mom and ellia xmas.jpg

Giving and Giving and Giving, by Mara Spiropoulos

The season of giving is upon us. Christmas Eve and Day have long been favorite holidays of mine, but over the years, financial constraints and a shift in philosophy have changed my views and feelings surrounding celebrating the holidays. Fortunately, it seems our families are also on board, limiting the amount of presents and focusing instead on the time we are spending surrounded by those we hold dear. This year, more than in years past, my husband and I are embracing the “Christ” in Christmas, and working at incorporating His birth and life into our family’s celebration of the holidays.

We are doing a homemade Christmas this year, with most of our gifts made by myself, my children, or someone local. My mom and sister tend to do a lot of homemade gifts as well, so I guess it runs in the family. We are thrifters too, recycling someone’s old presents into new gifts for our loved ones. Giving a gift you put thought, energy, and time into feels better to us than shopping off wish lists.

Now it seems to be crunch time to get my gifts made, wrapped, and under our tree, and I am procrastinating. The days seem to go by so quickly, without much (if any) time for me to dedicate to gift-making. I tell myself, “Tonight I will buckle down and get the presents made,” and yet night falls and my energy and desire wane with it. I love crafting and have some lovely ideas for presents, but just feel drained from the days spent caretaking.

Giving: I feel some days it is all I do, especially with children as young and close in age as ours. I own up to muttering under my breath more than once, through tightly closed lips, “All I do is give, give, give!” And the truth is, some days it IS all I do. Yet other days, when my hubby stops to pick out a delicious bottle of red wine or chocolate bar for just us to share, or my king-of-compliments son tells me he thinks I’m pretty, or my oldest and most private child shares a sweet story, dance, or song with me, I feel filled back up.

Some days I give a lot more than I get, and other days it evens out. Parenting feels like an act of selfless giving 24/7. It is hard at times to see if all the love, time, worry, thought, guilt, hard work, reading and research will pay off. Living and parenting on the outer edges of “traditional” is what feels right to us, but it has some drawbacks. I feel a constant need to explain myself – why we don’t have a TV, why we get outside and into nature in all types of weather, why we let our kids experience their emotions and don’t always insist they share everything, why we don’t want Disney or character gifts for Christmas. The list could go on and on.

Some moments, when my kids are especially crazy and I feel a bit powerless, or we are with friends who have very different parenting styles and I feel a bit “judged” (or I am the one doing the judging), I wonder if what we are doing and how we choose to raise our family are the best and will benefit our kids in the ways we hope and pray. Often, someone reminds me we are on the right path through simple ways: the explosion of imagination in my children; the way they love and interact with nature on our Sunday morning trips to a local nature preserve; the lovely ways my eldest mimics the caretaking she sees when playing “house”; or just how life seems to sometimes fall into place when I try a more gentle technique in my parenting.

Other times, when my eldest clings to my side and whines half the day away, or my son hits/kicks/bites/pinches his little sister for the umpteenth time that day, or my youngest (18 months) still won’t consistently sleep through the night and then ends up crabby the next day, I wonder if I’m doing things “right” after all. I am slowly realizing there is no “right” way to it, just what feels right to each of us.

After a spontaneous visit with my kids, my dad and my 93-year-old grandma recently, I feel a bit renewed. My grandma, the matriarch of our family, mother to 11, grandmother and great grandmother to 50+, told me I get an A+ for motherhood. Although it was a silly sweet compliment, I took it to heart. I told her every day I do my best and try to improve; then I leave the rest to hope and prayer. She told me that all you have is this day, so why would we try to make it anything but great!

Coming from a strong woman I respect and love, these are words I am hanging onto. The truth is we do have to give and give and give as mothers and fathers. But we also have to remember to give to ourselves so that we can continue to give fully and selflessly to our children. Then we can all share in these great days, days filled with love, rhythm and warmth, and intermingled with whining, singing, tantruming, compliments, anger, and joy.  So maybe I could give myself a day “off” to work on those love-infused, homemade Christmas presents.

The last professional picture of my three angels was taken by the talented photographer Billy Zakrewski in our home in Milwaukee and is shared with his permission.

Mara Spiropoulos is the blog coordinator and parent voice for the LifeWays North America blog. She is a recent graduate of the LifeWays training program, resides in Milwaukee, WI, and is a full-time mother to 3 young children. Mara enjoys spending time in nature, reading and researching natural parenting and living, and crafting. She would love to hear from anyone willing to be a guest writer and you can reach her by email at

3 thoughts on “Giving and Giving and Giving, by Mara Spiropoulos”

  1. What a gift!
    Talking about giving, what a gift your grandmother gave to you, recognizing and appreciating your hard work of parenting. I think she got that gift just right!

  2. Giving and Giving
    Mara, You have characterized with such warmth and honesty the feelings of many parents at this time of year; indeed, throughout the year! Thank you for sharing the wisdom of your grandmother and even moreso, the wisdom you are gaining by observing your beautiful children and recognizing there is no final “right” way. It is true that the world at large does not clap us on the back and tell us we are doing a great job by applying simplicity in our approach to parenting. So, allow me add my voice to your grandmother’s, “Great job, Mara!”

  3. Mara Spiropoulos

    Thank you Faith and Cynthia

    I wanted to take a moment to say thank you Faith and Cynthia…those simple words you gave me are a gift that get me through some of the tougher and more chaotic moments of parenting 3 little ones born so closely together. Cynthia – the world at large does not applaud us, but I like to imagine my cherished friends and teachers I have met through LifeWays giving me a big hug instead. Yesterday, I was out of sorts and my parenting was a bit lackluster – very interesting that I had written and posted this piece on the same day I had to really dig deep to “give”! Then today, I was much calmer and patient and was able to see yet again how blessed I am these three angels chose me.

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