t share your horror stories of labor). Hold the crying baby so the exhausted mother can have a moment of quiet. Be silly with a child so that they’re comfortable in a new place, therefore their mother will be comfortable. Listen without judgment to the mom who just found out their child made some bad decisions. Laugh with them when they need it, cry with them when they need it, give advice when they ask and most of all just listen. Give “the look” when you see another mom that tells them “I get it. I’ve been there. You’re doing a great job and you will make it.”