How do you handle this question in your house? I’m speaking specifically about the idea of thanking your husband for things he does with the kids. It occurred to me the other day that every time I ask NewDotDad to give a bath, feed a meal, wipe a bottom, or soothe at night, I make a point to thank him afterwards. Almost simeultaneously, it occurred to me that every time I nurse a hungry baby, give a bath, make a meal, feed a meal, clean a load of clothes, keep a drawer organized, wipe a bottom, administer a medicine, comfort a boo-boo, and soothe at night, I am never thanked.
It seems like the vibe in our house right now is that when I’m doing all those things, I’m just “on the job.” Now, that’s true – I did freely sign up for this stay-at-home mom gig, and I’m happy (for the most part!) to do all those little tasks that come along with it. I understand, and I’m very appreciative, that my husband works long, hard hours which make it possible for me to stay home. Because he does work so hard at the hospital, I don’t expect him to do much here at the house. If I were working an 80+ hour week, I wouldn’t want to come home and be greeted with a “honey-do” list, so I don’t do that to NDD.
However, there is a difference in my mind between housework and childcare. Yes, taking care of an almost-11-month-old is work, but it is also the way you connect and bond and show love for him. So I don’t think it’s unreasonable for me to encourage NDD to jump in and do something for or with NewDotBaby. I do have to encourage, or ask, or outright tell him what to do, because he seems to be pretty oblivious to what needs to be done at any given moment.
Which brings me back to my point. Does it make sense to thank someone who is as fully a parent, as fully responsible, as fully participatory, as you are for doing what needs to be done? And if it does make sense – because it expresses your gratitude for taking part of your load off, or because you are glad to see they had a fun time together, or whatnot – then does it also make sense to expect the occasional “Thanks,” yourself?
Of course, I don’t believe that I should give OR withhold my expression of thanks, based on whether or not NewDotDad says “Thank you,” to me. Like gift giving, I think that thanks should be offered without the expectation of something in return. It should come from my heart. When I truly feel thankful, appreciative, grateful, pleased – then I should communicate that. I shouldn’t start a dangerous cycle of “I’ll only say (or feel, or do) X when I know he is going to say (or feel, or do) Y.” That’s no way to live with someone you love. But can I broach the subject and ask him why he doesn’t thank me? Or would that amount to little more than fishing for a compliment – and would any ensuing thanks sound tinny and insincere?
It’s a tough question for me, and I haven’t come out on the other side with a clear answer. If any of you have settled this one – or find it so clear-cut that it was never a question at all – I’d love to hear your perspectives.