A stranger told me I’m a good mother once, and I’ll never forget it

Mum kissing toddler wearing beanie

To the sweet lady in the corner shop, I haven’t forgotten you and never will.

You have no idea how you picked me up that day and that your words continue to now, even though it’s been years since you said them to me.

I can’t pay you back but I am paying it forward, and this is why.

I was having a day

When you spoke those magic words to me, I was having a day. Not the worst day of my life, just an ordinary mum day. The kind of day where you leave the house unshowered, your hair in a greasy mum-bun with a little one who has been pushing your buttons all morning and just needs to get out. 

We walked to your shop. My son’s small hand in mine and a feeling of release – I needed to get out too.

As we chatted about the birds in the trees and if we liked bulldozers better than dump trucks, I breathed and started to unwind.

Then we entered your shop.

Parent holding toddler's hand

A tantrum diverted

I don’t know why your convenience store set him off. Maybe he felt restricted being in there (so much stuff and so little space). Maybe it was the lighting or the fact that he just wanted to keep walking in the sunshine talking about trucks. But I knew a battle was brewing.

I could feel his hand flinging mine away and when the whinging started I knew I had to diffuse things or it would turn into a screaming meltdown quicker than Carl can transform into the Super Truck.

So I crouched down

Not realising you were watching me, I knelt down to face my little one, his big brown eyes welling with tears over something that only a toddler would cry over. I spoke gently and simply to my little love. Informing him that I just needed to buy one thing – milk, and that as soon as I had fetched it from the fridge over there, then walked him to the counter and paid for it (and he can hand over the money!), we would be back to our walk. 

To my surprise, he calmed down and accepted this. The tears went away and the tantrum dodged!

When I turned to walk towards the fridge, there you were.

Those magic words

“You are a good mum,” you said to me. “The way you just spoke to him was beautiful. Well done.” Then to my boy, “What a lucky boy you are to have such a nice, good mummy.”

Then you opened the fridge for me and grabbed the milk.

Smiling, I walked to the counter with you and my boy, excited to hand you the $5 note. 

“Thank you,” I said. “That’s so nice to hear. I needed to hear that today. Actually, I think us mums need to hear that a lot!” 

Editorial: Mum and toddler


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Paying it forward

Whenever I am having ‘a day’ I remember you. When I feel myself losing it at the kids or beating myself up with mum guilt over this or that, you flash into my thoughts. A little reminder that no, I am not a terrible mother. I am a good one. And I know this because even a stranger told me one day!

Now I try to be like you. 

I know how powerful your words were to me. I can’t pay you back, but I am paying it forward. I am the stranger at the park or in the shops now who praises other mums on their mothering. And even though I am no longer drowning in nappies and my hair is washed and clean (well most days), I won’t stop. Because all mums need to hear the golden words:

“You are a good mum.”

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