I work from home and my busiest season just ended. I had a few miscellaneous personal projects that I wanted to finally finish, but my sinuses had other plans. Fever, aches, incessant coughing – my body crashed and so I did what anyone would do: binged Netflix and guzzled Mucinex.
I may be late to the game here, but it was suggested I watch Parks and Rec from episode 1, season 1. So, needless to say, I’ve watched a disgusting amount of TV over the course of the past 2 weeks and I accomplished next to nothing. I have, however, been taking notes.
If you aren’t familiar with Parks and Rec, here is a short run down: Leslie Knope (played by Amy Poehler) is an over-achieving, people pleaser who is the deputy director of the Parks and Recreational department in the fictional small town of Pawnee, Indiana. She has high aspirations to hold public office and serve the people with perfectionism, a positive attitude and moral righteousness.
What go-getter Leslie Knope is able to accomplish by herself is more like the typical work of several people, so her team is able to slack off while she pulls the load. But no matter how hard she works and what she accomplishes, it’s an uphill battle with corrupt politicians and thankless and irate citizens standing in her way.
In other words, Leslie Knope is a metaphor for “mom.”
Most often, our job as mothers is thankless. Our tiny citizens whine and complain, are destructive, uncooperative and rude, and sometimes I wonder, “Are they conspiring against me in an effort to unhinge me?” Most likely the answer is, yes.
Leslie feels this sentiment in season 6, episode 1 when she receives an award alongside other community activists who gush about their loving communities who actually support them and their endeavors. In her acceptance speech, which unbeknownst to her was broadcast to her home town, Leslie voices her frustration over the thankless citizens of Pawnee:
Leslie: “You know how I spend my days? Cleaning slime out of rivers and removing slugs from people’s front yards … And you know how they repay me? They want to recall me. I love Pawnee and sometimes it sucks. People can be mean and ungrateful … and I’m sick of it. Pawnee is filled with a bunch of pee-pee heads.”
I feel you, sister. Sometimes, my home is filled with a bunch of pee-pee heads, too. But as her husband, Ben, reminds her:
Ben: “Honey, you chose a life in politics [read: motherhood], the more you actually accomplish, the more heat you’re going to draw.”
Reminds me of all the effort I put into last night’s dinner that no one touched. And of the trip to the zoo I planned when two steps in their feet were too tired to walk farther. And the new clothes that I bought were too scratchy and didn’t fit right. And …
But I learned something when watching this episode. In the wise words of Leslie’s boss and director of Parks and Recreation:
Ron Swanson: “You choose a thankless job, you can’t be upset when nobody thanks you …. Don’t start chasing applause and acclaim. That way lies madness.”
It’s easy for us to get frustrated and feel unappreciated. I have to sit back and remind myself that I don’t do all that I do for the pat on the back. I don’t do it for social media (because 99% of my life is not Pinterest worthy). I do it because I love my people. I love my home. I love my husband who, thankfully, does thank me on a regular basis. And when he doesn’t, I look at him and ask him to please thank me because I need to hear it.
Me: “I had a bad day. Compliment me.”
Bo: “You’re humble.”
Me: “Aw, thanks, bud. I needed to hear that.”
So, Mamas, cleaning slime and removing slugs is just part of the job. And most likely, we will not get a thank you out of it – we may end up wearing it instead. But there are so many other rewarding victories that help us to keep on keepin’ on. We love our tiny citizens to the moon and back and really would do just about anything for them.