Columns Small Talk

Small Talk: Little thanks for the biggest job

Ah, yes.  It’s almost that time of the year for giving thanks, isn’t it?

Well, OK. We’re waiting. Mothers from coast to coast are waiting. Anytime someone, anyone, would like to thank us for getting on with the low-pay, high-maintenance job of being a great mother, we’re more than ready to drop everything and listen.

I realize I’m not the first person to point out that motherhood is often a thankless proposition, but the approach of Thanksgiving week was just too good an opportunity to mention it again. Having come to motherhood straight from a management position, the contrast struck me pretty quickly.

Often loving grandparents do their darnedest to fill the gap.  Our children do, once in a while, manage a hug, a kiss, even a sincere, “Thanks, Mom,” but it usually follows a trip to Knott’s Berry Farm or Toys R Us.  They tend to miss most of the everyday opportunities.

Yes, I know. The finger is pointing straight at our poor husbands, but we are not looking for a single scapegoat here today. We all know men are from Mars and hopefully have other socially redeeming parental features. Much of what we’d like some praise for are those extra little things that separate a fair mother from a great mother. It is stuff like wiping the chocolate pudding off the wall and ceiling, cleaning up after the puppy, breaking out the slip-and-slide every summer, and getting gum out of hair. It’s for kids who have clean clothes appropriate for the weather and who know how to use a fork and knife, get their nails clipped, hair washed and teeth brushed.

OK, OK. So we knew it wasn’t corporate America when we signed on. We can still have our “thanks so much, Mom” fantasy.  We would dearly love to wake up and be greeted by the “company human resources manager” who would tell us to keep next Friday afternoon open because she is taking all us moms out to lunch to thank us for a great month of work.

We would adore finding a memo in our email saying, “Congratulations! Your steady, resourceful, unflinching attention to detail in mothering has won you Employee of the Month and babysitting, so you can spend the weekend at the company condo in Palm Springs.” It would note that we have once again undercut last month’s budget and have set a company record for nine years of shopping yard sales, Big Lots and Ross Dress-For-Less instead of Nordstrom or F.A.O. Schwartz. I want someone to shake our hand and be thrilled that we buy our chicken in the bulk pack, don’t have our nails done, drive a very old car and frost our hair at home.

Oh, all right, then. Keep it simple. Just put us on the front of the four-color, end-of-the year report. Our stockholders need to know.

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer hoping for an end-of-year Mom bonus.

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