When our kids are young, the days blend into one another. Working to keep everyone alive, fed, and clothed (at least in public) until falling into bed each night is what we sign up for. Learning to take a shower at lightning speed, or feeding one child while helping another put together a LEGO set, become resume-worthy skills. It’s all deliciously wonderful, and yet exhausting at the same time.
And our children don’t appreciate it.
But it’s okay, because we don’t expect them to. If our kids don’t notice their jeans are on backwards, they certainly won’t realize their mother is wearing the same outfit for the third day in a row because her days are filled with more important things and there is literally no time left over for such nonsense.
And of course, a toddler or young child probably isn’t going to tell us they appreciate all we do. They are more concerned that their grilled cheese isn’t cut right, they don’t have the blue cup, or that their socks feel funny. At most, we expect little ones to use their manners — say please and thank you, and pick up after themselves — after all, this is when we start to see the reward of raising a decent human being. And as mothers, we also know they see us as the fixer of all things and that they count on us. We know we are their person — and the cuddles, sweet kisses, and the way they look at us is enough.
But I’ve found as my kids get older, I am wanting more from them: more recognition and more appreciation. Even writing those words makes me feel vulnerable. We aren’t supposed to want too much for from our kids, right? They are just kids!
On the other hand, if we don’t expect more from them, we are raising ungrateful brats.
By wanting more appreciation, I’m not talking about being a “needy” mother. You can want to be noticed by the people you work so hard for and still not be desperate for attention. At the same time, wanting to be noticed is a normal and natural feeling that doesn’t go away when you become a mother, even though you are warned it can be a thankless job.
I’m also not talking about raising entitled children. But we’ve all experienced frustration that comes on hard and fast when you are exhausted but still parent your butt off — and your child is oblivious.
The other morning, I told my kids I was struggling to keep everything straight – that their social calendars, appointments, and school functions have been on steroids lately. I told them we needed to take Saturday off and to please refrain from asking me to have friends over or be taken anywhere.
I didn’t expect a foot massage or a long poem about all I do for them and how amazing I am. I mean, it would have been wonderful, but I do recognize this isn’t typical behavior for two teenagers. All I wanted was for them to hear me — to take note that their mom does a lot and probably needs a break — and respect how I’m feeling and chill out for a night.
But it didn’t go over that way and I was extremely frustrated.
I don’t expect them to understand what it’s like to be me. Maybe they will someday when they have kids of their own, but maybe they never will. But being seen and heard by the very people you are doing it all for would go a long way — and it’s not expecting too much.
I’m not going to give up on this notion, either. Because there is nothing wrong with wanting our kids to see us as more than just their mom who can “get it all done with one hand tied behind her back.”
We deserve more.