A while back, I struggled with a recurring issue. I’d spent a lot of time and energy helping a family I know. Although I didn’t need the kindness reciprocated, the very human side of me wanted to be appreciated.
Not only was that not the case, but things crossed over to where I routinely felt taken advantage of. After months and months of feeling this way, I decided I was all done. I severed all ties. Then something happened this week.
Trying to protect the innocent, and the not-so-innocent, all I can say is that something happened with one of their kids. As none of the complicated dynamic involved him, I jumped in to help him. Then I spent the rest of the day wrestling with all the murky and conflicting emotions that got stirred up in the process.
I took my unsettled state to God in my prayer time. As I opened my daily reflection booklet, Living Faith, the reflection was about being an open door to others. Initially, I took that to mean I should continue be an open door to this family. I thought it meant I should rise above and still help them, despite the kickback.
However, as I meditated, prayed and journaled more, something shifted. My kids kept coming to mind. For no apparent reason, I started feeling guilty about how often I postpone them.
Whenever I’m short on time, or have a lot to do, I defer listening to them, helping, them, and playing with them. That’s okay occasionally; I think it’s important for kids to realize that parents have responsibilities, and the world doesn’t revolve around them. But I have to admit, I do it more than occasionally; I postpone them far more than I should.
Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you, for the glory of God. Romans 15:7
That’s when it clicked: I’m not that other family’s keeper; but I am my children’s keeper. In fact, that’s the primary goal of my vocation as their mother. All that time and energy I was willing to invest helping that other family needs to be redirected to my own kids.
Yes, I should still have an open door policy for others. But if I haven’t kept an open door for my own children first, I’m loosing the focus of my motherhood. I need to be willing to drop what I’m doing to pay attention to what my kids need. Even if what they need seems trivial to me, it matters to them. If I want them to come to me with the big things when they’re older, setting the tone now with the little things is imperative.
Back when I ran retreats for moms, I constantly talked to the mothers about putting on their own oxygen masks first, before taking care of their kids. If they weren’t breathing, they wouldn’t be much use to their families.
I need to take that a step further for myself. I need to put on my own family’s oxygen mask first, before I head out the door to help anyone else.
Copyright 2018 Claire McGarry