‘Tis the season for giving, right?
A time of year when we do more and give more of our time and our money.
And yet there is one gift that many of us overlook.
I call it “The Gift of Receiving.”
We parents, nurturers, teachers and healers often find it difficult to receive anything, whether it be a compliment or a kind deed.
Below is the story of how I came to realize that sometimes the greatest gift we can give to another is the gift of receiving.
Enjoy, Journeyer! And then start giving one of the greatest gifts of all.
The Gift of Receiving
first published April 11, 2013
And following my recent surgery, I acknowledged how great it felt when friends delivered food to my back door.
But there was more to that story.
An uncomfortable more that made me stop and access my behavior.
The third bearer of gifts sat down at the table and chatted with me as I scarffed down the plate of sweet ‘n sour chicken she’d brought us.
When I’d finished, she stood up and grabbed my plate.
“Do you want more? Can I get you anything else?” she asked as I reached out to retract the dish from her hands.
“Sit,” I objected, “let’s visit. You’ve already done plenty—“
She ignored my protest as she walked over to the sink, where she placed the dish she’d skillfully secured from frantic fingers.
“We are talking,” she said, “but what would make me even happier is if you’d let me take care of this sink full of dishes.”
“The boys are going to do them when they come home,” I replied.
What kind of woman rejects help with the household?
Oh, my god! I’ve been so lazy—and she’s seeing it—and, oh, Dear, please don’t look at the filthy, dust-and-food-crumbs-littered floors—and don’t have to go to the bathroom. PLEASE don’t have to go to the bathroom…
Did she say dirty dishes or is that my own sense of shame speaking?
Inept. Slob. Lazy. What kind of Mother/Wife/Housekeeper are you?
“But I’m here now and it would make me happy.”
Her words stopped my self-loathing and protesting dead in its tracks.
What kind of woman am I?
The kind that is busy working, mothering, friend-ing, neighbor-ring, spouse-ing, and chasing her own dreams…
The girl next door who lives like so many of the rest of us warrior women.
The one who has repeatedly told others, “Please don’t apologize, ‘cause I feel right at home,” when they’ve lamented their dirt, dust, and daily distress in her presence.
And how many times have I commented, “If someone’s coming to see me, she won’t care about the condition of my house.”
She won’t care about the book-and-dust laden furniture pieces, the dining room table littered with mail and supplies left from a school project, or the cobweb arcing between the two foyer lamps.
Why, she, too, might even feel a sense of reprieve.
And if she does care? Well, then, I might not be so bothered by the failure of a return visit.
Why are women so wary of assistance from others?
So why do we do this to ourselves?
Why do we say things like, “You didn’t have to do this,” and “You shouldn’t have done that!”
Why do we feel like failures when our dwellings won’t pass a white glove test?
Why do we judge our worth by the state of our household or our ability to carry the burdens of the world on our own shoulders?
This article over at Working Mother targets a lingering Housewifery mentality that hasn’t matured with the goals and dreams of the twenty-first-century female.
The woman who loves quality time with her family, enjoys being fit, spending time with girlfriends, and finds the challenge of work (be it paid or volunteer) outside the home to be stimulating and rewarding.
She is nurturing and caring and compassionate and smart and witty and driven to dream and achieve.
Yet she often doesn’t treat herself with the same common courtesy she extends to others.
Honestly, I find it absurd the way we beat ourselves up over dirty dishes…
…general clutter like my pile of snowmen décor plopped just outside the storage closet…
…my piles of discarded clothing in the bathroom…
…or the phone table in the kitchen that is forever laden with miscellaneous crap…
Women are often the only people in the home who are battering themselves over messes.
Yes, there are critical spouses, and fault-finding children, but in my experiences, those commentators are the ones who aren’t lifting fingers—or dust rags—to help out.
And then there are those who will never see the mess, no matter how high the stacks of papers are or how deep the dust becomes.
So what can we do about it, the mess (both mental and material), aside from quitting our jobs and abandoning our dreams?
Know this. Super Woman was the figment of someone’s imagination and Super Mom doesn’t exist.
Employ our children’s help from an early age.
Housework is all a part of teaching our children how to take care of themselves…aka teaching them how to fish…
At six-years old, Beauty began begging me to let her clean the bathroom like her big brother.
Nice, attentive, proactive Mommy that I am, I made her wait until she was six. You know. Those toxic chemicals and all.
Enlist Hubby’s help.
If he’s one of those old-school, Woman’s Work, kind of guys, pull out the guilt trip. “How can I teach the kids about family responsibility if their father won’t participate?”
If he comes back with a “Do as I say, not as I do” attitude, find the best damn marriage counselor you can.
Never assume your spouse can’t or won’t learn something new, like where all those plates and silverware go after they’ve been washed, or what to do with his underwear and t-shirts.
After years of re-negotiation, Warren has been one of my greatest allies against filth.
Remember that Giving and Receiving bear the mark of equality.
When we give, someone receives.
I don’t know about you, but to me, there is little less rewarding than a bequest that isn’t received with appreciation.
As my friend stood at the sink, ready to roll up her sleeves, I thought about this yin and yang that wages war inside of me.
I remembered how tarnished my acts of generosity have felt when a recipient rejected them.
And I chose to recognize the joy my friend was emoting, and to accept kindness with a gracious and happy heart.
“Thank you, Friend.”
As The Giver began clanking dishes and running water, I relaxed and settled back into my chair, a welcome reprieve to my aching abdomen.
”I am so blessed to have you in my life.”
That, Journeyers, is called The Gift of Receiving.
How about you? Do you struggle with or resist being A Gracious Receiver? How do you manage the conflict? Share your story here and spread the gift of knowledge…