Life's Little Details: Knitting, Sewing, Green Living, Frugal Living and Cooking In A Little Corner of Southern French Countryside.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Unappreciated Gestures

For the past week or maybe a bit longer, I have been feeling down. I was fuzzy as to the reason, feeling that it was surely 100% related to my being far from family on my birthday, but my daughter brought it all clearly into focus for me this evening.

We are currently a bit low on funds. We've been doing fine because I have been making a real effort to save in as many ways as I can. This means more work for me. I bake more. I have to put more thought and time into meal preparations and gift giving. And we won't even go into the added bother of using cloth diapers. There are clearly perks to doing some of these moneysaving things, like the massive decrease we've seen in our trash pile-up (we don't get curbside service out where we live and have to haul it in ourselves) or the fewer trips to the store. But - and this is a big but - the workload was already more than I could handle in many ways. Luckily, I enjoy baking and can have some fun with creative gift-giving, so it's not all bad, but a bit of appreciation goes a long way toward proper payment for these tasks lovingly accomplished for others each day. What do I get, though?

Instead of thank yous and pleases or hugs and kisses, I get grief. Despite the lack of money, I decided to splurge this evening by taking our two kids to a carnival in a nearby town. We all know these are sinkholes for your hard-earned cash. Each twirl of the merry-go-round is like the psychadelic spin of a blackhole sucking the coins and bills from your pockets, never to be seen again. I knew this in advance but took the kids anyway, knowing they'd have fun - thinking they'd have fun, perhaps I should say. And, they did, until the moment came that they didn't get exactly 100% every single thing they wanted. Actually, that's not accurate. My 20-month-old was completely content with his first carnival experience. He quietly road the merry-go-rounds and poneys with a serene look of pleasure.

But, then there was his sister, satisfied only until she received a prize and later decided it wasn't exactly what she'd wanted. After picking it out and removing its packaging, she wanted to give it back and get another. This is when the fit started. I was able to contain it with a simple explanation of manners under such circumstances. Shortly thereafter, however, I did not have the foresight to leave before my friend purchased carnival food for her children. After my refusal to do the same, the real temper-tantrum commenced. So, this is how our hour of fun at the local carnival ended with approximately 40 minutes of screaming, silent treatments, and other forms of toddler abuse on the way home (the most common being the "you're not my mommy anymore" and "you're a mean mommy" arguments she falls back on with such frequency). I never give into these tactics, but she continues to use them. This time I was even able to mostly refrain from responding with yelling and other undesirable punishments. Instead, I explained that this is not the way to thank others for doing us favors, and she would be spending some time in her room to ponder this fact.

What really shocked me about all of it, though, was not so much her tantrums but my reaction to them. I was genuinely hurt by all of it. I came home almost in tears and have stayed in this mood for the entire evening. Her 40-minute tantrum amplified the feelings of underappreciation I have been experiencing lately.

You see, I have no job outside the home. This family and our home is pretty much my entire life. I knit and blog somewhat as an escape during my quiet moments. These hobbies are a way of feeling some sense of accomplishment and fulfillment when others refuse to appreciate the little muffins, cookies, bread, waffles and other edibles I make for them on a daily basis (or the fact that their favorite pink shirt somehow gets clean each time they wear it). I can't bury my head in a pile of paperwork at the office to gain some sense of self-worth when I don't get any kudos at home. This is all there is. And, yet somehow it all goes unnoticed, IT being my efforts, my love poured out to them on aluminum platters and studded with chocolate chips. They devour it whole, sometimes with a smile and a happy grunt, but rarely with any word of thanks. Most of the time, the smile and grunt suffice. It is enough to see they like the fruits of my labor. These are the moments it pays to be a mommy. But, on days when I'm stepped on even when I've gone out of my way to please - well, that's when it hurts to be a mommy.

I guess what I'm trying to say with all of this is: don't take those little everyday favors for granted. Thank Mom for the cookies. Thank your husband for the not-up-to-par meal that kept you from having to cook. Thank your children for actually finishing that list of chores. You just might hit them on a day when they need it.

So, although I've finished my sockpaltwoza socks and a bookmark for my secret pal, as well as having started a pair of socks for my husband, this is what is on my mind. The knitting will just have to wait till another day.