Mother's Day is behind us, but a mother's work is never finished. And as one author found out recently, comparing that work with a vacation is not the best idea.
If you're a working mother and you've taken maternity leave, you know what a blessing it is. Those first few days and weeks after the baby arrives are filled with joy, tears, and a lot of sleepless nights. But one thing new mothers aren't doing during baby's first days at home is taking "me time."
That's probably why a recent article in the New York Post upset so many. "I Want All the Perks of Maternity Leave," wrote Meghanne Foye, "without having any kids."
This might be the first time I've seen anyone open a can of worms, the floodgates, and Pandora's Box in a single article.
Foye explains, "After 10 years of working in a job where I was always on deadline, I couldn't help feeling a little envious when parents ... left the office at 6 p.m. to tend to their children."
And when new mothers at work went on weeks of paid leave to care for their babies, she says the green-eyed monster returned — not because these parents had the wonder and responsibility of welcoming new life — but because they got time off.
Foye came to believe that employees without kids deserve a paid break, too — not to change diapers, mop spit-up, or feed a hungry mouth at all hours of the night — but "time and space for self-reflection." She even came up with a catchy name for the concept: "meternity leave."
Mothers who read the article, dare I say, were less than thrilled with it. The comment section was scathing. And then it hit social media.
"Maternity leave was one of the most challenging, exhausting things I've ever done," tweeted one mom. "It's not 'me' time."
"I was literally fired for having a baby and taking time off so my stomach staples would dissolve ...," fumed another.
And in what was either a slap in the face to mothers or a brilliant piece of satire, cat owner Lindsay Putnam replied in the New York Post that "pet parents" also deserve paid time off — or what she calls "pawternity leave."
Writing at The Federalist, Georgi Boorman gave what was probably the best response to Foye:
"Mothering," writes Boorman, "is about serving others, not me ... This blessing, with all its burdens, comes not through time spent in self discovery, but in stepping outside yourself, in the willingness to break your body to create new life, in caring for a new, tiny, helpless baby who knows nothing of your insecurities, big plans, or fatigue."
Mothering and yes, fathering, are hard work. They require self-sacrifice, not self-centeredness. But this is the great paradox at the heart of Christian life. The reason living for others rather than yourself is worth it, whether that means having children, adopting, caring for the elderly or disabled, or just loving people who are hard to love, is Jesus' promise: "Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."
Now, I'm not discounting the need for rest and recuperation. They help us maintain our physical and spiritual well-being, and every parent, employee, pastor, and even pet owner should take them seriously. As Erica Schemper observes at the Think Christian blog, our culture is Sabbath-starved, burned out, and in dire need of a break. It turns out God had it right on the first work-week in history.
But the idea of a sabbatical for "me-time" misses the point. The only way anyone ever truly finds themselves is in self-sacrificial service to God and their fellow image-bearers. Because focusing on "me" in this life prepares a person for the type of eternity — dare I say "meternity" — no one wants. Focusing on others prepares us for eternal fellowship with one another and with the One who modeled self-sacrifice when He gave His life that we might live.
Originally posted at breakpoint.org.