Can I Get a Little Praise Over Here?
by Susie Orman Schnall
Praise feels good. Like warm bubble baths, beaches at sunset, cozy duvet covers. You certainly don’t need any of those things. But they’re all nice to have around once in a while.
Kids get praise all the time: nice goal, great report card, thanks for helping your sister, you’re doing really well in Latin.
Men get praise all the time: congratulations on the promotion, great performance review, here’s your paycheck, what a great dad you are changing diapers and all!
Moms? (at least outside of their jobs)… good job on getting your kids to school on time 3 days this week, I like your gym clothes, that pizza you ordered for dinner came so fast, Happy Mother’s Day To A Super Mom!
I’m not complaining, just explaining. But on a daily basis, moms don’t get many pats on the back. Unless we’re choking.
When I was working full-time, before the birth of my eldest child who is now 12, I got a lot of praise. Pay raises, positive feedback on client-impressing projects, compliments on my shoes. Maybe I should be ashamed to say that it fed me somehow. But I’m owning that. Sure, I know that I have to accept myself from within and all that other crap. But, again, praise feels good. And for some reason, we moms are supposed to get by without much of it. Kisses and hugs and I love you, Mom’s are really awesome, don’t get me wrong, but I also need that adult affirmation, the feeling you get when you do a job really well. I just don’t get that when I remember to get the soccer team registration and recent photo and health update and commitment-to-bring-orange-slices-on-a-particular-day forms in on time.
Grace, the main character in my debut novel, On Grace, experiences that, too. Here’s what she has to say as she considers her career options after being a stay-at-home mom for eight years:
Yes, there is a sense of fulfillment and identity I can only get by engaging in productive and stimulating work that is outside the realm of my children and their school. And there is something affirming about dressing in dry-clean-only clothes and sitting at a desk in an office that’s not in my home. Something that I felt distinctly when I first graduated college and went off to work that first day in an Ann Taylor suit with the good leather work bag my sister bought me for graduation. Sure, after I exhausted the new wardrobe and all its iterations and I got comfortable with my job, that initial feeling faded and then I just became another drone trying to figure out if I’d already worn the navy skirt suit that week, packing myself into an already-packed subway car, trying to be happy with a paycheck that was in no way fair remuneration for all the hard work I did. But I felt important. And feeling important is magnificent.
I want to feel important again. Unfortunately, I don’t know how many kids have the ability to make their mothers feel that way. Sure, my kids can make me feel proud, and loved, and needed in a way that prickles with pain and pure love at the exact same time. But they don’t make me feel important.
Which leads me to wonder why it’s so important for me to feel important. Is it the praise I covet? Is it the pat on the back from a person of authority when I do a good job? Well, maybe partly. Mostly? Yes. If I could I would mainline praise. And if I could muster enough of my self-esteem to realize I already am important, whether or not an eight-year-old or a highly respected boss tells me so out loud, then maybe I can finally let myself off the hook and relax for the first time in thirty-nine years. Maybe I can finally stop trying so hard to get everyone else to tell me I’m so damn special and just realize that I am.
What do you think about praise?
Author Bio: Susie Orman Schnall is the author of the enchanting, thought-provoking novel On Grace. She also writes essays, editorial, and endless to-do lists and has been featured in the New York Times, Westchester Magazine, and on Huffington Post Live. When she's not at her desk writing, you can find Susie driving her three adorable boys to and fro, reading just about anything, drinking a kale shake, emailing her husband, or trying to get It All done. And if you can't find her in any of those places, she's probably where her heart sings the loudest: at the top of a mountain.
Book Blurb: Grace May is truly excited about turning 40 in a few months. And now that her boys are both in school and she has a stimulating new writing job, the next chapter in her life can finally begin. She can't wait to rediscover the intelligent and interesting woman deeply buried under the layers of mother and wife.
But when Grace loses her job and gets unexpected news from her husband and her best friend, life suddenly gets complicated. Grace stands to lose everything: her marriage, her best friend, and her sense of self. By her 40th birthday party, Grace will realize who and what matter most. With laughter. With tears. With grace.
ON GRACE embraces themes that will resonate with women who own at least one pair of Spanx: fidelity, friendship, and finding oneself at 40. Readers love ON GRACE because it's soulful and sweet, sexy and sad, straight up and smart, and, ultimately, quite satisfying.
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