of the battle for the heart that is waged in the mind

I am a full-time mother with multiple little children. This means I drink my coffee cold and am usually interrupted during the six minutes that I can spare for a shower. It means I do stupid counter-productive things like focus on putting the blocks back in the basket while my unsupervised children tear every item of clothing out of their bureau drawers in the next room. It means I am always on-duty even when I’m off-duty and that actually going off-duty requires so much forethought and preparation that it’s usually not worth it. The joys are many and my heart is full but at the minute it means I’m exhausted. All the time.

I am me all the time, I keep everything running and everyone going. I must plan, shop, scrub, cook, bake, launder, iron, mop, mend, bathe, entertain, and watch over all. I cannot fail in any of these functions too grievously or hunger, discomfort, and even danger will result. All the needs are there all the time.

But what about Me? I have needs too, don’t I? Why should I always have to do everything? Remember the McDonald’s ad for those cold coffee smoothie-things a year or two ago? It shows a soccer mom in the drive-thru, locked alone in the car and smiling as she slurps a mouthful in indulgent celebration of herself. The tag-line: “It’s my Me-Time.” This ad is so incredibly effective that, when we lived in the States, I found myself in the McDonald’s drive-thru several times for iced coffee. I had neither been to McDonald’s nor bought myself a drink when running errands since reaching adulthood. But Me-Time just seemed like such a good idea.

And I may or may not have seen multiple episodes of “The Biggest Loser” in the last couple of years (while eating ice cream). One of the trainers had a line she delivered every season to a motherly contestant: “I know who you are. You’re The Mom. You’ve been taking care of everyone else for so long that you haven’t taken very good care of yourself.” Lovely to be told that the self-indulgence behind most excessive weight-gain is really unselfishness.

And it would be very lovely to be told that my own occasional self-pitying thoughts about how over-worked, put-upon, and under-appreciated I am are only natural. It would feel very good to hear that I’m heroically unselfish because, as a wife and mother, I care for the needs of my husband and children. Yes, I get up in the morning and do the tasks that God has given to me–poor, poor, servant-hearted me–who never gets a break.

But I have noticed what happens when these types of thoughts are allowed to flow unchecked through my mind. As soon as I begin to feel this way, my mouth issues more complaints. Any serving and giving that I do is done much more begrudgingly. I start to snap out my requests like orders and I snarl at any dear ones who step into or interrupt my personal space. I begin to feel entitled to any good gifts or blessings or undeserved displays of affection or gratitude from my family, which destroys my pleasure in them. And I build up impossible expectations in my mind for how I should be valued and treated and am both angry and disappointed if they aren’t met.

Could it be that these problems really begin and end in my own mind? That the thought-life that I encourage and the freedom I give to selfish thoughts is allowing them to grow up into deeds and destroy my joy?  Could it be that the Bible, that ancient book, has something to say to the plight of the stay-at-home mother? I couldn’t find “Me-Time” in the concordance. But I did find a suggestion to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5) and this:

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”   (Romans 12:2)

and this:

“I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being. May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the LORD.”  (Psalm 104:33-34)

So . . .

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.”   (Psalm 19:14)

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12 Responses to of the battle for the heart that is waged in the mind

  1. Juli Cohen says:

    Thanks you, Betsy. Some really helpful insights…

  2. Cara says:

    I have been rolling these thought around in my mind for a while. It seems there are many a blogs, newspaper articles, magazines, etc. dedicated to the plight of the mother. While it is encouraging to hear someone say, “What you do is hard,” it is not helpful to remain in that thinking. My husband’s work is hard. My kid’s work is hard (learning to be obedient, to be selfless, to think of others before themselves, to show respect – I am still working through all that myself). For the most part, all of us do hard things.

    One tiny piece of goodness to look forward to; depending on where you end up, house help will likely be a part of your future. And it is fabulous. Although, it does bring new, hard things with it.

  3. janet Conlin says:

    As I just have one teenager left, the other over 21, I can so identify with you! Think that today’s society so devalues the incredible work you are doing, and it no longer the societal “norm” that it opens the door to those thoughts? The same goes for taking care of aging parents, which is possibly even more thankless as you don’t see the flowers that are the gift of children opening, but the approach of death, and sometimes it isn’t pretty or noble. We receive so many messages that we should be resentful and selfish? “You deserve…” You are a blessing to your family! (And my younger son not only got the clothes out he figured out a way to rip them to shreds by using furniture!!!)

    • betsy says:

      Thank you for adding the perspective about caring for parents–I think I’m still at the stage where my parents do a lot more caring for me than I do for them! But I see the similarities in the role of caring –and the ways that role will change through the years. Thank you, Janet!

  4. Thank you for this, Betsy. So you know: http://bit.ly/SxeDsm. 🙂

  5. Sharon Mac says:

    Thanks for your wee messages. I miss you all! I appreciated reading this wee piece and hearing your reflections. This is somewhat linked… http://www.dump.com/parentsrap

  6. beautiful and true thoughts, Betsy.

  7. Candace says:

    This was so encouraging, Betsy. An unselfish life truly is a happy life! And “Come you all who are weary and I will give you rest” comes to mind. I know when I am tired, all the world seems against me. I pray that God continues to give you the grace you need to be the amazing mother that you are, and the strength & energy for this pregnancy!
    Missing you.

  8. thank you, betsy! words of wisdom!!!! that lead to a joyful life!!!

  9. Pingback: just another day at the office | part of the main

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