Does Sacrifice really Mean Losing Myself Entirely?
It may be a bit cliché to begin with a definition, but extrapolating on a term really helps me unearth deeper meanings. On a surface level, the term sacrifice means, “to give up for the sake of other considerations.” This certainly seems like a recognizable/relatable portrait of a mother. The woman who often places everyone else’s needs before her own. She may not finish her morning coffee because she is helping everyone else get ready for the day; she may be stressed or sleep deprived but perseveres in balancing the many tasks within a day; she may be the last to sit down at dinner or the last to go to bed, etc.
The Latin etymology of “sacrifice” is “sacrum” and “facere”—holy, sacred and to make, do. Typically, this connects with performing sacred rituals, but let’s apply it to this vocation—whether it is wife and/or mother. It is about completely offering oneself as a gift to the family through actions, thoughts, and words. This is where I come to the questions that I battle with almost daily: How do we give of ourselves without losing ourselves entirely? How do we find that balance?
Avoiding a Duty Only Approach: Maintaining Time for Self
After the birth of my youngest was when I noticed something amiss about how I was living out my vocation. I was no longer reading for fun (children bedtime books do not count), I made grocery lists more than I journaled, I had not picked up a paintbrush in years… I had come to assume that the requirement of sacrifice in marriage and motherhood meant abandoning all that I loved and enjoyed for the betterment of those around me. They need me more than I need to paint a picture, right? However, in this case, I was becoming almost devoid of personality and I was treating motherhood like it was a duty (and not a willing sacrifice). I was beginning to easily relate to the trend of grumbling mothers who twist motherhood into a burden: never any time alone, children are too needy, etc. So, how do we reconcile this?
To Sacrifice, You Need Something to Give
Following many reflections over a matter of months, I had an epiphany: how could I even sacrifice myself for my family if I have nothing to offer? Yes, there is the beautiful concept of emptying our selfish inclinations in order to have Christ increase (John 3:30), but we cannot forget about the
intricacies of our personality, our hobbies, and our particular gifts that God placed into one very individual soul. When we give ourselves day after day for our families, we need to make sure that it is not an empty shell at work, but a confident woman who knows her desires and shares herself with the other members of the household (which, let’s face it, inspires all to cultivate their inner workings).
So, What to Do?
We need to carve out time for ourselves. Yes, we are all so busy, but I have two suggestions: plan ahead (mark your calendar and alert the family of your plans) and ask your spouse to make you accountable. Centering yourself should be a priority, and it’s just a matter of finding balance in your schedule. Maybe you can relate to this: I’ve found myself quite content to binge on Netflix after a long day, but after a week of doing that I had to wonder if I could be doing something more fruitful for my soul?
Now, if my husband wants to watch something, I’ll draw while the TV is on. Some hobbies may take a little extra work, but it’s worth it. We can bring more to the table when we feel fulfilled. I would much rather my children have memories of a mother who enjoyed learning French and playing Scrabble than a woman who balked at the question, “What do you enjoy doing for fun?” Also, what I have come to find (especially with my eldest) is that I can share my hobbies and teach technique—that joy is infectious.
Finding the Balance
Referring back to sacrifice, I do believe there’s a balance. Certainly, we want to empty/lose the selfish part of ourselves, that part that whispers temptations to us; the part that leads us to choose impatience with our husband or to disengage with our children when they need us. Especially during Lent, we are trimming the excess fat in our lives in order to see more clearly what is needed rather than what we want. However, I would argue that cultivating our personality and our hobbies is a necessity. It allows us to give totally and completely—not just to our families—but to God. Obviously, there will be moments when I have to drop my desires to be present to the little ones. But that doesn’t mean I have to completely lose who God created me to be in the process. After all, they need us, and we owe it to our spouse and our children to give them a whole person.
Little tip to get started if you feel like you’re in a rut: Visit http://www.notsoboringlife.com/list-of-hobbies/ and list all the neglected hobbies you wish to pick up again (hey, include some new ones you want to try!).