I’m an exhausted mother of three young children living in a suburban neighborhood where the cost of living is high. Both my husband and I work full-time outside the home. Our house is in a chronic state of cluttered chaos. I find myself daydreaming about a bigger home in hopes that more space will give the kids the room they desire to play freely without all their stuff taking over the place. (Is that a grand fantasy or what?)
I am equally frustrated by our financial situation despite our hard work and frugal spending habits. Affording a larger home in our area is beyond our current budget, yet we are unwilling to relocated further away because we don’t want to spend an extra two hours on the road for a house we won’t ever have time to enjoy and children whose currently limited one-on-one time with their parents will essentially disappear.
Not to mention the extra wear and tear on the cars, the cost of tolls and gas, and the negative effects on the environment. Or the emotional and physical consequences of spending more time in a sedentary lifestyle. Sucking on tail pipes just can’t be a good thing.
My job is unrewarding professionally and emotionally, yet I stay because the health benefits are more affordable through my employer. In order to shift careers, I have to find a job that will pay more than what I currently make or daycare expenses will exceed our take home pay. (Believe it or not, our daycare bill costs more than our mortgage!)
Our families live too far away to provide support. Babysitters charge $15/hour in our area, making regular date nights cost prohibitive. As a result, our marriage has been strained and severely tested despite our love and commitment to one another.
We are the face of the modern American family. We are responsible, intelligent, and hard-working, yet our efforts feel like drops in a sea of overwhelming standards and demands. I believe one cure to what ails us is lateral comparison. Instead of always evaluating ourselves against those who are higher on the ladder, more alpha in terms of financial prowess or appearance, the act of opening our eyes to the real world around us (not the one portrayed on television or magazines) has the potential to restore our sense of well-being. In addition, Wisdom of the Ages tells us that expressing gratitude can resolve our inner conflict and chronic sense of defeat.
Like most people I find gratitude on occasion, especially when I’m feeling particularly lousy. Yet daily gratitude is not something I practice. I have lots of excuses, of course: time, exhaustion, demands of kids and a full-time job ranking highest among them.
But I’m curious to see if gratitude is really as powerful of a tool as we’ve been told. I mean, does gratitude have the power to change your life in profound ways? Is it something that is more like an immediate salve or does it have lasting effects on your health, relationships, finances, and even employment situation?
So, starting today, I am asking myself: Can a year of gratitude really make a difference in the real world?