Several years ago (before kids), a friend who had children made a comment to me about how I wouldn’t truly realize how selfish I am until I had kids. I remember being a little offended at the time, thinking she was wrong, and that I had a pretty good idea about how selfish I really was. It may not be true of everyone, but in my life, my friend was right. Before kids, I could usually make things work out the way I wanted them to. There was some sacrifice involved in marriage, but I am an excellent manipulator and a skilled arguer, so I could usually get my husband to come around to my way of thinking. But I’ve met my match when it comes to my kids. They are not concerned at all with what I want. So one of the toughest parts about being a mom for me is that multiple times a day, I have to die to my own desires. Sometimes it is downright painful. And too often I start to resent it.
This was definitely true during the last half of October. Here’s a recap . . . October 18, Will started running a fever. There were 8 days until my birthday, and I always have a sick kid on my birthday, so I was actually glad for my kids to catch the bug then so they could be healthy in time to give me a happy, carefree birthday. After Will had been sick for 4 days, Christopher caught it. By this point, I was starting to lose patience with being at home, and now I had two sick children. Christopher’s virus was short-lived, but Will’s dragged on for over a week.
When I woke up on the morning of my birthday, facing my 8th day of being confined at home with a sick child, I prayed that God would keep me from self-pity, from feeling that I deserved to have a fabulous day just because it was my birthday. I even gave this line to a friend who called that morning to wish me happy birthday and was appropriately sympathetic about Will still being sick. I thought, “Oh, no, I don’t need your sympathy. I’m super-spiritual mom, queen of unselfishness, and I certainly don’t need to be celebrated on the day I graced the world with my presence.”
As it turned out, the day was a disaster. A mere twenty minutes after I got off the phone with my friend, both boys and I were crying. Later in the day I yelled at Christopher, “Why are you acting like this?!? Are you just trying to make sure I don’t have a good birthday?!?” And anyone else who called me that day got a hefty dose of self-pity and requests for major amounts of sympathy. (But, for the record, my birthday got a lot better after Noel got home from work.)
The boys were healthy for a day and a half, and then on Sunday afternoon, Christopher woke up from his nap with a temperature of 102. I saw all my plans for the week (including Halloween) crumble, along with any bit of emotional stability I had left. I still feel guilty about how I was much more concerned about myself that afternoon than I was about my sick child. I hit an all-new low at the pediatrician’s office the next afternoon when he ruled out anything we could get an antibiotic for and mentioned that it could be mono. (Thankfully, it wasn’t, and he was even better in time to enjoy Halloween.)
Why have I gone on and on about these two weeks of my kids being sick? Because the whole episode has shown me how difficult it is for me to muster the self-denial and unselfishness that motherhood requires. I am required to serve again and again without much gratitude in return. My needs and wants are trumped daily by my kids’ needs. I spend hours trying to teach them to obey, and then struggle to not take it as a personal offense when they do the opposite of what I’ve taught them. (A friend I was talking to on the phone got to overhear this comment last week: “Do you think it is a good idea to hit your brother in the face with a shoe? Really, that should be obvious.”)
One reason all of this is so difficult is that it brings me face-to-face with my sin. I can’t help but notice my selfish reaction to my kids being sick. I can’t ignore the irony when I am yelling at Christopher, “You need to get some self-control RIGHT NOW!!!!” I hardly ever had to apologize to my co-workers, but I have to seek my kids’ forgiveness on a regular basis.
The only answer I can think of is to ask God to change my heart so that I desire His glory more than my own. To pray that God would protect my kids from all my mistakes and that their lives would glorify Him, even if they don’t always make me look good. To saturate myself in God’s Word so that I will become more like Christ, who “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:6-7). Because I cannot muster the strength to fight my selfish desires on my own. If I am ever going to be able to put my kids ahead of myself not only in action, but also thought and motive, it will be by God’s grace alone.Share