The Question That Has Profoundly Changed My Mothering

I was reading a book a few weeks ago that discussed modeling self-donative love for your children.  It painted a picture of parenting and motherhood where the tasks we do as mothers {you know the ones I’m talking about here…the thankless and the mundane, the poop-cleaning, nose-wiping, laundry-sorting, the meal prep} were done without a grumble and without resentment as a way of modeling for your children what it means to give of yourself freely and with love.  It was everything I wished I could be all of the time but of which I inevitably fall short.  I immediately started defending myself in my inner dialogue with the usual, “But I’m tired, and worn out, and sometimes bored, and it’s just not that fun all the time, and it’s hard to be cheery about doing something when you are darn frustrated at arguing with someone who is throwing a tantrum because the water in the sink is too wet!”

As I was engaging in all of this righteous self-defense leading to my oft-repeated request of “Please, Lord, I know this parenting / guiding / modeling / nurturing stuff is important, so show me how to do this in a way that is pleasing to you,” a question popped into my head…

Are they getting the best of me or merely what’s left of me?

Would I show the same level of exasperation and weariness and downright not-fun-to-be-around that my children see from me on a semi-regular basis to anyone else in the world?  Would I act that way to a stranger or a casual acquaintance?  Would I roll my eyes or sigh with frustration when asked to perform a simple task?

Of course not.  That would be rude and unkind.  So why am I doing that to the people who mean more to me than all others in the world combined?

There’s this level of comfort that we have in our families that is a bit of a double-edged sword.  We enjoy the unconditional love and the grace and forgiveness that goes along with it, and we know that it’s okay if we don’t always put our best foot forward because these are THE PEOPLE.  These are the people who love us and accept us for who and what we are, whether we are on cloud nine or are weary to the bone.  Home is where we can be exactly who we really are.

Here’s the problem though…slackers like me {and maybe this is only me, but I doubt it} will have a tendency to use all of “the good stuff” on the people we know will accept nothing less from us {because they have no overriding obligation to us} and then collapse into the realm of Grumpy McStinkypants with the people who matter most because we know they will love us anyway.

And that’s just not right.

The allocation of my personal resources should reflect the hierarchy of God, Family, School/Work, Everything Else.  When I wake up in the morning, I have a limited supply of energy, time, cheeriness, and patience, and once those resources have been depleted, I can get really ugly, really fast.  I need to funnel those resources into the people that matter the most in my life, the sweet souls that have been entrusted to me to raise.  Because you know what kind of adults these children will turn into?  The kind with whom they interact every single day.  And I want them to do a better job than I have at living out the hierarchy that is in their hearts.

That one question, which somehow manages to come into my head exactly when I need it to, has made a tremendous difference in my ability to be the mother I want to be.

When I finally manage to sit down for the first time in the day and someone asks for more ice in their sippy cup and I really just want to let out a big ol’ audible sigh, I think, “Are they getting the best of me right now?” and the irritation melts away.

When I’m about to turn yelly because I’m really over arguing with a five-year-old about whether he needs to be strapped into his car seat, the question comes up, “Is this the best of me, or is it the rest of me?” and somehow, with motherly perception that seems to have been hidden behind the leftovers with which I had been parenting, I know that what he really needs is a hug because he hasn’t had enough of a nap yet today.

When I’m wiping puppy poop off the rug and get whacked with a light sabre that ISN’T EVEN SUPPOSED TO BE IN THE LIVING ROOM by an underwear-clad little boy who has been asked to put his school clothes on at least four times, and I think my head is going to explode, there it is again, “Are they getting the best of me?”

I wish I were one of those people who has an endless supply of positivity that they can shower on all 24 hours of all 7 days of the week, but I am not.  I need to decide where I am going to use my finite amount of patience, energy, and compassion, and when I look at it that way, I know exactly where the best of all that I am needs to go.

Because the one thing that I really want to get right, the one thing that is my most important vocation in my time on this earth, also happens to be the one thing that knows no bounds and recognizes no limits…my love for them.


  1. Thank you for this. I struggle with this everyday too. I think we all do, but maybe we don’t think about it enough.

  2. THANK YOU it’s good to know I’m not alone, i know I’m not a baad mom I just have to work on being the best to my 4 kids so they can reflect that when they become adults!!!!


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