The joys of motherhood often get lost in the daily drudgery of this little journey we call life. It’s hard to show gratitude when we’re knee deep in diapers, bad attitudes and dirty dishes.
The pile of dishes stacked beside the sink causes us to groan in frustration, knowing that it is up to us to clean them while the muddy footprints on the floor remind us that it is time to clean the house.
Our stomachs growl and we sigh in resignation knowing that the only way dinner will be served is if we stop whatever it is we’re doing (paying the bills, folding the laundry, tending to a child) and dedicate the next bit of time to cooking.
Our children yell and fight and disobey and it’s easy to forget how endearing and innocent they are until we gaze upon them while they are sleeping and then we chastise ourselves for our impatience and short tempers.
Some days it feels like too much. Too much repetition. Too much monotony. Too much giving.
Those are the days we want to scream selfishness. We want someone to pop over and carry our load. We want desperately to kick our feet up and sleep, undisturbed, through an entire night.
Sometimes it’s subtle. Slowly we stop doing our best. We start cutting corners. We flip the switch to survival mode. We let our anger go unchecked, the dishes go unwashed, the attitudes go undisciplined.
Other times it rushes in without warning but it stops us dead in our tracks. We give up in little ways (or for some of us, big ways). We argue that no one appreciates us. Or we argue that it’s too much. Or perhaps we argue that it isn’t fair.
Either way, the reality is, it is grimy and gritty down here in the trenches, here in the midst of dirty diapers, screaming toddlers, dramatic preschoolers and moody teenagers.
This disease strikes each of our hearts at some point and our days begin to look like mountains too steep to climb rather than a series of mundane tasks to be completed. We begin to focus so long on the bad that we no longer see the good. Slowly our souls are poisoned and we are bitter. This poison that seeps into our souls has a name. Ingratitude.
It can feel hopeless.
But there is a cure for this seemingly hopeless disease. It’s a little thing but its power can take hold of a broken spirit and transform it back into a living, breathing, giving one. It is called gratitude.
It is the one ribbon weaved throughout our lives that can hold it all steady. The one thing that helps us keep it all in perspective. The one thing that steadies the voice in our head the moment we begin to think that we don’t have enough, that we don’t do enough, that we aren’t enough.
Gratitude comes from the word Latin word Gratus, meaning pleasing or thankful. It is a noun defined as the quality of being thankful; a readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
Gratitude is more than just simply saying thank you. It’s a state of being that reaches down into our soul. Gratitude isn’t just a passing statement; it’s an intense feeling of thankfulness that resonates deep inside of us. It changes us.
It’s quite simple to cultivate. Start small. Today. Write down just five things that you are grateful for. You have to write it down. It’s not a mental exercise. You’ll be well rewarded for your effort…just imagine the collection of gifts you’ll have after just one month of consistent gratitude. And after one year? That’s 1,825 gifts that you acknowledged.
Wait, what’s that? You can’t think of anything?
How about those dishes piled up? Yep, be grateful you have dishes to wash. That laundry that needs to be folded and put away? Be grateful you have a closet full of beautiful clothes and your children don’t have to suffer through cold winter nights. That dinner that needs to be cooked? Be grateful that your kids don’t know the real definition of hunger. That kid that spent the night throwing up while you missed out on precious sleep? Be grateful for the lowered fever, the compassion shown to him by his sister. That toddler that ran off when you got to the park? Be grateful he has legs that work, a healthy heart and a spirit that remains unbroken.
I know it’s hard some days but surely there’s something there to be thankful for. You have to search. You have to be mindful. How about the way she cups your face in her tiny hands? The way he calls out to you the moment he walks in the door, eager to share the news of his day with you? The way she looks when she rolls out of bed in the morning when her hair is a mess but her eyes are filled with the delight of a new day? The way he proudly tells you all about the frog he found down by the creek?
These days feel long but the years are short and it’s our job to find the richness in each of these moments. To savor the beauty, the truth and the goodness. To breed gratitude into the very souls of our children. To be the light that shines from within bringing joy to those around us. To recognize that the antithesis to this disease called ingratitude is a spirit of gratitude. To embrace gratitude as your goal, your driving force, your heart’s ambition, your very way of life.
This isn’t meant to add one more thing to your to-do list. It’s meant to help you harvest the good despite the monotony of our days, despite the chaos and constant dying to self. This gratitude? It’s a gift for the weary mama’s soul; a life preserver for the days when the water feels rougher than we can handle.