March 31, 2008


"Congratulations, Mrs. Layman," the nurse said to my mom when she brought her first newborn and laid him in her arms. "Your sleeping days are over."

Every mother knows the reality of that congratulatory statement! In the career of motherhood there are no weekends off, no paid vacations, no bonuses or yearly raises, and no quitting time. It is just day-in and day-out giving. There are times when we feel we do not have another ounce of energy left to offer. What we wouldn't do to curl up on the sofa with a good book, enjoy a long, leisurely bubble bath, or simply take a nap. Yet multiple needs still require our attention.

I am convinced that no profession requires harder work or greater sacrifice than motherhood. Stephen and Janet Bly provide us with this job description:

No job on earth takes more physical, mental, social, emotional, and spiritual strength than being a good wife and mother. If a woman is looking for the easy life she might try teaching tennis, cutting diamonds, or joining a roller derby team. There is nothing easy about good mothering. It can be back breaking, heart wrenching and anxiety producing. And that's just the morning.2

Because mothering requires constant sacrifice, the temptations to resentment, complaining, and self-pity are always close at hand. But such selfishness will quickly sap the strength of our love for our children.

I will never forget a time when my selfishness robbed me of the joy of caring for my family. My second daughter, Kristin, was ten years old, and we were out on a "date." While our children were growing up, C.J. and I spent special one-on-one times with them each month. It was Kristin's turn that day. We were eating lunch at a restaurant, and I was asking her questions as usual.

"Kristin," I began, "if there was one thing about Mommy that you could change, what would it be?"

"You haven't been smiling very much lately, Mommy," she replied. "You just haven't seemed very happy."

Oh, how those words pierced me! I realized in a moment that motherhood had become a duty instead of a joy. I was so focused on the sacrifices that I had failed to appreciate the daily pleasures of raising my children. This had wiped away my smile.

As mothers, we have a choice. We can either resent the challenges and demands that accompany motherhood and persist in our selfishness, or we can draw from God's grace and receive His help to cheerfully lay down our lives for our children.

Let's choose the latter.

If we do, we are choosing biblical greatness. As Jesus said in Mathew 20:26: "Whoever would be great among you must be your servant" (emphasis mine).

The world may not applaud us for wiping runny noses, driving in carpools, or talking with our teenager into the wee hours of the morning. And until they are trained, our children might not thank us either. But as we set aside our own selfish desires and glorify God by joyfully serving our children, we are pursuing true greatness according to the Bible. Let us do so with tenderness, affection, and with a smile!

Tender Behavior

On his long-running television show House Party, the host Art Linkletter interviewed thousands of children. He included many of these conversations in a book entitled Kids Say the Darndest Things. Kids do say funny things, and at times they also say insightful things.

With that in mind, I decided to conduct some interviews of my own. I asked a number of young people how they knew that their moms loved them. The following is a sampling of their responses:

"She consistently makes wonderful meals without complaint." Jimmy

"My mom is always asking, 'Do you know I love you? Do you I'm for you? Do you know I'm your biggest fan?'" Kelley

"She writes me notes and letters. She is always encouraging me." Andrew

"I don't think I've gone a day in my life without my mom telling me she is praying for me." Israel

"Whenever I wake up in the morning, go to bed at night, or come home from somewhere, she hugs me and says that she loves me. This is very securing. I love it a lot." Brittany

"My mom plays chess and checkers with me." Matt

"When I come home from somewhere and she knows I am going to be very tired, she asks what food she can make for me." Evan

"My mom loves to have my friends over. She likes taking us out and doing things with us. She loves my friends. They are her friends too." Kristin

"When I was little and couldn't sleep, my mom would rock me and sing songs to me. Now at bedtime she always comes into my room for five or ten minutes and asks me about my day." Bryce

"My mom is never too busy to talk to me. She tells me that she would rather be at home with me than doing anything else." Erin

"Every day before I go to school, my mom asks how she can pray for me. Then when I come home, she tells me what she prayed during the day." Jimmy

"She comes to all of my games. I can always hear her cheering for me. She's my #1 fan." Stephen

"My mom takes me out one time a month. We go to lunch and jus talk." Kristin

"When it is cold outside and I have to drive to school, my mom turns my car facing out of the driveway and starts the heater so it is warm by the time I'm ready to leave." Melanie

"When my brothers and I were little, she would always fix hot chocolate with marshmallows for us when it was cold." Chris

"My mom packs a lunch for me every day and puts in a note that says 'I love you' or has Scripture on it." Brian

"She reads me books at night." Brielle

What is remarkable to me about these children's comments is how simple these acts of love are. Tender love is not complicated. It doesn't require a large bank account or creative genius. Rather, this love consists of seemingly insignificant activities like cooking, singing, reading, or talking. It includes faithful prayer and encouragement or small gestures of kindness.

Chances are, you may already be doing many of these things. So be encouraged -- they are meaningful to your children. And if you realize there are ways you need to grow in expressing tender love, may these children's observations provide you with fresh inspiration and ideas.


Excerpted from: Feminine Appeal: Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife and Mother by Carolyn Mahaney. Copyright © 2005. Published by Crossway Books. Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.


During her more than 25 years as a pastor's wife, Carolyn Mahaney has spoken to women in many churches and conferences, including those of Sovereign Grace Ministries, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and Family Life.

Originally posted on June 10, 2005