Selfless mothering

“Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
Philippians 2:4

One of the men at church yesterday spoke about this verse in Philippians, and it got me thinking about parenting. Of course, Jesus gave us the ultimate example of looking out for the needs of others when He selflessly sacrificed Himself on the cross for our sake. But I want to look at this verse in relation to being a mother.

Prince, 18 days old.

Becoming a mother is one of the best ways to expose your inner selfishness. Even the most selfless of women will be put to the test as they enter the world of motherhood. As a new mother we find ourselves constantly having to attend to the beck and call of a tiny new person. Whether we are sleeping, eating, reading, cleaning, cooking or even using the bathroom – we are on duty and must be ready to drop our own agenda to fulfill the ‘interests’ of our babe.

As our children get older, they become more able to tend to themselves. At first this comes as a much needed break (at last! We can shower more than once a fortnight!), but I have also discovered that it can be a dangerous time. Dangerous, because it’s so easy to slip back into our old selfish ways and miss this wonderful opportunity to curb selfishness long-term.

Too many parents treat their children as an inconvenience. They complain about the strain kids put on their finances, their time, their relationships and their fun. Even those who don’t openly complain might show selfishness more subtly. Whilst there are some things that us adults need (including time alone), I find that more often than not the needs of children are ranked as secondary to those of parents. This, I believe, is wrong.

As parents, we sometimes spend too much money on our house, cars or clothes, then don’t have enough to feed our children healthy food.

As parents, we might indulge in things that we enjoy, but rarely make time to take our kids to play in the park.

As parents, we can be tempted to spend hours watching T.V, but hardly ever make time to play games with our kids.

As parents, we might prefer to leave our children with other people while we go to work or out with friends, rather than sacrifice time, money or entertainment and shoulder the responsibility of raising and training them ourselves.

Whilst none of the things a parent might do for themselves are (necessarily) wrong, they become so when done regularly at the expense of the needs of our children. Parents, we have a duty to consider the individual needs of each of our children and meet those the best we can. We must be willing to sacrifice our often-selfish desires and serve the interests of our kids. If we read on from Philippians 2:4, we see this example set for us:

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (2:5-8)

As a mother, I need to humble myself. In my parenting, I am to have the same attitude that Jesus had when He denied His right to equality with God, and died on the cross to save mankind.  As a mother, my first and foremost motive must be the care and nurturing of my children.

Let’s leave a legacy of selfless love.

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