Thanksgiving, To-do Lists and Indoor Plumbing


What are you thankful for?

That’s the question I’ve been asking lately. Every night actually. And no, it’s not a conversation I’m having with myself, or documenting on paper. It’s an actual question that my husband asks as we crawl into bed at night.
Sometimes I’m eager to answer and go first.  Other night’s I know the question is coming and I beat him to the ask before he can utter a sound. Usually this happens after I have taken my time getting ready for bed because I know he will ask and I’m not ready to answer.
You see, it sounds simple enough: “list a few things you’re thankful for today”. But the word that catches me up is the last one of that phrase… today. Friends, some nights, it is so hard to answer.
This all started not that long ago when I discovered that the worst mommy-guilt occurred at night. You know, the kind that usually involves ugly-crying and a husband making an emergency trip to the ice cream section of the grocery store. For me, the whispers of doubt would creep in from the emerging shadows in my children’s room.  The guilt of all that I should have, could have and wanted to do, would assault me as soon as I crossed the threshold of their room.
I would shuffle to my room and fall onto my bed in tears. The mental list of all that I was not, along with my unfinished to-do list would taunt me from evening into the wee hours of the morning. Not every night, but too many nights. It would ruin those hours that my husband and I tried so hard to protect for ourselves. It would cast a shadow over whatever good things had been done or whatever had been accomplished.
A few weeks ago I came across an interesting image in my social media feed that was a total heart check (and for the life of me I cannot remember who was the mastermind – apologies!) It was a hand written list of 10 items that the writer was thankful for. Things like, “crumbs underneath the table = family meals” and “toilets to clean = indoor plumbing”. Powerful truth, right? Like an arrow to the heart!
So, with this in the forefront of my brain and the mommy-guilt issue recognized, I came to the conclusion that I was teaching my children about thanksgiving, but not actually doing the same thing myself. You see, before bed, every night, we ask our kids to name a few things they are thankful for.
We asked them the question one night.  Not to be super spiritual parents and not even with the intention of creating a new ritual. So, we were surprised that they established this rhythm all on their own. It’s been a couple of years, and now they get upset if we rush through the bedtime routine and did not complete “our thankfuls”.
Now my husband and I complete the same ritual before going to sleep.
What I’ve realized is that speaking from a heart that is full of gratitude pushes back the guilt. Thanksgiving slays the lie that I didn’t do enough, because I name all the things that were achievements. Some nights the lists are short and sweet. Often it gives way to great conversation as I relive stories from the day.
My question to you is “what’s on your thankful list”? Maybe it sounds like this:

  • Messes in the kitchen = quality time with my kids creating food

  • Wet towels on the floor in the bathroom = bubble baths

  • Popcorn remnants on the living room floor = movie night

  • Shoe shopping for the kids (again) = growing children

Perhaps you need to reflect on what you accomplished (instead of what you did not):

  • Read aloud to the kids

  • Made 3 meals from scratch (instead of eating out)

  • Finished reading a good book

  • Secured a babysitter and put a date night on the calendar

Or maybe you can go a little deeper and answer one of these questions:

  • What set your heart on fire today?

  • Who did you interact with that filled you up?

  • What made you laugh?

  • What moment would you go back to just to savor it a little longer?

Let’s be the person known for having a heart of gratitude. Not just as the seasons change and words like “Thanksgiving” motivate us, but all the time. At the end of the day we can always find something to be thankful for, regardless of the challenges we endured, or how many “do-overs” we gave ourselves.

And if you need more help, here are two words to get you started from my friend on social media – “indoor plumbing”.