I overheard two women chatting at our local coffee shop today while out on a sneaky coffee date with the littlest man in my life. One was describing how her husband expressed how horrified he was at all that he had to squeeze in to his day with the kids while she had a day at work. “So, you mean I have to get up, get the kids ready, get myself ready, drop the kids at school, drop the car off to be serviced, go to the post office and the grocery store, then pick the kids up, drop Jack at music and Alice at ballet, then pick them both up and come home and get dinner ready? Are you kidding me?” No doubt there are a few smirks of recognition out there from any mums who are reading this. It was what she said next that interested me the most. “Does he really expect thanks for this? I mean, this is what I do EVERY DAY and no one ever thanks me?! I’m just not feeling the love.” After listening to The Happiness Project audiobook by Gretchen Rubin a couple of months ago, I’ve been addressing this mindset in my own life. I’m certainly guilty of thinking, “Really? You want me to thank you for getting up with Flynn this once so I can sleep in when I've been up every other day this week? You want me to thank you for cooking dinner this one time when I’ve done it every other night for the past two weeks?” Thinking like this certainly didn’t feel good for me, it achieved nothing, and it wasn’t great for our relationship.
Gretchen covers this in her book and questions our need for praise and appreciation. She challenges our expectation of always needing something in return – the “if I… then you” “but I…. so you”. I made a decision after hearing this chapter to change my mindset. I started doing things for others purely for my own satisfaction knowing that I had helped someone, expecting nothing in return, no appreciation. It wasn’t an easy thing to do. I had to catch my thoughts frequently and challenge my mind to stop needing validation from others. I caught myself one day saying “I know you do all of the outside jobs and feel like I don’t thank you enough, but I do all the inside jobs and I get no thanks from you?!” Can you imagine how unproductive that conversation was? Nothing but running around in circles and we both ended up feeling terrible.
Initially after making that change I was thinking well, it’s all good and well that I’m doing this, but what about Dan? He’s not making any effort to change his mindset! This isn’t fair! But we can only control the way we behave, not anyone else. And do you know what? When I started doing things without expecting anything in return, when I started saying thank you and being appreciative of the little things without holding on to any begrudging niggles in my mind, something magic happened. I got back in to bed one night after finally winning a battle with a screaming Flynn at 430am and Dan gave me a hug and said “well done”. I went through our mess of a filing cabinet and reorganised it and when Dan went to find a receipt he said, “wow, you’ve done a great job with that, thank you!” Was this always there and I was in the wrong mindset to see it? Or in changing my own behaviour had I managed to allow Dan the chance to actually show his appreciation before jumping down his throat? I don’t know. But I can tell you it’s worth challenging your thought process and your motivations for helping others - whether it be for your husband, your children, your boss. Because once you do it, once your own feeling of accomplishment is enough, you will find peace.