Editor's note: This piece was originally posted on The Power of Moms. It has been shared here with permission.
I had just swept the final collection into the pile. "Pretzels, captain crunch, popcorn, cheerios, chips ..." I spouted off to anyone listening. "Nope. I didn't eat any of these things," I continued, as I brushed the last of the pile into the dustpan.
The only person listening at the table said quietly, "It's the mother's atonement."
I straightened up, "What?"
He spoke louder and clearer now between bites of breakfast, "It's the mother's atonement."
I stood silently with a pause hanging in the air. He swallowed and continued, "It's what mothers do. They spend their life cleaning up messes for everyone else, messes that they had no hand in making."
The observance was profound to me. It would seem that I should have been filled for a moment with pride considering that my job of sweeping their crumbs was more Christlike than I had ever considered. Yet, almost immediately, I felt a rushing wave of guilt.
I cowered from the comparison. How many times had I commented out loud, under my breath, to my spouse or simply in my mind about the list of things that I had done for my children? Wanting, for a small moment, for them to recognize and be grateful. It shouldn't seem wrong to desire my children to be grateful, but in that moment of clarity, I saw that my gratitude requirement was more about me receiving some type of praise or return on my service than it was about them changing their hearts.
Christ never required praise. He never asked for it. He never wanted it.
I can recall conversations with my teenage children where they, in an attempt to get out of a work request, listed off all of the things they had done for me recently. I would then make a conversation-ending comment like, "Well if you'd like to compare service lists we can, and you'd lose, so get to work!" We'd always had a good laugh about it, but as these thoughts raced through my head Sunday morning with a broom still in my hand, the humor was lost on me. My motives were rarely pure enough for the comparison my husband had just made. The Savior has never offered up a list to compare what He had brought to the table vs. what I had brought. I would lose every time. I know that. But He would never do that.
That Sunday morning comment awoke me to a new mothering concept. Mothering as He would. Not for praise. Not for recognition. Not for a hug, a kiss or even a thank you. Not because I can't stand a dirty floor or because someone coming for a visit might see the display of animalistic behavior my children can exhibit. Not for any type of compensation.
Sweeping up crumbs because that's what He did. With a perfect love.
All that He did and all that He was in His life pointed us to understand the true nature of His Father, our Father. The glory was to be pointed there. It was never about Him. He swept up the crumbs, mended the broken, and made no comment or had any thought as to who was responsible. He cleaned up our messes infinitely with the perfect love of the Father, so that we could come to know Him.
My job as a mother is to point them to the Savior, who will then point them to the Father. Christlike mothering isn't about what I've done for them. It's about what heart I did it with.
When I show my children who He is through my actions and my heart, then, and only then, can I consider the mother's Atonement applicable to me. Only then do I feel like I am participating in christlike mothering.
Question: We all do countless acts of service for our families, but when was the last time you did service with the pure motivation of love?
Challenge: Think of an act of service you can perform for your family this week with a pure motivation to love them. Write a one word reminder on a piece of paper and hang it on the fridge to remind yourself throughout the week.
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company