Being a mom is often a thankless job. Yes, we are rewarded in many ways, and the joy our children bring to our lives is unrivaled. But, some days are hard. I mean really hard. And what’s more, the difficulty often lies in the mundane, the normal: it doesn’t take a remarkable event to create a hardship. We don’t get a prize for soothing our child back to sleep after a nightmare. Nobody knows when we research a symptom in the middle of the night because we want to be sure that our child is okay. There is no pat on the back when we read fourteen books in a row, or play pretend for hours on end. And that’s okay. No thanks are needed. We are happy to do parenthood with all that comes with it. But, sometimes it is hard.
The other day was a particularly difficult one for me. My one year old woke up every two hours during the night (as he still does. Every. Night.) My three year old woke up before the sun insisting that he needed a banana right now. I half sleepwalked downstairs to my disastrous kitchen with a kid on each hip. Crap. Why didn’t I just do the dishes after dinner last night? The day went from there. My kids were overtired but refused to nap. I spent the day dodging tantrums in the grocery store, attempting to tidy up with my teething one year old cemented to my boobs, and tried to entertain my son while I cooked dinner because he’d used up his TV time that morning. We’ve all had days like this: Those days where you try to sneak to the bathroom alone but forget to lock the door. Those days where you’re finally able to put one child down and the other insists on being held. Those days where you are so sleep deprived, you’d like to drown yourself in coffee, but you can’t, because your breastfed baby will be up all night if you do.
By the time my husband walked in the door that evening, I was done. I was touched out, talked out, and ready for bedtime. I hate to admit this, but sometimes I feel resentful that my husband gets to have actual adult interaction throughout the day. On days like this, where I am a shell of myself come dinnertime, I feel like it would be easier if I were the one to go to work while he stayed with the kids. Even though I know that staying home with my babies is exactly what I want to do, and that this time is so fleeting, hard days have a way of skewing my perceptions and priorities.
I braced myself to feel annoyed with my husband. Surely, the first thing out of his mouth would be how tired he was, how long his workday had been. Instead, he walked in, looked around, and said, “wow, mama! It looks great in here! And dinner smells amazing. Thanks for doing all of this!” He walked over and put his arms around me, “Boys, aren’t we lucky to have such a great mommy?” That. That was all it took. Stress melted from my body and I simultaneously felt appreciated and seen.
I want my children to understand the importance of gratitude. I want them to not only feel appreciated, but to appreciate the things others do for them. It is important to me that they witness their father and I consistently thanking one another. Every single night, the second my husband finishes his last bite of dinner, he thanks me for making it. This prompts my three year old to chime in, “yeah! Thanks Mommy!”
The other day, my son was sitting at the table eating his lunch when he started coughing. I stopped folding laundry and went over to ask if he was okay. He looked up and said (in his little three-year-old voice), “I’m fine. Just a cough. Thanks for checking on me though, Mommy.” This small moment filled me with so much pride. Not only did I feel thanked, I felt as though he truly felt gratitude.
These small moments show me just how powerful “thank you” can be. A thank you can completely change my mood. It makes me feel rejuvenated. While I in no way expect thanks, it is so nice to receive it. Keeping this in mind, I have begun incorporating more “thank yous” into my relationships. I realized that although I feel grateful all the time, it is important to verbalize that thanks. When I say, “Buddy, thanks for listening the first time!” my three-year-old’s behavior stays positive. When I tell my husband, “thanks for taking out the trash” he appreciates that I noticed. You don’t need something extraordinary to happen in order to express thanks. Expressing gratitude for the normal, everyday occurrences is just as important. So, right now, tell someone thank you. Let them know you notice the little things they do, and that you appreciate them. Thanks for reading.