Dear Family, I Need You To See Me

by Colleen Dilthey Thomas
Originally Published: 
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As a wife and mother, I sometimes feel like no one sees me. Sure, I’m there when they wake up and when they go to bed, but that seems almost robotic. I am the one who makes breakfast and drives people to school. Lunches are packed and water bottles are ready. I don’t feel like I am necessarily taken for granted, but I don’t know that they have any idea how much I actually do for them.

My family are the loves of my life. I don’t know what I would do without them. And because of that, I do it all for them. I just wish they knew.

I clean my kitchen sink with bleach so that salmonella from the chicken that I defrosted for dinner doesn’t poison them. I make sure that there are paper towels on the rack in case there is a spill or they need to quickly dry their hands. The bathrooms are scrubbed to keep germs at bay so that they stay well. My washing machine runs at least once a day so that their clothes look clean and smell like “mom’s laundry.” Only my loads have that special scent.

I don’t do any of it for thanks or recognition. But there is a defined reason that I do each and every thing that I do around my house. It is all about making sure that they remain well taken care of. It is an act of love. And when those acts are constantly overlooked, it stings.

If taking care of all of the little things continually goes unnoticed, we begin to think that our life’s work is for naught. If no one appreciates a mopped floor or clean dishes, then what are we doing it for? Taking care of multiple people day in and day out is the hardest job you will ever have. When you are at work and do a good job, at least occasionally, you are probably recognized. At home, no one seems particularly grateful that you took 15 minutes to scrape toothpaste off of every surface in the bathroom. But you did it. You always do it.

And maybe that is where we mothers are getting it wrong. Maybe our families are truly unaware of what we do. Perhaps we need to change that and let them know how hard we work. It doesn’t have to be a boring lecture about our love and sacrifice. Maybe throw an extra chore around from time to time. Come up with a laundry schedule for each of your kids — you can even give them your trade secrets. Help them to see and understand how thin you are stretched.

That is what a mother wants. We want to be seen by our families. We want to mean something more than just being a chauffeur, cook, and maid. Our families need to see that often times, we are in fact the glue that is keeping it all together.

Moms can thwart disaster at home while sending a text for work. Your mom will wash and dry your uniform, magically having it ready just 10 minutes before the game. It was your mother who got up in the middle of the night and nursed you. She is a superhero. Sometimes, she needs to be reminded. And all it takes is just feeling noticed.

Here is what I want. It isn’t a “thank you”; that is empty. How often do you just say thank you as a rote response? Saying thank you looks like changing the toilet paper roll. It is offering to drop the kids off at school so that I can have a minute to myself. How about a big hug after a satisfying meal — and an offer to clean up the kitchen? That is saying thank you.

At the end of the day, we will never stop caring, nurturing, and loving our families. We were blessed with these gifts for a reason. The universe decided that we should be mothers and we need to give it our best. And we will continue to do that for the rest of our lives.

But dear families, please know, we want to be seen. We need to know that we are loved and appreciated. Just a small thank you here and there makes all of the difference in the world. Not words — just returning an act of love with an act of love. It really is that simple.

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