The Scorekeeper

Honestly?

I think we keep score a lot more than we care to admit.

And I don’t just mean, “Hey, you paid for coffee last time. Let me get it today.”

I mean stupid scorekeeping.

“We called them the last few times to go out to dinner. If they want to see us, they can call.”

“I’ve taken the trash to the curb for four Fridays in a row now.”

Keeping score is a way of negotiating the ego/kindness balance.  We want to be kind. We want to be the type of person that gives without expecting anything in return. We want to look like we are Mother Theresa. Nothing bothers us. We just give and give and give with no thought of getting.

But inside, we are scorekeepers.

Here’s the honest truth.

As a mom, scorekeeping needs to go out the window from day one. Because the truth is, you will never get as much as you give. You will always, and I do mean always, give more than you get.

Maybe you’re married to Prince Charming. Maybe you’ve got a system where “I changed the diaper last time, it’s your turn” works out. It’s pretty unrealistic, though, and better left on the playground for your neighbor’s kid who is in the third grade.

I never expected it to be so one sided. I knew my personal time would be gone for several years. And it was. But most of the time that I wasn’t with my kids, having “me” time, I wanted to be with them. So there went that.

What I didn’t expect was that when you give and give to your family, pretty soon, they are old enough to give back. And that’s when they go off to college and get married and have their own apartments and houses.

And guess what? You’re still making your own dinner.  You’re still taking care of yourself when you’re sick even though you nursed a bunch of kids (and probably a husband) through countless illnesses.

I’ve grown bitter about this subject. There is nothing like being in a household with people who are fully capable of giving back the things you did for them but choose not to.  Grown adults who can make a meal with no problem still look to you when it’s dinnertime. When they go out for business meals, you’re the one at home eating the canned chili and hunks of cheese while standing over the kitchen sink.

I’m not sure how to fix this. I’ve explained until I’m blue in the face that it’s not a matter of I want less of a workload, i.e., having someone else cook one night a week.

The issue is that I want to feel loved. I want to feel like someone has taken the time to make me something they know I like JUST BECAUSE THEY CARE. I want to know what it’s like to sit down after a long day and be treated with the kindness of a hot meal because my work was appreciated.

But it’s never happened. And by the response I got last time I brought it up (“Honey, I would love it if you could make me a meal sometime.”  Response: “You wouldn’t want to eat what I cook!”  My response: “I wouldn’t know. I’ve never had the chance to experience that.”)

Yep, it sounds whiney. And it is. But it’s back to keeping score. And keeping score is less about evening out responsibility than realizing that some things are done out of love, not obligation, and that’s what my heart is craving.

Seeing right through me

When I graduated high school, my family had a big party and I remember thinking that it was the first time I really felt important. I was the center of attention and it was new and exciting and a bit addictive, I have to admit. I thought to myself back then that this is how brides feel. And when you have a baby, you’re a big deal. I knew those days were ahead of me. And they were.

Almost exactly five years to the date of my high school graduation, I did become a bride. And I did have that same experience…I felt like someone. I was important. I was in the spotlight.

Kids followed in rapid succession and with that came more attention. Now, of course, the spotlight was on the babies and that was cool. Because I wanted them to have all of my attention, too. And they did.

Almost immediately, I experienced something I never in my life would have expected. I became invisible. Like I wasn’t there.

The first time it happened, I arrived at my parent’s home for a visit and the door flew open, two adoring grandparents standing there waiting to dote on this new baby, their first grandchild. They grabbed the carseat baby was in from one of my hands, grabbed the diaper bag that was in the other, disappeared into the house and shut the door.

While I was still standing outside.

It would have been hilarious had they noticed and then opened the door and saw me standing there, a bit dejected out there on the front porch, but they didn’t.  After I gathered my senses and shook the “What the HELL just happened?” from my head, I opened the door to find them completely and totally engaged in the baby.

I never did tell them that happened. And the time I was with my mother and children and we happened to see a work acquaintance of my mom’s. She introduced my children and then continued on with her conversation.  I didn’t let this one go.

“Hi, I’m her daughter,” I said, sticking my arm out to meet the acquaintance. “I’m the uterus that gave her these grandchildren.”

Half kidding. But very confused.

I never expected that one day, I would become this invisible.  Almost immediately.

Honestly?  It got worse for me.  And I imagine that the worst is yet to come.

As I write this, I see how selfish it sounds. I do not begrudge one ounce of attention my children received in their world. I would never trade that for attention on myself.

But somewhere along the way, the lack of attention begins to scream “You don’t matter. Your worthiness is gone.” Shortly after our last baby was born and we decided that our family was complete, a sibling announced she was having a baby. I burst into tears and my husband immediately thought I was jealous because I wanted another baby too. Which was partly right. But most of all, I told him, I’ll never feel special again.

And I was right.

Honest truth.