Everyone’s heard it a thousand times: “Motherhood is a thankless job.” And I can’t be the only one who simply does not agree. Actually, I’d say every single good mother (and even some bad) would disagree with this statement if they truly thought about it.
Really, just stop and think about it for a second. If you are a good parent — and by good parent I mean love your children and do what you believe is best for them, and raise them the best you can — can you seriously say you feel that no one is ever thankful for you?
I understand that every parent is different and every child is different and every family is different. I understand that some children have disorders or diseases or other ailments that may prevent them from being as thankful as mine, through no fault of anyone. But can you say that no one ever shows thanks for what you do?
I believe in the term “show thanks,” not “say thanks.” This goes along with “actions speak louder than words,” which is, like, an American life-slogan, right? Yes, it’s nice to hear the words, but thanks is a two-way street. Don’t expect someone to voice their appreciation if you cannot be expected to look a little deeper and find it.
My child thanks me every single day. Literally. I have taught him manners and to be as polite as possible. He (usually) says “please” when he wants something, “thank you” when he gets it, and “you’re welcome” when someone thanks him. Even the simple “Thank you, Momma” after I turn on his favorite show is thanks. It is his way of voicing his thankfulness for what I do. It may be a small thing, it may be mundane. But he is thanking me. He is noticing that I am doing something for him. He realizes he would not be able to do this without me, or that it made it easier for him. And he is thanking me for that.
I know that it is not always quite as easy to teach your child to be polite. I have partially raised, helped raise, and watched people raise many children in my short time in existence. I know how difficult some children can be. But any “thank you” is thanks. If you have ever heard those words come from your child’s mouth, you have been thanked. In my case, my son happens to say it to every little thing, so I feel extra thanked.
Of course, there are many things that children don’t realize we do. The countless loads of laundry so they not only have something clean to wear, but the last-minute laundry so they can wear their favorite shirt to a special occasion. The regular feedings. The paying the bills. You know, normal life stuff. 99% of children probably will never come up to you and say “Hey, thanks Mom, you know, for keeping a roof over my head and making sure I don’t starve to death or run naked in the streets. Thanks for making sure I’m not still peeing in my pants at age 16; thanks for cleaning up all the vomit I used to aim at your eyeballs and in your mouth when I was a baby; thanks for caring about me so much that you do things I think are evil and ruining my life.” No, that probably won’t happen while they’re still children. But, most adults do realize their parents did these things, and most adults do end up thanking their parents for being so amazing.
Have you thanked your parents recently? If you feel unappreciated, have you ever considered that they might feel the same way? Or that you have the power to change that, and by doing so, you may be setting an example for your children to show their appreciation for you when they’re old enough to understand? Your children will thank you, simply for being you, at some point in your life (given you’re all blessed enough to have long, healthy lives). But it’s up to you to teach them to do so.
But, I’m sure you’re thinking “Well that’s fine and dandy, but my child(ren) is/are only two-years-old and scream(s) at me all day long because I can do nothing right.” I have a hard time believing that. Your child may seem like he is screaming at you day and night, but he’s not. You may feel unappreciated, but you’re not. It’s the little things — you just have to look for them.
When you come home from work, or school, or the store, or from taking the dog for a walk, does your child run up to you and hug you? That is her way of saying Thank you for coming home to me, I missed you, I love you, I need you.
When you make your child’s favorite food, does he get excited and actually eat it for once? That’s his way of saying Thank you for making this for me, I love you, I need you.
When you get your child a special toy, do her eyes light up? Does she plays with it for the entire day and say it’s her favorite toy? That’s her way of saying Thank you for thinking about me, I love you, I need you.
When your child gets scared, does he come looking for you, scrambling up into your lap? That’s his way of saying Thank you for keeping me safe, I love you, I need you.
When your child is playing, does she ask you to play along? Even throw a fit if you won’t? That’s her way of saying Thank you for being fun, I love you, I need you.
When you teach your child, does he learn? Does he repeat the numbers or colors or alphabet because you taught him? That’s his way of saying Thank you for caring about me, I love you, I need you.
When you check on your child before you finally go to bed, after she has fallen asleep, is she sleeping peacefully in her bed, with her blankets and pillows and toys, comfortable and more beautiful than anything you’ve ever seen? That’s her way of saying Thank you for every single thing you ever do for me. I may not voice it, but without you I would not have this life I love so much, and you are amazing.
Obviously, I could go on and on. But I think you get the point. Your children thank you more times than you could possibly count. With nearly everything they do, they thank you. Yes, it gets hard sometimes. It gets really hard a lot of the time. I’ll admit, I have several moments nearly every day when I wish I could just lock my son in a closet somewhere. But I don’t do it, because I love him. And although he may never know how he escaped a Harry Potter life because of my love, somewhere deep down he does know that without me he would at least have another life. And somewhere deep down he knows that he is happy with his life, even if he is unhappy with every single thing I do that day, or week, or month. And all of the little, normal, mundane, sometimes annoying things he does show his thanks, every day, even on bad days.
When your child wakes up crying in the middle of the night, they are not trying to send you the message that they do not appreciate the sleepless nights you endure. They are showing you how much they love and need you. And honestly, I don’t know what could show more thanks than love and need.
When I see the resemblance in my son’s feet and mine, I know he is thanking me for giving birth to him. When he says something the exact same way I do, I know he is thanking me for being his mom. When my son dances around the room, I know he is thanking me for giving him the chance to dance. My son thanks me with every kiss, every hug, every smile, every cry, every laugh, every breath. My son thanks me every second he is alive and well. I just know to look for those thanks.
*Just in case you are having one of those horrid days that feels like no one will ever appreciate a thing you do — thank you. Thank you for the cleaning and the cooking and the crying and the worrying and the loving and the playing and the dancing and the sleeping and the non-sleeping and the rhymes and the stories and the presents and every single thing you do every day to guide your child to be the best he or she can be.
(I have spoken to many mothers lately who feel unappreciated because their significant other does not contribute or acknowledge their efforts. This is not proof of a thankless motherhood; this is proof of a thankless relationship. We mustn’t get the two confused. But, I think that might tie in to another post, so I’ll hold off on that.)
(For the sake of everyone’s sanity, I won’t get into the ‘motherhood’ vs. ‘fatherhood’ vs. ‘parenthood’ vs. ‘child caretaker’ argument in this post. That also is for another day. But know that I feel they are all equally challenging and equally wonderful.)
(I admit, I am biased. I currently only have one young child — but at one point was raising three — and he is pretty damn good, as far as toddlers go. I will also admit that while I originally intended to gear this post towards all mothers, it is now more-so for mothers of grown or young children. Maybe another day I will write about the troubling teenage years, but I feel that right now I should stick to what I know.)
(Parent-Pity-Parties are an ongoing theme in this blog. Click to read Part One: “[Not] The World’s Toughest Job”.)