Dear Emuna,

I am home with small children during the pandemic and working odd hours from home whenever I have time (mostly when they're sleeping). My husband is out working most of the day (credit for him, for working 40 hours- I've been working less hours, as long as I get my work done). I wish he would acknowledge the fact that I'm working very hard! I think he does realize it, but he doesn't say it, doesn't really thank me, compliment me, etc. I feel like I deserve a medal. How do I give myself one, and feel acknowledged for all that I'm doing?

Working (extra hard) Wife and Mother in the Age of Corona

Dear Overworked,

I think your question will hit a nerve with many women around the country. It’s an issue that is always relevant, but I think has become heightened today with the stresses that accompany COVID-19, including being sheltered-in-place (some may say trapped!), having to balance work with making sure our children attend their (pretty useless but nevertheless mandatory) zoom classes or keep them otherwise occupied and still manage to take care of the rest of our household chores! We are all frustrated, over the edge, need lots of pats on the back, have had it…sorry, I’m getting carried away! I’m feeling a little done myself!!

Let’s separate this question into a few issues and I’d like to begin with a question for you. Do you acknowledge the fact that your husband is working very hard? Wait, don’t jump on me! I believe this is a very common phenomenon and a lack I have certainly been guilty of.

When I was home raising my children and working from the house, I was frequently resentful of my husband’s ability to just walk out the door and go to work. In my darker moments, I imagined his days as one long round of lunches out and quiet time. Of course, that wasn’t true, and it diminished him and his efforts. In our desire to be appreciated for what we do, we don’t want to put him down or assume that he somehow does less and with less energy and effort. This is unlikely to be true and especially if he is the major breadwinner and bears the ultimate responsibility for keeping the family afloat financially.

So, I think if we want appreciation for our efforts, the place to begin is with appreciating his. As far as getting more compliments from your husband, I always suggest that this begins with telling him what you do all day. It’s classic marriage advice not to expect your husband to be a mind reader. When he comes home, unless you explicitly tell him, he has no way of knowing what you did with your day. Maybe he’s created a whole fantasy in his head involving your schmoozing on the phone while the children sit coloring quietly or something else equally unrealistic! The point is, just as you don’t really know what he does with his time and what pressures and burdens he feels unless you ask, the same goes true for him. You need to describe your day in detail to him. Probably more than once. Probably at least a few days in a row.

If he still doesn’t get it and he still doesn’t compliment, then you can ask for that also. If you’re not embarrassed to write to me to express your desire for recognition, you certainly shouldn’t be embarrassed to ask your husband. It’s not less meaningful if you have to ask; it may be even more meaningful because he’s doing it because it’s what you want and not just out of a brief spur-of-the-moment feeling.

Finally, you want to give yourself a pat on the back. Go for it! You of all people (!) know how hard you work, and you can applaud yourself and even give yourself a little reward!

Ultimately, although you feel that your work goes unrecognized, not only are your children (and probably your husband despite his silence) appreciative of it, but the Almighty sees how hard you are laboring on behalf of His children, how you don’t give up despite the adverse situation, how you keep pushing. He’s noticed and He’s keeping track. And His acknowledgement bears eternal rewards.