My husband left on an extended job out-of-state this past week, and it's taking some getting used to. In the days leading up to his departure, I tried to adjust myself to the thought of being a single parent for weeks on end, and found it an emotionally difficult task. So many things have to be handled differently or given up, from my regular morning runs to nights off, grocery shopping, school drop-offs, and so on. He was really looking forward to nights free to paint, an apartment to himself, and the Berkshires in the spring! I didn't blame him, but couldn't find the words for what was really bothering me about the setup (other than some jealousy!).
Finally, the afternoon before he left, I pinned down my feelings long enough to articulate my need for a formal acknowledgment of what he was asking me to do so that he could take this job. He readily and thankfully obliged.
Whew! The emotional relief was tremendous, and we parted on good terms. I simply needed to know that he recognized what the implications of his decision were. I wanted to be acknowledged for the role I was taking on and the things I was giving up. In this case it was a 'big ticket item' that I needed acknowledgement for, but in many cases the needs are far more simple ... and more easily overlooked! Thanks for making dinner, for bathing the kids, for picking up your clothes, for taking out the trash, for making the coffee... for just being you. Everyday things that very well might be 'assigned' or agreed upon responsibilities, but things it's nice to be recognized for anyway! It's very easy to take things for granted in a relationship, or on the flip-side feel underappreciated... but a little acknowledgement goes a long way.
Acknowledgement, at the very least, is letting someone (including yourself!) know that you recognize or see something. It often includes an expression of thanks or gratitude too. I've been in situations before where simply looking someone in the eye and acknowledging them as a fellow-human being can be an incredible gift. Faces transform and hearts lighten with each piece of ourselves that is recognized and acknowledged. We all crave that recognition, and it's so easy to give! A look, a nod, a word, a smile. So incredibly simple, and so very powerful.
While it's great to get acknowledgment from those that know us, I find it even more special sometimes to get it from a stranger. A passing "You're a great mom!" from someone on the street was music to my ears when I was trudging through the city at mid-day with 2 small tired kids and an overstuffed backpack. They saw something tiny at a glance, and acknowledged it. I felt energized for the rest of the day! 'Hard job, isn't it?" "You made it!" "Long day?" "Hi." "Thanks!" Whatever it takes to let the other person know they're truly seen. Recognized. Acknowledged. Give it a try, to family and strangers alike, and see what kind of reactions you get! It's a gift, and an easy one at that.