To the Discouraged Mom
My day had started with a meeting with one of my clients—a small non-profit that feeds starving children around the world. I enjoy working with them and my heart beats quickly for the work they do. Client meetings don’t happen often, but as a freelance writer, they do on occasion give me a reason to shower and dress in something other than workout clothes at least once or twice every month or so. That morning I had sat in a meeting and had felt privileged to be working alongside this company, not to mention that I also felt valued, appreciated and intelligent.
Soon enough, the meeting ended and I headed home to the laundry list of tasks and chores and childcare needs. Suddenly I felt behind, short on time, pulled in several directions and tired of the everyday monotony. But the low point was yet to come.
I had happened upon two new recipes that I thought my family would appreciate: tomato basil soup and quinoa cakes. I made sure to prepare things ahead of time, hoping that I would be able to run a couple of miles right before dinner. Yes, there was still snow on the ground, but I was craving some fresh air. Unfortunately the schedule didn’t work as well as I had hoped. By the time Matt got home from work, the sun was setting, the temperatures were dropping and dinnertime had arrived.
Then we sat down at the table. My attitude had already taken a hit, so when the kids started complaining about dinner, I wasn’t in the mood to hear it. It ended with one child being sent to bed early and me sulking in the kitchen. While cleaning up, I asked myself why I was feeling that way. Then I figured it out.
That morning, I had held a great conversation with my client about poverty, starvation, developing nations and bureaucracy. We not only discussed those issues, we also chatted, laughed together and caught up on each other’s lives. They showed great appreciation for the work I do for them and I felt fortunate to be able to work with them. It felt good.
At home I put in that same effort, but the rewards I get aren’t always as obvious or straightforward. My client didn’t pout and complain about the work I’d done, and yet that’s a common response from my kids, especially at the dinner table. I’m not saying every day or all moments are that way, but I am saying that I realized that evening just how difficult motherhood is. It’s a lot of giving and doing and repeating again and again, but the affirmations don’t always equal the effort.
Don’t get me wrong; I am blessed with a very supportive husband, and we are teaching our kids to be grateful and thankful. But there are moments when I have spent my days folding laundry, vacuuming floors, soothing cries, managing naptimes and eeking out a few hours of writing, and I don’t have the energy left to hear the complaints about what’s on the dinner table.
I’m sure I’m not alone in this experience, especially when so many moms in my generation have come out of higher education and careers where we are accustomed to getting feedback and direction and affirmation for a job well done. Sure we get finger paintings and sticky kisses, but little ones don’t give us grades and reviews in the way we have experienced in our schooling and our careers. And maybe that’s part of the problem; those dinner complaints often feel like performance reviews…very bad and judgmental ones.
So, to all you moms out there who are feeling discouraged and tired and underappreciated, let me say I know what you’re feeling. I know it’s tough. I know there are days when you’d rather phone it in, when you wonder if what you are doing makes a difference or even matters. Let me tell you, it does. The fruits of our labor might not be realized immediately, but you will see the pay off. It’s just not always in ways we recognize or expect. There is no standardized test or report card that tracks our progress. There is no performance-based bonus for a job well done.
But the rewards are there in those finger paintings and sticky kisses. The rewards are in the please and thank-you’s, and impromptu hugs. The bonus is the little person who calls you “Mom” and looks to you for guidance. It’s a different rewards system than our previous training had prepared us for, but if you stop and breathe, you’ll see it. Just don’t let it get lost under the stack of laundry, the piled up dishes and the dinnertime complaints.