I was doing carpool one day, and my children were complaining (read: rioting) about the lack of an after school snack for the drive home. They never seemed to understand that my grabbing a few bags of goldfish on the way to pick them up was somewhat of a luxury. I didn’t have to do that. I did that out of love. Love for them because they’re hungry. Love for myself because they’re hangry. You understand. That day in particular, they had no idea what all I had been doing for them, that kept me from grabbing a couple bags of goldfish. If they only knew … “being a mother is a thankless job” I muttered to myself.
That night, my oldest son climbed up in my lap, for his usual evening-time snuggle. I had long forgotten the argument over goldfish on the way home. He said “Mom, I’m sorry for getting mad about the snack earlier. You’re the only mommy I have and I love you so much … Please put your arms around me tighter, Mom …” I smiled. I was melting of course, but also relieved that I was not raising a snack-crazy monster of a human being.
“I’m really glad Dad got you. Because I like you very much” – my son, age 5
Now I will never negate the value of a well placed, “thanks for the goldfish, Mom!” or even a “thanks for the years of prayer and tears; I know it’s tough being a mom.” (haha, ok, ok, let’s not get carried away!) I was reminded that night, however, that there is so much more gratitude to be gained from kids than can be found in just a few words.
Children have this built in ability to speak a momma’s love language. They say “thank you” with a well-timed embrace, a perfectly made craft, a bouquet of hand picked flowers, an evening snuggle that has nothing to do with avoiding bedtime, or the sweet, spontaneous smile of a baby hearing the familiar voice of his mother. I feel acknowledged when my daughter makes me a cup of “coffee” with her play set because she knows that’s my favorite. I feel valued when my younger son offers to let me sleep with his favorite stuffed animal. Truly a sacrifice for him and an honor for me. And I absolutely feel appreciated when my oldest son hesitates for a moment in the middle of his day, looks back at me and says, “you look stressed Mom, how can I help you?” (that’s a REAL quote, y’all!) The reality is these babies of mine know exactly how to show me they are grateful.
So I say being a mom is not a thankless job.
It’s not even a job at all. A job is a guaranteed financial reward. Mothering is a guaranteed financial loss. It’s a precious opportunity, however, that I am thankful for. The “thank you’s” from my children do not always come out in words or at the expected times, but they do certainly come. They come in their sweet little moments of empathy, kindness, sharing and of course, snuggles. And of that, I greatly approve.
Now we are still working on the goldfish riots. My hope, though, is that I am teaching them that a moment of gratitude looks like much more than words. I would propose that our greatest “thank you” as parents may be that of a child who one day becomes a truly grateful adult. Someone who is counting their blessings and understands that living a life of gratitude is the thank-you that keeps on giving. Thankful people are able to do for others, sometimes doing thankless work, knowing that “thank you” comes in many forms.