When we were small, our parents--if we were lucky--told us that we were doing great. That we drew beautiful pictures. That we mastered lacing. And letters. And spelling. And math. They encouraged us to strive for our dreams. To not hold back. To always, always take pride in our work and do our best. Eventually our grades affirmed our work. Then we graduated, and that paper we received summed up the strides we made, the work we accomplished, the things we learned. We got a job and our salary (hopefully) reflected our accomplishments. All along there were ways to feel appreciated.
And then along comes parenthood. And there isn't much feedback. There are no grades or salaries to help me feel that I've accomplished important things. That I've made great strides. That I am doing my best. Much of the time I work to get ahead only to find that I am more buried under piles of sticky laundry, mountains of unorganized toys, and a whole lot of stress. I look down at myself and see rumpled sweat pants, a stained shirt, unwashed hair, and a little acne (how old am I?). It's hard to feel appreciated by the wee folk who like to bite, smack, step on, puke, and poop on me. But after they do, they go and smile or giggle. I guess that is feedback.
As Thanksgiving approaches, I wonder why I want to feel appreciated, why I want the world to know I'm still here and to validate my existence in some way or another. Shouldn't I be the one sending out all the appreciation? The one feeling thankful? I should thank my mom for doing such a great job raising me while my dad was off with his buddies playing sports. I should remember my grandmother and my grandfather and be thankful that they believed in me and helped pay for my college education. I should be grateful that my husband is 100 percent supportive of my writing efforts and that his job allows me the flexibility to be at home with our kids and working at my own pace. I am humbled by the group of amazing people that I am lucky enough to call friends and that have been there for me again and again. I should be focusing on the teeny bits of good news we get with Preschooler in Chief's health.
I want that to be enough. I don't want to be greedy with my own needs. SoCal Attorney Friend recently emailed me a tear-jerker about the trials of invisible motherhood. How mothers sacrifice time and again without anyone really noticing. All along, we wonder why we do it because the job is so thankless. I'm sure you can get the moral of the story without actually reading that piece. And even though it was super sappy, I agreed with the bulk of what it said. I don't want my kids to have to say thanks for every meal I cook, every load of laundry I do, every crafty project I set up, every cup of juice filled, every game we play, every story I read, every playdate I organize, every adventure we go on. I want them to remember that I was here and that they had a fun childhood.
I also want them to remember that their mother was happy. I don't want my own wants and aspirations to overpower that other stuff. I don't want them to see a cynic or a depressed woman. Yes, that stuff is there as I struggle to find my own way. But I'd like to teach my own children to deal with frustrations and letdowns by setting a positive example. The things that get me down and sometimes wrestle me to the ground are small when I consider all the things that I have to be thankful for.