When the work moms do goes without thanks.
The work we do as moms can go thankless sometimes. Ever feel that this momming job you do is not appreciated? I remember the very first time that I felt all the motherhood things I did were just thankless work.
When my twins were 18 months old, I had a conversation with one of them that I didn’t expect would affect me the way that it did.
I sat down on the couch with one of my boys. His baby brother just went down for his nap, and his twin brother was playing with toys in the corner of the room. My son was sitting next to me, waiting for daddy to come home.
The twins didn’t talk much at 18 months, but they understood everything perfectly. Well, they did talk, but it was in their own language that I sometimes thought they made up just to avoid speaking to adults.
“I love you, Sunny-Boy,” I said to my son. He looked at me and grinned. “Do you love mama?” I asked. With the cutest smile on his face, he nodded. “How much?” I asked. He brought the palms of his hands together in front of his face and started moving them apart, stopping at the width of his shoulders. He looked at me again, smiling.
“Wow, you love mama THAT much?” I asked. He grinned and nodded again. “I bet you love papa, too,” I said. His eyes lit up. He nodded again and immediately started moving his hands apart to show how much he loved daddy.
This time, his little hands did not stop at the width of his shoulders. He stretched the hands out so far that it seemed he wanted to touch two opposite walls of the room at the same time.
“He loves you too, sweet boy,” I said as I ruffled his hair. But something inside of me shifted. I didn’t expect his expression of love for his daddy to affect me this much.
It left me feeling unimportant
Here I was, spending all my waking, and sometimes sleeping hours with my babies, tending to every need they have. Cooking for them, making sure they ate well, cleaning up their messes, changing their diapers, playing with them, reading to them, singing to them, wiping their tears, kissing their bruises, and so, so much more.
My days were dedicated to them. And my son essentially told me he loves daddy more.
It was silly of me to think anything of it back then. He missed daddy, he was excited to see him, to play with him, to wrestle him down to the ground as my husband pretended that my 18-month-old son was stronger than him. He was waiting for daddy to arrive with anticipation.
Maybe it was the constant feeling of complete exhaustion, maybe it was the lack of self-care, or maybe it was the fact that I needed to have a conversation with an actual adult, but I felt completely undervalued that day. I felt that all the work I did was thankless.
I allowed myself to feel a little sad for a minute. A small tear rolled down one of my cheeks and I quickly wiped it away making sure my son didn’t see it.
Daddy came home soon after, and every family member met him at the door, jumping up and down with excitement, including myself. Daddy was home! This was the highlight of our day. My short-lived sadness evaporated into thin air.
The thank you’s and appreciation
As time passed by, little by little my children started to express their love for me. At first, it was a spontaneous hug or a kiss. Then it was the prettiest rock they’d find at the park or a tiny flower they picked for mama in the grass. It was a piece of candy that they knew I liked. It was drawings and play-dough figurines, given to me with words, “I made this for you, mama!”
I remember the day I first heard “I love you, mama!” when it was said without prompting. I remember when I first heard, “Mama, you are the most beautiful girl in the world!”
As they learned their letters, I started getting notes from them. There were I love you’s, and there were thank you’s. “Thank you for cooking for us,” “Thank you for getting our clothes clean,” “Thank you for taking us to the park.” And many, many more.
Here are some of the actual notes my kids wrote to me and about me:
“I love my mom. My mom makes food for me. My mom is nice to me. My mom likes me very much. My mom hugs me.” 6-year-old
“You are an angel.” 7-year-old
“Dear mom, I love you. You are so sweet! Thank you for doing the laundry, dishes, cleaning up the kitchen and the house.” 7-year-old
“You are so beautiful, mama.” 7-year-old
“I love you and I will never stop writing these notes!” 7-year-old
“You are pretty, great, and awesome. Thank you for being my mom and taking care of me. You are the best mom on earth. You always care for me, that is what a real mom looks like. You look like a queen!” 7-year-old
Do you feel undervalued?
If you’re in the season of doing thankless work, please know that there will come a time when you will see the “payments” coming in. All this hard work will not feel thankless forever. You have the world’s most highly paid job. Keep going, hard as it may seem. The dividends will come around soon enough.
And when they do, cherish them, and remember them often. The hard days may become fewer, but they won’t stop. Kind words from your children, even those said and written long ago will make everything better.