What's in It for Me?

You may be saying, “you tell me to serve my husband, my work is training the children,” and you get that. But, you say, “What about me? Shouldn’t I be able to pursue my interests, live my dream, be who I can be”?

Motherhood is a road of self-denial.
From the time you are pregnant to the end of your child’s life (if he should die before you), you must learn self-denial.
Shouldn’t the anticipation of having a baby send you into ecstasy?
When I was pregnant, I was sick.
I didn’t sleep. My life changed.
Even how I ate, what I ate, when I ate changed.
I erroneously thought things would get better after the birth.

After they were born, I didn’t sleep. And that was only the first inkling I had of the self-denial I would learn. Whenever I wanted to eat, which was all the time since I nursed, the baby demanded to eat too. I learned to eat all the time, when I can, between bits of sleep to survive.
I also learned the good things I was eating, like milk, could make my baby have colic.
I stopped drinking it.
But I could do that, well sometimes, because my baby was totally helpless and dependent on me.
I couldn’t even take a shower without extensive planning.

But then he became a toddler.
Now I should be able to do some things.
But I found legs on a toddler can run very fast, for a looong time.
My self-denial came not in the form of food and sleep, but in the form of energy—mine.
I must allow him to do what he can. Support him for what he can’t.
And teach him not all things that he wants he can have.
That was self-denial on my part, too. I couldn’t let up. I couldn’t let go.
I had to Remind. Discipline. Correct. Every time.
Do you know what discipline that takes, when you are tired, sick or just don’t feel like it?
I won’t even elaborate on having bathroom time to yourself. “What are you doing, Mom?”
And so, the toddler years blended into the next years.
Just when you think you’ve figured out how to handle them, they grow into the next stage.

Training them to work starts young, when they are unbalanced, awkward and sloppy.
It takes so much longer to teach them to work than it does just to clean it yourself.
That’s self-denial. You won’t be there to clean up after them always. Nor will you want to. You want them to be responsible.

Then school time comes.
They need a cheerleader to help motivate them to learn what they don’t want to learn.
(You also need a cheerleader to push you to do what you don’t want to do. Who wants to go through third grade nine times?) That’s self-denial.
But with that change, you find what you once took for granted, like going to the bathroom by yourself, are now pleasant experiences—appreciated because you know self-denial.
The training you did when they were small, shows by how responsible they are with their work and school. Your self-denial has brought rewards.

They pursue their interests.
Who would have thought I would enjoy football? I did, but only while my son played.
How did I learn about horses and cows? Taking the boys to their lessons. Listening to them talk about what they are doing. (I learned because they wanted to know it.)

Then the teenage years begins.
You may think this “being a mom” should get easier now, after all there’s no diapers, no messes, you have more time to yourself…but no.
The toddler years are physically draining; the teenage years are emotionally draining. Their decisions affect their life.

The teenage years are crucial for you to be available. Not at your designated time between 7-8 PM but when they finally get up their nerve to tell you about a “special friend." Their time may be 10 PM (not my peak time for heavy thinking).

Or when they drop into your room for “just a question” and it ends up being quite a doctrinal issue! They are formulating; their beliefs. They may know yours, but they are not theirs until they make them theirs. That's a process.

These are crucial years. Their mistakes may take them down roads they can’t easily return.
Yet they must choose, you cannot. You can only watch. That is self-denial.

Teenage years brings driving years.
It is one thing to drive your children everywhere—you are in charge.
It is quite another thing to allow your children to take you everywhere. That’s self-denial.

How do you cram thirty some years of driving experience into a fifteen-year-old with a permit? That crisis brings nothing short of a direct line before the Father’s throne.

And it doesn’t get any easier the more drivers you have. You only have more experience with what could go wrong. That’s self-denial.

They also pursue their interests, explore their strengths, talents, dreams. You must take them there—to music lessons, to sporting events. You help supply what they need to help them achieve—art supplies, animals, science projects. That means your time is in tune to their schedule, your money goes for what they need. That’s self-denial.

Then they start college.|
You feel the hole that only that child could fill.

That self-denial is even harder now, because it is letting go, so they can move on. Trying not to boss their every move. Trying to refrain from mothering them (which is what you do!)

You’ve cared for them, trained them, taught them, now they must do what you’ve trained them. It’s the teacher letting go of her student. It’s the master allowing his apprentice to work. You want to correct here, but ah, shut your mouth. They must make their own mistakes. That too is self-denial.

Then they marry.
Even that process you must exercise self-denial. It is not your decision. It’s theirs. You may counsel, but they must live with their choices.

I’ve seen many a frazzled bride because the mom couldn’t let go. The mother must plan the wedding or dictate who comes. Even from the groom’s side, it’s hard to exercise self-denial to let them plan their day.

Then they start a family.
How do I compare my glorified, forgotten problems with what my daughter-in-law struggles with now? It doesn't matter how good you thought you did it, allow them to make their own mistakes.
Our policy tries to be: if they don't ask, don't speak.

Being a mom is a constant state of self-denial.
And so, we come back to your question, what about me?
When you enter motherhood, it’s not about you.

Isn’t that what Jesus told us?
Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul. Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul. For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels and will then repay every man according to his deeds.” Matthew 16:24-27

Motherhood is the special job God has given us women to do.*
By obeying, I learn self-denial. I lose my life.
By denying myself, I don’t lose anything but gain His reward.

Isn’t that what we truly long for?

*Even when you don't have your own children, aunts, sisters, and friends help mother children.

What did motherhood bring that you do not anticipate?

So much wisdom here! Thanks for sharing.

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I write about what you---
women, wives and moms---
about your family, faith and future.
I write about what's hard, what helps and what heals.
I show you how it's done. And not done.
I hold your hand as you find what matters to the Savior.
And let go of those things that mattered to you, but not to Him.
I write about what Him.
               Sonya Contreras

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