This question stumbled out of my mouth amid a torrent of tears, to which my three-and-a-half year old had no response.
There I was, cross-legged in the middle of the kitchen floor with tears spilling on my lap, spatula still in hand. It was approaching dinner time when the hubby would arrive home and we would all sit to a happy dinner together, at least that was the plan. Only I couldn’t pull myself out of my brokenness.
"Why don't you appreciate me? Don't you love me?"
A full day had preceded us with play times, errands, lessons, and lunches and it had all accumulated to this moment – a crescendo of shattered expectations. One thankless moment was followed by another thankless moment until I had exhausted my entire reserve of resolve.
So, when it was discovered that she would not be getting macaroni and cheese for dinner, but instead would be forced to eat salmon and rice, C’s complaints, whining, and protesting broke the little strength I had left. I crumbled to the floor in a pile of self-pity and exhaustion.
Motherhood, in a nut shell, often feels like a constant giving and very little receiving. That’s just the way it is and, perhaps, should be. This refining sacrifice we make for the little people we love and have been entrusted with is not something we take lightly. We give and give and give and it’s in this giving that we find ourselves being broken by the tiny people who just don’t have a clue what they’re doing. They don’t know what it means, exactly, to be selfish and ungrateful; it’s just the way they are. In fact, it is our responsibility to teach them to be different, to be better, to rise above their own selfishness, but it takes time.
And sweet C didn’t know that her complaint would set of a maelstrom of emotions from her Mama. She didn’t know that her whining was the last drop in the bucket that overflowed the tears. She stared back at me in bewilderment as I asked again, “Why don’t you appreciate me?”
The question isn’t one I have ever asked before (or since) but is one I have thought on countless occasions. Why? For one, our little people don’t know how to be thankful, and they don’t understand that they aren’t the center of the world… not yet. Second, some of us moms are just too hard on ourselves. We don’t let “a little bit” be “enough.” Finally, we don’t hear it enough from our peers or the people who love us. Instead of offering a side-hug and an iced coffee, we offer side-ways glances and condescension because her kids eat sugar and crackers that fell on the ground.
This job, this one called “mommy,” is so, so hard. If we aren’t hard on ourselves, our little ones probably are. If they aren’t whining about something then we are probably berating ourselves for something else. We don’t have a boss, a supervisor, or a co-worker to tell us we are doing a good job. We don’t have a reward system or accumulating vacation days. We don’t even get a paycheck to note that we did something, accomplished something, contributed to something.
We get the same thing, day in and day out. On vacation or not. Weekend or not.
(Really, the weekend is just a tease; it never really comes. You may have expectations for it, but it never happens and instead ends up being just another day.)
There are no badges, no lapel pins, no certificates of appreciation, no star chart. We are often alone in our days left to cheer ourselves along without the help of a team of professionals around us.
Thankless doesn’t even begin to describe it. And, sometimes, insignificant doesn’t begin to describe the way I feel. And in those moments, standing and stirring the boiling rice pot, my will bursts and I am left asking a toddler why she doesn't appreciate me. All the while she looks at me like I have three heads.
But, while I don’t get a certificates of appreciation or employee of the month status, I wake up day after day with a job to do. I am to be Christ to these little ones. It is not my job to make them appreciate me, it is my job to make them appreciate Christ. It is not my job to make them praise me, it is my job to show them how to praise God.
Don’t get me wrong, praise and a cash bonus for a job well done would be nice and very welcome, but my reward looks a little different. My reward wraps her arms around my neck at night and asks me to sing to her. My reward rubs her nose up to mine and giggles. My reward welcomes me with wide open arms and an even wider smile.
There will be more days where I come to the absolute end of myself and feel my flesh longing for someone to pat me on the back. Maybe there will be someone there to give me the reassurance I need and God bless them. But, most likely, I will be alone sitting on the floor crying into my lap and wondering how the day descended to this point.
And in this mundane, thankless, desert land of laundry and dishes I want to remember that, while my eyes are on myself, they should be on my Savior and the little opportunities to be Christ to these kids. And one day, by the Grace of God, their hearts will be opened to the Gospel and they will see themselves in the light of the Cross.
And really, aren't these moments gifts anyway? Yes, gift-moments and they should not be lost in my muddled vision of what it is I am called to do. I am not called to follow my heart but I am called to allow Him to mold my heart to His. I am not called to get the best out of life but to share the gift of Life. I am not called to be served but to serve.
And, well, sometimes serving is hard. And thankless.
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