When we got to the beach today, children, sand, and food wrappers exploded out of the car as soon as the doors opened, and I laughed to myself. I picked up a rotten tangerine that had rolled under the car and tossed it in the trash. The boys shook the whole vehicle as they wrestled their way out of their seat belts. They were yelling so loudly I thought maybe I should clarify to people walking by that there were no actual violence happening, just kids “at play.” My third child sobbed because she had an “owie” (also known as a sock imprint) on her ankle, and now she couldn’t walk.
I had a few comments on the blog recently about how people have kids to fill a selfish need for love.
I laughed because even if I had kids to fill a selfish need, parenting is where all needs come to die.
I am definitely selfish, but I’m not selfish because I’m a parent.
Sometimes I hide behind the freezer door eating ice cream out of the carton. I have ice cream seven nights a week, that is not an exaggeration. My kids have it (maybe) two times. That is not because I’m worried about their sugar, that is because I do not want to share. I think back as a kid to my parents’ fridge and the carton of orange juice that was off limits. It was known as “mom’s juice.” Why? Because a girl’s gotta live a little.
So I’m an ice cream hoarder.
Sometimes when the noise level in the car (or house) has reached a point where no one can hear me anymore, I yell. I call this my inner football coach. Let’s just say the Titans would have remembered me. My husband can see it coming, and if he’s driving he will frantically grab a beach towel or sweatshirt and put it over his right ear because he says that I yell directly into his ear drum and spray him with a mist of spit and fury. The other day my friend was in the passenger seat when I yelled and I forgot to ask her if I accidentally spit on her. Sorry about that friend.
Sometimes mothering is not very glamorous.
Let me rephrase that: Mothering is almost never glamorous.
It hardly ever feels like it’s filling a need.
We can’t do it for the short-term rewards; we’re in it for the long haul. We’re in it to raise healthy human beings who know how to love and be loved. I think God created parenthood because he knew our hearts and our egos and our needs would be shattered into a million pieces. He knew we would have to live for something other than ourselves.
Even though when I’m hiding behind the freezer door, I am probably just living for me; I love my kids. If I could just be paid for all my time spent worrying for them, I would be very wealthy. If I could also be paidd for my time spent asking them to pick up their socks, I would be very wealthy.
Can I just say something quickly? FROM NOW ON ALL SOCKS THAT ARE LEFT ON THE KITCHEN TABLE WILL BE LIT ON FIRE.
I cry when I look at pictures from just a couple of years ago because that time with them is already over. I know that it will keep on at this speed, and before I know it they’ll be kissing me goodbye. I cry because I love it, but I don’t always love it. I cry because I don’t want to waste a single second, but also I want to wrap up this bedtime conversation because "This is Us" is on tonight.
So am I selfish?
But parenting has been the most unselfish education of my life. Parenting is the laying down of needs. It is serving when you do not feel like it. It’s cleaning up puke at 2 a.m., it’s making meals even when you’re too sick to eat. It’s staring at labels in the vitamin section trying to decipher which one is the VERY best for the kids. It’s letting them come into bed and kick you in the ribs because they had a bad dream. It’s making food, and then making everyone eat the food. It’s secretly cleaning up the floor in their room because you want to give them a break. It’s the hoping and the praying that their hearts will stay soft and kind, and that they will grow up to be good people who affect the world positively.
I’m not always good at parenting, in fact, I fail often. I’m sure I’m selfish in more ways than I even realize, but this journey has taught me more about how to love, than any other journey in my life.
I’m not saying parenting is the only way for that, of course it isn’t, but it has been my way.
So to the Mamas in the trenches, I want to say, hide your orange juice, hide your ice cream … loving and serving is hard.
Even if you have moments of “selfish” you also have a thousand moments of unselfish.
At the end of the day you might only remember the ways that you failed. You might only remember the time you snapped or hid in your room watching a YouTube video, but that is not all that happened.
You also served today…
…and that, no matter how big, or how small is a very unselfish thing to do.
We are all doing our best, and we’re in this together.
(Editor's note: This article originally appeared on Wonderoak. It has been reprinted here with permission.)