On Doing Things (for Others) for Myself

I have been giving a lot of thought to the things I do in life and the reasons behind them lately. I am reading the Happiness Project and still recovering from an illness.  It is often the plight of mothers, and to some extent women in general, that there are times when I feel like I am putting a lot of effort into things for which I receive little acknowledgment or appreciation. I love baking, cooking and having a tidy home. I also love taking the kids to various activities, making crafts and giving gifts and sending notes to others. Oftentimes these things I do go unnoticed, or simply unrecognized. And it can be easy for me to feel overwhelmed by how much I do and how little the people for which I do these things seem to care.

Sometimes it feels like once I can acutely put my finger on what I am feeling, the answers seem to come right to me. In The Happiness Project, the author discusses how she spent one year changing certain aspects of her life, how she dealt with things and how she could change her perspective in order to reach the height of her happiness spectrum. She decides to throw her Mother in law a birthday party for various reasons she describes in the book and to fulfill her “Act the way I want to Feel” amendment, attempts to do so without getting too involved in how the other family members don’t appear appreciative enough. So she writes “I must admit, however, that at times before the party, I felt that Jamie and the others weren’t appreciative enough. I was happy to do the planning and I would’ve been annoyed if anyone else had tried to take over, but still I wanted my gold star.  I wanted [the family] to say, “Wow, Gretchen, you’re really putting together a terrific evening! Thanks so much for your brilliant, creative, and thoughtful planning!” That wasn’t going to happen – so let it go. Do it for myself.”

Maybe this just points out how immature and naive I am, but I feel like it was always very engrained in me that I was supposed to do things for others. That being a good wife meant doing good things for my husband. Being a good mom meant doing things for the children. That being a good family member means saying yes as often as you can and doing everything for everyone else. And while I will completely acknowledge that I do take joy in a lot of the things I do for others, it means that doing things expressly for the acknowledgement isn’t going to work. I don’t mean to make it sound like I will never again throw a birthday party for my kid if they don’t thank me for the effort  (I realize that children, as a general rule, are not usually able to appreciate all the things their parents do until they are parents themselves). But  I have to look for the part of the things I am doing that I love, that bring me joy and kind of let the rest fall away.  And so I am editing my life. I am stepping back from the things that suck away my time and energy and finding new ways to get involved int he things that bring me joy and replenishment. Over the next few months I will probably be more specific as I start to make concrete decisions, but for now, this is where I stand.

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