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The thanklessness of motherhood

Jill Smokler

Motherhood, as wondrous and fulfilling as it may be, is an utterly thankless job.

When else is it considered acceptable to be hollered for when someone needs an ass wiping, and not get so much as a thank you for a job well done?

Just last week, I had to turn around immediately after school drop-off, drive back home to find Lily’s cleats, and return to school just to deliver them to her. Did I get so much as a thank you?

No, I got attitude for forgetting her socks.

Back when I brought my laundry to the wash and dry in college, I certainly mustered up a smile and a thank you as it was presented to me all clean and folded in my plastic laundry basket (those were the days). My children, however, seem to think the clothes magically end up clean and organized in their drawers while they sleep. If only.

Dinner is met with eye rolls rather than appreciation and, God forbid, I not have their favorite cereal stocked in the pantry. But when I do have it stocked, 99 percent of the time, do you think I get so much as a “thanks?” No. I do not.

Obviously, I do these things because I love my children and taking care of them — asses and all — is what I signed up for. But every once in a while, a sincere “thank you for everything you do, Mom” would be nice.

That’s why, once I became a mother, Thanksgiving took the cake as my favorite holiday. A day to really reflect on all that I’m grateful for, and even better, a day to be lavished in gratitude myself. None of the Hallmark cheesiness of Mother’s Day and no messy breakfasts in bed to clean up after. Just one day a year to truly be thankful for my three biggest blessings, and to be celebrated by them, as well. Sign me up!

Except it never seems to happen like that.

“What are you thankful for?” I asked the kids a few years back, desperately fishing for compliments when they weren’t flowing as I’d hoped.

“Poop,” Evan enthusiastically responded. Poop? Oooookay, strike one. Luckily I have three kids.

“Eating ice cream,” Ben followed up with. Ice cream? None for you today, punk.

“Ummmmm…” Lily was thoughtful. This was what I’d been waiting for. She was my new favorite, perhaps for life.

“Daddy,” she finally pronounced.

Daddy? Daddy?

Daddy, who was napping on the couch and hadn’t or wouldn’t lift a finger to prepare the delicious dinner you’re about to inhale? Daddy? Daddy didn’t carry you and birth you and sure as hell isn’t sporting stretch marks because of you. Daddy? And ice cream? And poop?! Who the hell raised these children and did they come with a return policy?

“That’s nice,” I mustered up. “What about me?”

“Of course, you,” she responded.

Well, OK. Of course me.

After Daddy, poop and ice cream.

That’s motherhood for you.

The Thanksgiving Project

Proceeds from my book will go toward supporting The Thanksgiving Project, an official 501(c)(3) charity that has helped over 4,000 families celebrate the holiday. Keep reading to find out how Jill Smokler and the Scary Mommy Nation started this worthy cause!

Scary Mommy has always represented the honest side of motherhood. We believe there is no shame in admitting parenting is far from easy and the gig is not always all it’s cracked up to be.

Together, we struggle with feeding babies, not getting nearly enough sleep and showering far less frequently than we’d like. We commiserate over sending kindergarteners to school in the fall and groan when the year comes to a screeching halt in the spring. We vent about our tweens’ attitude problem, the smell of our sons’ rooms and our husbands’ snoring. Motherhood is easier because we share it — the good, the bad and the scary — with one another.

But for all the struggles we share, being able to provide the basics for our children shouldn’t be one of them. Back in mid-November of 2011, I read several upsetting confessions on the Scary Mommy Confessional:

I can barely afford to feed my family. It’s humiliating.

I am so broke I went to get a food box. They told me I make too much money and I just cried and cried. I have no food. I don’t live extravagantly. I work at the welfare office. I can’t even tell my family how bad it is.

Thanksgiving dinner? Ha. I can’t even buy a loaf of bread.

My husband just lost his job. I have no idea how we are going to put food on the table.

As I began the preparations for my own Thanksgiving dinner, I couldn’t shake the fact that moms — moms just like me — wouldn’t be able to have celebrations of their own. Thanksgiving, a holiday that should be about nothing but love and gratitude, was anything but for these moms. On a whim, I turned to my community: If these women (or others who were struggling as well) could step up and ask for help, would the community join me in helping them?

Some quick research told me that the average Thanksgiving dinner costs $50. I offered to buy the first two people who needed help a grocery store gift card and hoped to match up anyone else I could. I thought maybe we’d be able to help a dozen or so families. Instead, I learned just how amazing the Scary Mommy community is: In four short days, we raised $18,000, buying dinner for almost 400 families in need. It was one of the proudest moments of my life.

Thanksgiving is never going to be perfect; the turkey will be overcooked, someone will forget to add sugar to the cranberry sauce or the pie will fall on the floor moments before serving. But, like the low moments in motherhood, those things are quickly forgotten as we remember what really matters: our children, and our great love for them. Because that’s what the holiday is all about.

In her all-new book, Scary Mommy’s Guide to Surviving the Holidays, Jill Smokler and other Scary Mommy Nation contributors talk of all the highs and lows of the holiday season.

Check out the rest of our Thanksgiving coverage

Thanksgiving with kids

Your first Thanksgiving as a new mom is going to suck cranberries
Kids’ gratitude board for Thanksgiving

Creative and quick ways to be thankful

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