Words a Mother Longs to Hear


Expressions of gratitude brighten the day of those we love.

On Mother’s Day, my husband, then a Navy flight surgeon, had to spend the day at the hospital. As I hurried and scurried about the house getting our two boys, who were just four and two, ready for church, I somehow offended my oldest son. He scowled and muttered, “I hate mothers!” Undaunted, I scooted the boys out the door, and once they were safely belted in their seats, I told my son that he needed to think of three nice things to say about me; after all, it was Mother’s Day. He screwed up his face and thought about it for a mile or two, then announced, “Gosh, Mom, I can think of two things, but three is real hard!” I learned that day that my self-esteem could not be dependent on my children.

Obviously, there are many lessons to be learned as mothers. For most of us, it will take years of practice before our lives bear resemblance to Prov. 31:28: “Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.” We know that being a mother is a job that has no end. True, too, are these words that my mother sent to me: “A mother is usually only as happy as her least happy child.” To be a good mother is an awe-inspiring task. When I recognize the power and influence of this elect calling, I am sobered: surely it is not a job to be taken lightly.

There are, however, simple words and phrases we can say to one another and to our mothers which, when used often, are guaranteed to lighten our loads and to bring light into many days.

“Thank you”

Could any of us tire of hearing these words? They need to be sprinkled generously throughout every day. When my eight-year-old says, “Thank you for the nice meal,” before clearing his plate from the table, I know I will happily continue to feed him until he is eighteen and beyond, no matter how many jars of peanut butter and gallons of milk he consumes.

Several months ago, after I finished teaching a Sunday School class of noisy teenagers, a woman stopped me outside the church and said, “My daughter really enjoys your class. Thank you for being her teacher.” That remark fueled my efforts through many a Sunday when I felt like turning in my chalk and eraser.

Last night, as my husband and I sat together on the couch for a quiet moment, he said, “This is a magic room. Thank you for making our home so comfortable and warm.” Needless to say, I’ll remember that comment for a long time when I’m straightening, cleaning, and adding a homey touch here and there. Mothers need to have their work recognized, and we hunger for appreciation.

“I love you”

We may know others love us, but we need to hear the words. Often. My parents often left little notes on our beds expressing their love and appreciation to us, and we have kept that family tradition alive in our home. How fun it is in the morning to find on my mirror a note left there by my early-rising husband. And last week, my youngest child came into my workroom and asked, “Hey, Mom, have you checked the kitchen counter yet?” I hadn’t, but I immediately arose to go see what I might find. There by the sink, in a kindergarten scrawl, accompanying a picture of a bear on a skateboard, were these words: “Mom, I love you.” Those words made my day. No mother can hear them enough.

Once, I jokingly told my husband and children that I expected to unwrap “about a hundred” gifts on Mother’s Day. Of course, I was exaggerating, but they took me at my word. They went shopping together, armed with a list of suggestions, and returned to spend hours giggling behind closed doors, cutting and wrapping. On that Mother’s Day I unwrapped nothing short of one hundred little gifts: individually wrapped pencils and pens; love and service coupons; several paper clips; rolls of breath mints; muffin and brownie mixes (their broad hint to me); and, several lovely gift items. We all had a wonderful time! Laughing, I told the family that I didn’t always need gifts, but I did need lots of hugs. They happily complied. The whole experience said, “I love you.”

“You’re okay”

I was struggling through a period of ill health. I had just had major surgery, and now I needed to return to the hospital. Concerned about how my children were affected by my temporary disability and my absence from the home, I had been prayerful about my needs and fears. The answer to that prayer came through my father, who called from three states away. After listening as I expressed my worries, and after being assured of my family’s love and prayers, my dad said these simple words: “Honey, you’re okay.” Down came the wall of worries with those words. I was okay. My family was surviving the experience. And, even more, I knew that I would continue to be okay in the future, through the impending repeat surgery and beyond. How often I have thought of my father’s sweet words when I’ve stumbled, felt discouraged, or alone. “Honey, you’re okay.” We all need to feel that kind of acceptance and approval.

One of the most refreshing experiences of this year was the night, while setting tables and cooking food for a Relief Society dinner, when five women and I confessed how we really ran our homes. The truth came out: we often cooked in a hurry and didn’t fix elaborate meals; we told of our personal home-management foibles, disasters, and child-rearing woes; and (this was the real moment of truth) we confessed how often we changed the sheets on our beds. We laughed so heartily that a man walked over from the other side of the building and said, “I’m sorry to interrupt, but I really have to see what’s going on. I’m sure I’m missing something wonderful.” And he was. I went home from the church that night feeling reassured. I was not inadequate. I was not a failure. I felt blissfully normal.

Surely, as mothers, as children, as friends, as siblings, and as spouses, we can make any day a delight by saying the words that each of us hungers to hear.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Julie Bell Bowen

Annette Paxman Bowen teaches the Gospel Doctrine class in the Bellevue Fifth Ward, Renton Washington North Stake.