The Great Forfeit



This topic has been on my mind over the last few weeks as I have watched my sister-in-law become a mother. One day we were all together, she and my brother-in-law entertaining our children like they have done for the last five years, and then the next morning, she had her own little one who was fully relying on her for care and sustenance.

Even though we know for nine months that a life-changing being is on the way, it’s still shocking to see how much we are required to change in order to accommodate the tiny little person. It is almost impossible to be ready for that kind of upheaval; I’d say about 100% impossible.

The other day I wondered whether, had I been shown a tape of the 24 hours prior to becoming pregnant, I woud have still gone through with having kids.

Here’s what the tape would have shown…

3:30 am: Child #3 wakes up and decides that the day has begun. I spend the next two hours convincing him that it has not.

5:30 am: Stumble back to my bed, and my spot is taken by children #1 and #2 who are sleeping conveniently splayed out so I have to sleep curled up at the end of the bed. I’ll take it.

7 am-12 pm: Up to greet the day; child #1 and I aren’t speaking; go through our morning sleepily but otherwise generally calm.

12:30 pm: About to start nap time and then crises occurs with work that necessitates taking all the sleepy children back out to find a scanner (darn you, Chromebook) and get the important documents to where they should be.

2 pm: Finally on the way back home, everyone falls asleep five minutes before we get to the driveway.

2:15-2:30 pm: Transfer two children successfully from the running car into the 96F degree heat and into their beds. Try to transfer the third, who sleepily wakes up and asks me to sit with him…car is still running.

2:35 pm: Spend five minutes trying to get him back to sleep/trying not to worry someone will drive off with my car/worrying that my car will overheat/stressing that if I do not get this child to sleep, I have lost the only free time I was looking forward to for the day/attempting to move one muscle at a time to leave his bed/trying not to get Hulk-Smash angry that he will not go back to sleep when HE IS SO TIRED.

2:40 pm: Child is awake and refreshed by his mini nap. I forfeit any free time I had dreamed about and get on with my life.

The emotions are probably only such that a mother who has been in a similar situation can understand and which make this little story 4D in that reader’s mind. Anyone else who has not had children will probably laugh and think, “That sounds miserable!” but possibly still have desires for children and family. So, I would still have gone through with having kids. I had several nieces and nephews before I was married and I never wondered whether their mothers felt like they had forfeited their happiness and lives; they seemed so content!

Becoming a parent is a great forfeit, one that I look back on and see that I wasn’t given the option whether to give up or to keep; it’s just the way it has to be. Children need their moms and dads, and their parents must give up parts, sometimes huge parts, of their lives to be able fulfill that role. The struggle is whether to stay in the unsatisfactory period of wishing back our former lives, where we can remember the time we had for napping, shopping, trips…time for ourselves, which no one was able to take away without us agreeing first.

And children will take without thinking, asking, or even needing. The sudden stomach bug, the emergency room trip for a broken bone, the hysterics in the grocery store, the often inconvenient bathroom trips, snack times that come every hour — these issues cannot be pushed aside or unattended to like a nagging co-worker or a short essay on which we will just take a bad grade. We are on call constantly, and sometimes with mortal ramifications, if we do not respond. Who wants this?!

…But there is great gain. The forfeit of our own desires can produce a great gain, when we are able to set our minds away from the small jealousies and longing past times. When we are able to provide comfort and safety to a young child, who otherwise would be starving for love, it will fulfill a purpose for our lives. When we are able to teach a child to use the potty, to tie her shoes, to be patient while waiting, to listen and respect others, it is an overflowing feeling of accomplishment and pride in his or her person. There is great joy and purpose in giving yourself to a child, and it is a mystery that also can only be understood by parenthood, though it can be seen by many.

So the next time (probably about five minutes from now) you are tempted to despair that your life is over and you have forfeited all joy and happiness to the black hole that is called Children, take heart that there is also great gain.

<fist bumps to moms everywhere!>


  1. Ohhhh….fist bump, for sure! My mom is so funny, when I call her sobbing that “I can’t do this!!,” she says, “You have to.” Simple as that. I have kids; I have to find a way to make it through and take care of them, even on the most trying days. When I really think about it, I don’t really wish for the life I had before kids verses the amazing pay off which I know I won’t see as well now as I will much farther down the road. Right now, it is thankless and beyond my capabilities, but I know that God will give me what I need if I only ask.

    Doesn’t it remind you of this verse, Liz? “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.” Mark 10:43-44

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