We all need appreciation. Even if it comes from ourselves
Miriam cradled her baby on her lap. The baby was clearly not comfortable, so Miriam held him upright and placed him against her shoulder, rubbing and patting his back. The baby still seemed unhappy, so Miriam turned him around and cooed in his face while bouncing him gently.
Miriam continued making tiny adjustments, doing everything possible for the baby as he grew, caring for him for many years until he was ready to leave home and start a life of his own. As he walked out the door he turned and waved, casually tossing a barely audible, “Thanks Mom; thanks for everything.”
O.K. It didn’t happen exactly like that. But as far as Miriam was concerned, it was pretty close! “I’ve given everything to my family, all day and all night for three decades. When my kids come home, they still expect me to give them more! My husband appreciates what I do in a general way he doesn’t even know what I do! Everyone just seems to expect it all to happen all the time: food on the table, an organized house, bills that are paid, holidays and simchas all prepared, emotional support with appropriate follow-up, lots of attention and recognition for each family member and more.
“And what about me? Do I get any of that? I know I should just be grateful for the opportunity to serve my family and I should recognize the blessings in all that Hashem has given me, but would it be so bad if the people around me would show some real appreciation? Better yet, let them help out more! I’m really tired of being a one-woman-wonder-of-the-world. I want to retire!”
A person’s mother is not a real person like other human beings; she is a mother. Since Mothers don’t have feelings, they don’t get tired or burned out. They have ever-ready batteries that last for a century or longer. They know everything and they can fix everything. They can do everything too. If they fail in any one of these areas, they are not real mothers. One is allowed to complain that he or she didn’t have a real mother if one’s Mother makes mistakes, takes days off, hires others to do her work or otherwise leaves something to be desired. Moreover, one is allowed to blame all of his or her own failings on the failings of the Mother if the Mother has failed to be flawless.
The only problem is that the mythical mother is only a figment of everyone’s imagination, even her own.
The fact is that women who have children are really just ordinary people. (Shhhhh....don’t tell the kids.) They do get tired. They do need encouragement, support, appreciation, and actual physical assistance. Some fortunate women have husbands who recognize and meet their needs and/or children who openly express their gratitude and offer their help.
Others, however, are taken for granted while still others receive an abundance of complaints and demands. These latter groups get depleted more readily and find their tasks more burdensome and stressful. Indeed, if family members only knew how powerful and energizing their help and emotional support could be, they would heap it generously upon the woman of the house. A happier and healthier mother runs a healthier and happier household.
Nonetheless, it is not always possible to depend on the actions of others. When no one steps up to the plate to provide a woman with the nurturing she needs, she can certainly do it herself! Far from depleting her further, words of self-acknowledgment can heal her even when they are her own. A sign on the fridge that says, “Thanks for all the food preparation you do — you’re the best!” can heal a woman’s weary state even if she wrote the words herself. And why stop at the fridge? She can buy one of those “world’s best Mom” coffee mugs to sip from all day and one of those plush animals that hold a large heart saying, “I love you!” If she wants to, she can put thoughtful little notes to herself in every single room of her house, in her daily agenda and on her wall calendar.
Occasionally, she can “surprise herself” with a small envelope containing cash for a little treat or even a generous gift — the envelope can be tucked into some papers that will be filed later in the week or month and, voila, she will find her well-deserved acknowledgement for another job well-done. And by the way, even if her family does consist of generous supporters, there’s no reason why she cannot join those ranks too. Like all love, self-love has the power to transform a woman into the mother she wants to be.