The Sacrifice and Selflessness of Motherhood

I just read an article called “Motherhood Isn’t Sacrifice, It’s Selfishness.

Yeah…

It was enough to make me break my silence here and feel the insatiable need to write.

Here’s the definition for selfishness: “devoted to caring only for oneself, concerned primarily with one’s own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others.” Yup, sounds like every mom I know.

I’m not saying that there aren’t any selfish moments in motherhood. Right now, for example, I am being selfish. I am ignoring what is going on with the boys and the house and my husband so I could sit down and write this response. I am being selfish in that I only care what is going on within this two-foot radius and purposely blocking out anything else for the sake of my own interest, which just so happens to be rebutting (with the occasional snark) the article I just read. Yes, I realize the irony.

But I digress.

The author refers to a phone call she had with her own mom about taking her sons, ages 7 and 9, on a family vacation and her excitement to watch them ride roller coasters and enjoy time as a family. She was upset by her mother pointing out that that’s not exactly a vacation for a mom – a mom needs her own time without her kids.

First, I want to point out that I have a 1- and a 4-year-old. One of my favorite memories from this spring is taking them to the carnival in town. I loved watching my older one play games and win prizes. I loved that we all loved the ferris wheel ride and got to enjoy some ice cream while we were there. But let me repeat, it is one of my favorite memories.

As it turns out, my experience with motherhood is not always as enjoyable as those two hours (which I’m pretty sure contained some meltdowns) on that one night this year. In fact, in the past four years of me being a mother, I can assure you that no memories, good or bad, actually define motherhood for me. Motherhood seems to rest in the mundane in this house, and while we make memories, spontaneous or planned, there’s always more to the picture than what our minds’ eye can remember.

But, perhaps, the part of the article that struck a chord with me was not her idea of a perfect family vacation in which there is nothing but joy and squeals of excitement from the kids and how it was actually a pleasure for her to be with her boys, after drudging at work for grueling hours every day of the year (let’s be clear: there is nothing wrong with this picture). Instead, it was her matter-of-fact statement that motherhood is not a job. To quote, “the language surrounding child rearing as a job surely derived from caregivers’ and homemakers’ efforts to be acknowledged as fulfilling an important role.” And, to add further insult to injury, she adds that while it is important for parents to do raise their kids, it brings in no income, so it cannot be considered a job.

I consider myself to be a stay-at-home mom, even though I work part time outside the house. I love my part-time job, but I adore my kids even more. Most often while at work, I am counting down the hours until I am able to kiss those faces again. But my job, in which I deal with dozens of kids every day, is nothing compared to the job of raising my two children.

I am certainly not one of those moms who has all of it figured out. I actually don’t feel like I haven even 10 percent of it figured out. My 1-year-old seems to know the times I set my alarm in the morning, because he seems to wake up a half hour before it, every single morning. I groggily start my day and serve the boys breakfast. Depending on how that goes, I am sometimes too overwhelmed by the sight of breakfast foods that I don’t even want to satiate my hunger any more. The rest of the morning is filled with different things. Sometimes, I’m a good mom and take my kids to the park or the pool or even just go on a walk around the neighborhood. Other times, I make the effort to be a good mom and put out an art project for them to do on a rainy morning and find that it only lasts for ten minutes, and that while I was cleaning up after them, the toddler ransacked every single basket of toys in the living room and now there is literally no space to walk, and it sets a bad tone for the rest of the day. And what feels like most days lately, I throw in the towel, take away some toys in an effort to lessen the inevitable mess, and throw on an episode of Curious George for the boys. Or three.

Perhaps it’s the fact that I have other things going on in life right now that take away my attention from the boys (such as studying for a huge exam coming up that I really don’t want to fail), or maybe it’s because I could honestly use a day where I wake up and only have to think about myself for a time, or maybe it’s because my toddler is the most strong-willed and feisty child I have ever known (and has been that way his entire life), but this mothering thing really feels like a job and not at all selfish. In fact, in part due to the fact that motherhood, ahem, surprised me a bit earlier than I was expecting (I have no qualms in admitting that we had planned to have our first son a bit later in life, because I wouldn’t change a thing about him today), but it sometimes actually feels like a sacrifice. And not just the lack of sleep or never getting to eat a meal while it’s hot kind of sacrifice, but also that I had to delay certain ambitions of mine and put aside dreams I had for my future – the same reasons for which people delay having children at all.

But here’s the thing: I adore my boys. It is a privilege to be their mother. And when my 4-year-old gives me a bear hug and sweet kiss as I say goodnight to him, it feels like the greatest reward. I mean, I get to call those two beautiful boys my own. And when I tuck them in at night and say “I love you” one last time for the day, I know that they are my reward for the job of raising them and they are worth any sacrifice.


Maybe the author of the article had a few good points. Maybe we shouldn’t focus on the hard work that comes with motherhood, but the joy that we reap from it. And, maybe, as some commenters pointed out, she didn’t mean “selfishness” in the way that the dictionary defined it. Hey, she’s entitled to her opinion, but if that’s not what she meant, then I’m going to call out The New York Times for publishing a writer who can’t use a thesaurus.

 

 

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Learning to Dream

“The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.”‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭16:1‬ ‭ESV

This October will mark four years since I found out I was pregnant with Joshua. It will mark four years since I realize no matter how much I plan, God has the final say.

Roland and I were newlyweds at that point. We were young and excited to embark on life together. Things were not always easy, as anticipated, but we made sound plans for the future. We planned foreign excursions, budgeting, home ownership, and eventually a family. But that October afternoon was when I realized that God had a completely different plan for our lives at that point, one for which I was not quite sure that I was ready.

That season in my life changed my view on life and planning and living for the future. I decided that I would not make such a concrete life plan for myself or our family. I would devote my future to God’s hands.

I would still have goals — reachable goals — in my heart. I would still go after them. But I would not tie myself down by setting such specific goals so that I could allow room for God.

And that’s great and all, but

My goals were too reachable. My goals did not make me wonder how I could make them happen. They were small enough that they didn’t seem impossible and low enough on my priority list that my world wouldn’t be shattered if God stepped in again and messed up the plans.

But I heard God speak the other day. “Why are you thinking so realistically? Don’t look at the numbers, just dream.”

The truth is I was putting my goals and dreams inside of a box just small enough for me to still have some sort of control over them (or to keep what I would potentially have to give up to a minimum). As such, I was putting God in a box.

All these years, I never realized it. I thought I was being a good Christian by allowing my future to be so open-ended, enough for Him to freely play around with it.

My thought process was not bad. A “Lord, guide me” approach requires faith that God will take you where He needs you. Acknowledging that His ways are higher than mine (Isaiah 55:8-9) is biblical.

But I also let fear get in the way. For a short while, I was angry with God that October four years ago. I didn’t understand why or how He would take the dreams I had and not allow me to live them out as I had planned. I wanted my future to play out a certain way and it did not. I was scared that I would dream up another future that would also not happen.

The truth is, four years ago, I did not see where I would be today. In some senses, I am where I swore I would never be and in others, I’m in a better place than I could have imagined then. No matter the dreams or goals that I have today, no matter the plans I make, however detailed, I still will not be able to see four years down the line, let alone forty.

In the meantime, God is placing dreams in my heart. In some areas of my life, I feel more of a burning desire to just go out and do and in some other areas, I still have some apprehension as I wait for God to speak. Some of the dreams He has placed in my heart seem completely impossible. Some seem hard but I have a heart that is ready. None seem easy.

And yet, I have a promise in Proverbs 16:3.

I mentioned in my last post that God has created me (as He has created you) for special purposes. I trust that the dreams that He puts in my heart are things to further His kingdom, ways for me to live out that purpose.

There is nothing wrong with dreaming. There is nothing wrong with planning. But God’s ways are so much higher. His thoughts are so much higher.

I cannot continue to keep God in a box by dreaming small, by having goals that I can easily attain in my flesh. If I do, I don’t have a reason for Him to be in my life.