I speak to mothers every day in my line of work as editor of Box Planet, and it always strikes me that the most common complaint is they are not appreciated for all they do. The complaint comes in many forms -- "The kids never pick up their things," "They're just so lazy, I have to do everything," "My husband gets home and sits on the couch," "Why can't they ask their father?" "If I didn't change the toilet roll no one would," "They didn't even cook on my birthday."
And it always brings to mind the line from the movie "One True Thing" where the daughter finally realizes what her mother has been doing all these years and says: "How is it that you do all this .. and no one notices"
When mothers come to me with this complaint my first response to them is always, "Does your family know what you do in a day? I mean really know?" A simple enough question, but I can almost guarantee the response will never waiver far from, "Well, come to think of it, I'm not sure."
There is little point complaining that no one appreciates what you do if they truly don't know that you do it. No one likes a martyr.
Find out what your family thinks you do
The purpose of the exercise below is to get a clear view of what your family thinks you do and what you actually do for them. Secondly, and the key point of the exercise, is to open a dialogue to either (a) generate a true appreciation of what you do or (b) allocate some of your tasks out to others in the family.
You may be content with the work you do as a mom, from washing and ironing to paying the bills and driving kids from here to there all day but would like a little more thanks for it. In that case your aim is reason (a). If you're not happy and you feel that you are doing far more than should be expected around the house your goal is (b).
There was a time when I used to put all of the clean washing from the line on our spare chair in the living room each day. In the mornings, while my son was eating breakfast, I would fold what was there. Then I would put on a load or two of dirty washing, hang it out and go about my daily tasks. Last thing in the afternoon, I would bring in the washing from the line that was now clean and throw it on the spare chair.
This went on for months. One day my husband came home from work and after dinner we sat down on the couch and he started folding the washing. I was so surprised I asked him why he was folding the washing. Hs reply was, "Well, it's been here for months -- I'm trying to help you out since you obviously don't have time to do it."
I laughed so hard I almost cried -- he had thought that the same pile of washing had been sitting on that chair for all those months. He only knew what he saw -- a pile of washing sitting on the chair every night when he came home from work.
Set aside at least an hour of family time and have your family sit at the table with paper and pen and list what they think you do in a day or week. For younger children who can't write, have them tell you and you write it down.
While your family completes this task, sit with them and on your own piece of paper write what you actually do in an average day or week.
The purpose here is not to reprimand your family (and please make that very clear to them) if they are a long way out, but to get real about what is happening in your household. Are you like the mother in "One True Thing," where no one notices all that you do? Or does your family have a good idea of what you do, but they don't show any appreciation?
Now that you can see what your family does appreciate you for, and what they have no idea you do you, discuss how they feel about their answers and how close/far they were from your real workload.
Tell them what you want.
Based on your results and your dialogue you now have a good gauge of where you stand in the appreciation stakes. You cannot expect your family to be mind readers. Start with:
"Based on what we've seen and discussed from this exercise, I would feel much better about what I do in the house each day if ...."
Fill in the blanks, what do you want? Do you want them to spoil you rotten on your birthday with presents, dinner, no work for the day -- tell them. If you want them to do a little more -- tell them. Be specific about what you want.
Mothers often say to me, "Well they should know what I want." Of course, they shouldn't -- how could they if you don't tell them? They don't have a crystal ball or a mind reader handy. Get clear, get real and get serious about bringing about the changes or appreciation you want from your family.
Remember what we tell our kids -- whining will get you nowhere. If you want action, you have to create action.
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