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When You Are The Glue: Holding It All Together (Including Your Sanity)

You are the glue that holds it all together. You know it, they know it. The problem is that glue, when it is high quality, dries clear. Do you get what I'm saying? Good glue dries clear...if it is doing its job well, it is nearly invisible. Sometimes that's how you feel: nearly invisible. That is a hard pill to swallow some days. How can you avoid being angry or resentful when your oft repeated tasks go unnoticed? There are ways to make this better. Read and be encouraged!

Stay with me here...this may seem like a stretch, but I think it is a great metaphor. And I love metaphors. Hang in with my might see yourself in it. I know I do.

My husband is a remarkably patient man. One of the ways this can be witnessed is when he is repairing a small object that is precious to someone he cares about. Usually me. Broken necklace chains, picture frames that fall off the wall, etc. But this past Christmas at church we had a mishap involving an old handmade nativity set that had great sentimental value to one of our precious octogenarians. It was quite the little catastrophe.

This lovely lady loaned the set to the church and, long story short, a woman on our cleaning staff was using a vacuum cleaner near the small table that held the set. One tap and down came the table, Mary, Joseph, shepherds, sheep, angel, magi, cow and the manger. The whole thing. Except for baby Jesus. He was stored safely until Christmas Eve when He would be placed in the manger. Thank goodness for weird traditions.

It was a red alert event. The cleaning staff called the office manager, the office manager called me, I called my husband, and none of us could bring ourselves to call the owner of the set. We actually did rock, paper scissors. Rick lost. He went to tell the news in person taking a poinsettia with him. To soften the blow a little. It helped, I think.

Two of the pieces, a couple of sheep, were shattered beyond redemption. The main pieces, although badly broken, had a bit more hope. My sweet husband gathered the fractured remnants, sorted them out, and brought them home. He told our dear friend that he could make no promises but he would do his best to repair them. She was very gracious.

After hours of painstaking work, combined with really good glue, he fixed the figurines. All of them. Except for one tiny chip on a wise man's robe, none of the pieces looked as though they had been broken! They all looked truly whole! We were amazed. I knew that the real secret was patience and high quality clear drying glue.

Sometimes, when you are the glue that holds your family together, you are as invisible as that clear drying glue. Without you and the things you provide for your family, your home, your church, or your work place, things would fall apart and be, essentially, non functional. Just like the broken nativity figures. But you are the glue and so you are seldom admired or thanked or praised. You are simply there. Reliable, steady, essential, and clear. Nearly invisible. It kind of makes you feel sorry for the glue...or yourself. Am I right?

Do you ever resent it when your work goes unnoticed? I do. Underwear is washed and no one except you knows how it happens. The bills get paid by the magic bill paying fairy. Your success rate for showing up at recitals, games, and gymnastics meets is 100%. And it is easy! (insert eye roll here) You do all this and more. And you do it well. With grace and a smile. You are wonderful. You really are.

The vast majority of the time you do all this because you love your family. You really want to provide the underpinning of security that gives them what they need to succeed. You are the girders under a huge railroad bridge that no one ever sees, yet the structure would collapse without. You are the glue that dries clear. Holding all the pieces together because it is what you do. It is part of how you show your love.

You really don't need or even want them to worship at your feet when you take time off work to meet the exterminator at the house, or when you shampoo (again) the spot on the rug that the dog simply can't resist marking as his own territory. But sometimes a little acknowledgement goes a long way. A small mention that what you do is noticed and appreciated. Just a quick "thanks!" shouted over their shoulder as they walk away. That doesn't always happen when you are the glue that holds your family together.

On those rare days when the pressure of it all gets to you and you want to say (in all caps) "YOU'RE WELCOME!" take heart. There are some things you can do to lessen the number of these days and to restrain the urge to go on a rampage. You can help your family to recognize the importance of your support, while continuing to be clear drying glue.

Here are a couple of ideas that I have used with success to remind my people that, although I am the nearly invisible clear drying glue, I am still a person who works hard for the group. I am also including some ways that I have reminded myself why I do what I do. And it isn't for praise.

  1. Set the example. Are you as grateful for the support you receive as you could be? How many applications from clear drying glue have you received without realizing it? Look around you. Who helps you get through? Does your husband bring in a steady paycheck? Does he make sure the cars are maintained? Tell him that you notice that. Do your children make you proud? Tell them so. All the little things that go into making a family function well are done by someone. Thank those that are making it work. Especially the children. Praise makes them want to do even more.

  2. Remind them when necessary. When you make sure that the forgotten baseball glove gets to the Little League field on time and your child forgets to say it, look at them with a smile and say, "Thanks, Mom?" Respond with grace when they repeat it. A softhearted reminder goes a long way with children. Help them remember. There are many times when a gentle push can put your child on the path to being a grateful and appreciative person who becomes aware of their blessings. You can help.

  3. Interject a bit of humor. Wait until the right moment, and say something like, "Oh wow! Would you look at that? There's clean underwear in your drawer! Again! How does that even happen? Has anyone checked the security camera? Who is washing, drying, folding AND putting away all this underwear? When they begin to respond, do not allow the spirit of fun to go away. End the comedy routine by saying "I love you. We all work hard to make this family work. Thanks for what you do."

This blog is the result of a conversation I had with one of the precious young stepmothers in my life. She was frustrated and discouraged and told me that she knew that she was the glue holding the whole family together and she just wanted her efforts to be noticed. I told her that the problem with glue is that it dries clear. It is nearly invisible. I believe that mothers and stepmothers are the invisible glue. This is our gift and our frustration. But it is what we do. And, most of the time, we wouldn't have it any other way.

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