To my husband who feels underappreciated:
Since the birth of our child and end of my career, I have received minimal acknowledgment of my successes. I cringe when you say, “That hit the spot” after a meal you enjoyed. I know it should be some form of thanks but it makes me angry. I scramble to pull together a meal for your entire family after entertaining all day while you enjoy the first Christmas movie of the season. Alone in the kitchen, bouncing between preparing and cleaning up after myself. Listening to the laughter made possible by my handiwork in the oven as I start putting together the salad. Thankful we do not have to go out to eat for the third time in a single day. I have trained myself to motivated by the moment made possible by the fulfillment of my duties. That did not hit the spot. For me, it missed the mark entirely but adjustments must be made to my perspective.
When they say that being a stay at home mother is a thankless job, it is! Appreciation disguises itself as memories being etched by wounds that are healed on a couch that I keep clean in a sunroom I painted and decorated while the Instant Pot curates my latest masterpiece. I miss being passionate and knowledgeable at a job that does not exploit my weaknesses but suits my strengths. You get to go to work and leave work there, take vacations, earn annual bonuses, raises based on your performance, daily recognition for resolving problems, and the respect of your entire shop. That’s not even the best part! You get two times a day alone in the car, just you with the radio on and the windows down. From solid screaming to talking in circles to a never-ending loop of questions to the future driver’s ed instructor I ride with now, I have never been more jealous of starting and ending a work day (I could end the sentence here) with some relaxing alone time.
Shards of the shattered images I had for motherhood remind me that even my own expectations are unattainable. Instead, I have no boss or job description but take direction from a 5 year old. Her mood dictates my productivity as tears brought on by the suggestion of wearing a long sleeve shirt sparks a chain reaction. 1) Running through the ever changing list of causes for such an outburst and instantaneously choosing the path that will fingers-crossed lead to peace this time. 2) Simultaneously ditching the new recipe for dinner that I’ve excitedly planned in exchange for mentally scanning the pantry for sides to go with frozen fish sticks… again. 3) Trying to recall that complex math equation I learned in high school for an answer to how I’m going to have time to run her spirit shirt through a currently occupied washer and dryer while making it to bed before midnight for the first time this week. 4) Ushering her to my bed across floors that haven’t been mopped by an adult in who knows how long, as a clump of Cooper’s hair swirls past a leaf that I’ve intentionally left for the past few days to see if anyone else would be interested in picking it up. 5) Suppressing the yelling response to a nonsensical breakdown of a growth spurt in action dressed in a tank top and bike shorts on a cold rainy fall day with the false promise of a one minute nap. 6) She hasn’t napped since before she turned 2 but since starting kindergarten, I decipher her irritability as a cry for comfort and security. So, I oblige to her request for a singing backrub and crawl under the covers scooting my leg towards her wandering feet. Those toes somehow find respite in being squished against my thigh and just as a cup must be pressed against the lever to be filled with water, this connection is required for her to fall and remain asleep. I am not sure why I continue to mourn the loss of my former self in exchange for being purely proud of all that I have accomplished. As I reread this interaction, I start to see the successes but it felt like utter failure in that moment.
Stuck between feeling grateful for the role I have been called to play in that honey badger’s life and disappointed in the loss of control I have in my own life. I am jealous of your freedom to excel in a career and bitter from the amount of time I spend each day making your lifestyle possible. Let’s call a truce. I’d imagine that we are both seeking thanks for the sacrifices we make for each other. I propose we approach this partnership in a new light. Instead of standing on our separate mountains seeking praise for the stones we placed under the other’s feet to lift them up, let’s join hands and find the joy in this life we’ve created together. Ditch the mountaintops for a beach towel, so we can be right there in the sand painstakingly molding our life as the tides bring endless change. I see you and I do appreciate you. I am learning that supporting your career and caring for your wellness do not replace your longing to be recognized. Right back at you.
Let’s find ways to stand outside of our roles within the family unit and be unique individuals again. Carving out time to disconnect from parental responsibilities and rediscover our own identities. Learning how to fall back in love with ourselves, allowing us the grace to cherish each other in a whole new way.
Listening to: Easy On Me -Adele