While I am comfortably past the phase where I stumbled around in that new mom sleep deprived stupor, I still long for the days when I was someone else’s responsibility instead of the other way around. It makes me appreciate so much more everything that my mother did for me. I took it all for granted: the trips to the playground, library and pool, the three square meals a day, a freezer and cabinets stocked with our favorite treats, new clothes every season, etc. As a kid, I didn’t realize how much time, effort and money went into every single childhood and adolescent memory. How much preparation went on behind the scenes of every vacation, birthday party and play date. I just sat back and enjoyed it, for the most part. There were times when I would let my ungrateful attitude show, however, and my mother would in turn make no bones about how displeased she was with it.
My own kids are way too young to recognize everything it takes to parent them also. At 4 ½ and almost 21 months, they have an extremely limited ability to appreciate all that I do for them. If I am doing any of this for recognition though, I will be very disappointed. I will become bitter and resentful towards my children, and they will become a burden instead of a joy. Jesus said “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” I am finding this verse to be very applicable currently, with two small kids who are in constant need of my attention.
As I sit here and type this post, they are both sitting at the kitchen table playing with Play-Doh and I could just about harm the inventor of this substance right now. The bucket of this brightly colored gooey stuff usually stays hidden away in the play room closet for a reason. As I survey the mess they have made, I am on the verge of crawling out of my skin. And thankfully, they are blissfully unaware of how I am suppressing my OCD tendencies just so they can have a morning of innocent childhood fun.
They often plow right through my orderly, structured world with their sticky fingers, loud voices and talent for destroying any room they happen to be in, in less than 60 seconds. It is overwhelming at times. I feel downright weary some days, with all the work that goes into parenting. All the behind-the-scenes prayer, fretting, prayer, frustrated sighs, tear-filled conversations with friends and did I mention PRAYER that they are totally oblivious to and might never even thank me for someday. This right here is unconditional love; it is not reciprocated. What I do for my children will not be returned in kind, no matter how long I live. Nevertheless, I do it all because I love them and want the best for them. I know not to expect anything in return. This is how God loves us.
His love is completely unselfish and perfect, since there is absolutely nothing I can offer Him. He desires that we love Him for who He is, too, instead of what He can give us. Of course, God also wants us to remain in a posture of gratitude for everything He does for us just like I want my children to be grateful. This doesn’t mean I lord every little thing over their heads and demand that they appreciate my hard work and sacrifices, however. I shouldn’t act like a martyr in our home, feeling as though they somehow owe me. Motherhood is about serving, just like any other ministry. It behooves me to remember that Jesus came to serve, not to be served. Especially on those days when I feel more like a maid or cook than a mother, when I am wistfully remembering my carefree childhood.