I was musing today on my job as a parent, and the thoughts were sort of spilling forth over tea and scones that an amazing friend made.
We both have four sons. Mine are older than hers, but since we are both about the same age, and grew up together, I find it humorous that so far, we both had four sons. I don’t know if she will beat me and have more, but we will see!
One of my greatest fears in life is that I will fail my children and they will hate me for my failings. I struggle with the fear that can grip me in almost a paralyzing way, and cause me to actually be more on edge.
I am working through learning some valuable lessons at the moment, and I don’t think it is going to be an easy one.
I realized that I often tend to have the rungs on my priority ladder a bit mixed up. I am on the bottom rung, I can usually find a way to take whatever people throw at me. Next is my children and husband and last up is outside friends/family/groups I volunteer for.  Now, you may think….”That is an odd order of things.”
Well, it really is, because when I realized, that the people on the top of the ladder in my priorities were others outside my family. I let my supposed self sacrifice bubble over and effect my children and husband, our family life among other things, not mentioning my health, children’s health, sleep or eating habits. I realized that my “self-sacrifice” has not always actually been so great for people.
I love serving others. It gives me joy to make others happy! But  often I figure that if it effects my own schedule, food plans, or anything like that, that is not really that important. We are supposed to lay down our lives, be self sacrificing, and deny ourselves things, right?
But then I started noticing how I felt stress from trying to serve in so many ways, looking to give to good things, and feeling the expectations of people that enjoyed the fact that I was willing to be there. Little seeds of resentment would pop up when I was taken advantage of, the recipients were not grateful or I realized that yet again, I had not only changed my plans, but my children had skipped dinner because I was “helping” someone else.
I also found that the high stress lifestyle has been wearing on me. The chronic exhaustion, lack of sleep, lack of good food or any food sometimes and other things limit my brain power to do the things I want to do. Writing, for instance. I felt selfish carving out time for something that was just for me. Gardening fell by the wayside, meal planning, meal preparation,  and others.
I realized while working hard at a camp this summer, when it was so relaxing compared to my daily schedule, that something may be wrong with how I have been working things out.
1) Jesus required rest while He was ministering. He didn’t think it was selfish when He said no and went away from everyone.
2) When I feel those seeds of resentment, they trickle up to the people I serve. My children generally first feel the effects, then my other friends, family and groups. Even other drivers probably don’t appreciate it….especially like when I accidentally make mistakes while driving. No, I wasn’t on my cell phone or using the radio. I actually pay attention better on a cell phone than off, if you can believe that. It is a wonder I even have a license sometimes, I am a much safer walker/biker. The backlash from my irritation of some people taking advantage of me, leads to me taking it out on the innocent.
My conclusion is that parenting is one of the hardest jobs I have ever set out to do. But one of the things that make it the hardest is all the other decisions I make on a daily basis. If I seek to be self-sacrificing, am I really serving others, or being selfish by ignoring my children at times or myself?
There is a time for everything, and sometimes there is a time to be bone crushing tired from serving others, but likely not almost everyday.
We can be better servants if we seek to rearrange the ladder, and let the blessing trickle down on others than going the other way around and me being bone dry after a week of hard labor.

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  1. Emily Mulder

    Thank you for your honesty, Martha. I struggle with letting expectations of myself keep me from finding time for myself, and then my family suffers from my being stressed out. We do need refreshment, and to eat! Bless you. :-)

  2. Heidi

    This article was a blessing. Thanks Martha!

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