Who eats the burnt toast at your house?

Go ahead, admit it. You do.

Author Tenneva Jordan said, “A mother is a person who, seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.” 

Everyone knows mothers personify selflessness and generosity, so what I’m about to propose might border on heresy. Here goes:

I think moms are too unselfish sometimes. 

Instead of setting a good example for our children, I wonder if our purely-motivated, selfless actions might actually be having the opposite effect.  

Motherhood is, by nature, an unselfish calling. Even before our children are born, we begin to deny ourselves. We lose sleep, money, and the ability to see our feet—sometimes forever. And then they’re born. We lose more sleep, more money, and we still can’t see our feet because they never stop moving.

Ever.

If there isn’t enough money for two winter coats and you and your child need one, your child gets it—no questions asked. They go to the dentist every six months because you wouldn’t dream of neglecting your children’s teeth, but you haven’t had yours checked in years. When there are limited resources and unlimited needs, parents sacrifice for their children. It’s good, right, and responsible. 

But sometimes mothers take it too far. We sacrifice what we don’t have to, as if there is a virtue in going above and beyond the duty of selflessness. In doing so, I think we set a poor example for our families and train them to neglect and slight the mothers in their lives.

Take the burnt toast, for example. I actually overheard one of my friend’s children say to his sister as he surveyed the breakfast table, “Mom will eat the burnt one; she likes it.”

By always taking the leftovers, never speaking up about our preferences, and always yielding our “rights” for the benefit of our children, we set the stage for our children to devalue us and the other mothers in their lives. We also risk creating selfish, self-centered children with a sense of entitlement. And anyone who’s raised adolescent children knows this is the last thing we need to encourage.

In the burnt toast scenario, what if we presented it another way? What if we said, “Uh oh, one piece of garlic bread got a little crispy. I ate the crispy one last time, who would like to be unselfish and take it this time?” If someone rises to the occasion, praise and thank them. If you get no takers, “volunteer” someone, and rotate the privilege as the opportunity presents itself. 

This is a great time for Dad to step into the teaching lesson. Perhaps he can set the tone by saying, “You know, Mom is usually the one who eats the broken cookie, the burnt toast, or the smallest piece of chicken. But Mom’s really special, and she deserves the BEST. I’ll take the burned one so she can have a nice piece. After all, she cooked this delicious meal for us.”

And instead of Mom being the last one to sit down and the first one to jump up for the milk, the ketchup, and the serving spoon, what if Dad said, “Honey, you’ve worked hard to cook this wonderful meal for us. Why don’t you sit down and let us serve you?” From this powerful example, our children learn to view Mom not as a servant, but as an appreciated, valued member of the family. 

Even if we don’t have our husband’s support, we can still instruct our children in ways that will help them understand that moms are dignified human beings worthy of respect, honor, and deference.

We can say, “I’ve spend the last hour helping you with your school work. Now it’s Mommy’s time to do something for herself. Please don’t interrupt me for the next 30 minutes.” And then don’t cave.