Your job is very important. You know that, of course—everybody knows it and says it. You are the main caretaker, teacher, and role model for your young kids, and still-important figure as they go off to school and start being their own caretakers.
You’re important. This involves lots of work. Lots of being patient when kids are screaming. Trying to do the right thing and set a good example while being a corral-er and disciplinarian. Lots of things like giving up your time and sanity to be with individuals whose vocabulary and thought levels are much lower than what you’re capabilities or education, and yet still stretching your brains to the breaking point to come up with answers to questions you didn’t know existed. Trying to do 100 things every day over and over and only getting a few of them done, and none of them well. Not having much time for the friendships you want or the sanity to even have normal conversations with your husband. You have so much to do you hardly have time to be real human being.
But you’re not important simply because of what you do. Nor is it true that your importance means you need do, do, do. You are important because you are mom. Not because you do the things that a mom does, but simply because you’re mom and you love your kids, even when you don’t feel like you’re showing it very well. You’re important because of who you are, not what you do.
You’re doing a better job than you think you are. It’s hard to see because you never get a progress report from your little bosses; you never get praise or accolades. If anything, you probably get the angry “I hate you” when you’re actually doing the right thing.
But what they don’t appreciate now, they will appreciate later. The things they never thank you for today will be something they will thank you for tomorrow.
I never told my mom how much good she was doing when I was growing up. Frankly, I didn’t know. I couldn’t appreciate it. The thing about kids is that they react to bad parents right off, but they are at equilibrium if they have good parents. Good parents are ‘normal’ to them, and therefore thankless.
But then I grew up. And then I saw how well my mom had done all those years. I realized things she had done deliberately that I had taken as a fact of life, not knowing any better. I realized that all those agonized times she said or did things I didn’t like, she was actually shaping the better parts of my character. If she hadn’t gone against the evidence of my sullenness and kept at it, I would be a worse person.
Moms fight the battle against entropy so that kids not only don’t have to but won’t even know that it is there at first—until later, when we’ve been given the tools to handle it; when we’re more than just survivors, but are ready to be fighters for the good. Moms make life happy and beautiful so that later on you know what goodness and happiness looks like so you can seek after it.
My mom was beautiful for who she was. She was beautiful because she loved me when I most definitely wasn’t lovable. She was beautiful because she was herself. I learned as much from her just being who she was than from anything she did on purpose. I learned that beauty isn’t as the culture sees it and that cheerfulness smoothes over every ridge and ruffle. Not because she strove to teach me those things, but because she had already been believing them and living them for a long time. It’s part of who she is.
Moms, you are giving your kids the good parts of yourselves. You don’t have to try for that to happen. You don’t have to do, you just are.
One day, we’ll thank you. Especially because we’ve watched you thank people a million times, and while there’s no evidence of that lesson sticking yet, it has. The fruit might take a few more decades, but it’ll be there. I know it’s a long time to wait. Which is why I want to tell you now: thank you.
You can’t see it, but you’ve already changed our lives. Just by who you are. Just by who you aren’t. Thank you. Thank you for trying. We love you. You’ve done well. More than good enough. We’ll turn out okay. A lot of you feel like you’ve given up practically everything, and you have—and one day that will come back to you. We will shine because of what you’ve said and done and been during these early, thankless years.
Don’t stress. You’ve got what it takes. Thank you. Thank you again.
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