To buy children’s gifts, mothers do without

November 28th, 2008

Come Christmas, McKenna Hunt, a gregarious little girl from Safety Harbor, Fla., will receive the play kitchen and the Elmo doll she wants. But her mother, Kristen Hunt, will go without the designer jeans she covets this season.
New York Times

To give their children health, mothers do without.
To give their children sleep, mothers do without.
To give their children attention, mothers do without.
To give their children time, mothers do without.
To give their children comfort, mothers do without.
To give their children respect, mothers do without.
To give their children shoes, mothers do without.
To give their children security, mothers do without.
To give their children freedom, mothers do without.

For a mother, doing without is never doing without love.

Try designing that into a pair of jeans.


  1. So true. And here in Africa I see mothers giving up all of these – all the time. Quite humbling.

    Thank you for this post and for your comment over on my blog. Your writing really has helped me through some rough patches.

    Comment by Katherine — November 28, 2008 @ 7:19 am

  2. beautiful. isn’t it so true….i had to concentrate really hard not to put things for the kids on my own birthday “wishlist”…

    Comment by Phyllis Sommer — November 28, 2008 @ 12:42 pm

  3. Great post. And I love that you included ‘to give children respect’. What an important thing to consider and include!

    Many lives are lived without parents ever seeing the need to provide this amazingly honoring and powerful gift to their children.

    Bless you!

    Comment by Nerdy Renegade — November 28, 2008 @ 1:20 pm

  4. The things we ask mothers to sacrifice seem more problematic than a pair of jeans. It bothers me though how we seem to rate mothers according to how much they give up.

    Comment by mapelba — November 29, 2008 @ 7:54 am

  5. Karen, you’re a rockstar! You are this ADHD Preschool teacher’s guru. You make simple, valid points and prove them in precise, non-threatening ways! I have sent links to your blog to friends and family on multiple occasions because I just couldn’t say it better than you had. I love what you do.
    Thanks Thanks thanks…. and please keep it up!

    Comment by Kristinah — November 29, 2008 @ 1:39 pm

  6. I don’t think I’ve ever been asked to do these things, and if I’ve been rated by anyone I’m almost certainly behind on points. No, if the motivation to be selfless isn’t purely intrinsic than I suppose it feels unfair and problematic.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — November 29, 2008 @ 5:02 pm

  7. I have a hard time with societal expectations about how much mothers can give up in order to make the lives around them better. In service to others, there is love and fulfillment. In the motherly contest of who can give up the most, there is often anger and resentment.

    I am conflicted with this post because giving is in fact a key to happiness. Being expected to give up and go without feels-icky.

    Comment by Bridge — November 29, 2008 @ 6:24 pm

  8. To me, it’s appreciating the difference between being sad that you don’t have what you want, and being thrilled at the chance just to have what you have. So many people neglect to see the gifts within their burdens. It seems that this year, maybe moreso than others- maybe not, it would be good to focus how truly blessed we all really are.

    Comment by Anonymous — November 29, 2008 @ 8:48 pm

  9. I do not believe in societal expectations. That is, the only expectations that cause us trouble are our own. If we do not adopt any so-called external judgments or values, or if we do not form our own expectations and blame it on society, we are free. When we are free there is no such thing as being without. When we no longer seek to satisfy our insatiable desires, our me-too or me-first impulses, we are full and content. In truth, there is no contest in mothering except the one we each establish by our own self-criticism, comparisons and doubt.

    The point of this post is that I find it hilarious that the story of a mother going without designer jeans is news. Going without jeans? Good god, people, haven’t you noticed what mothers give? But then, it is only news in the context of a newspaper looking for something to call news. Like most things we occupy ourselves with, it’s not real.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — November 30, 2008 @ 2:58 pm

  10. I guess I would add that like many others I am not free. I do, in fact internalize expectations, I have me first feelings and when I go down that road in thought I feel very irritated.

    Comment by Bridge — December 1, 2008 @ 4:46 am

  11. yes!

    with love,

    Comment by Wendy — December 1, 2008 @ 2:07 pm

  12. I think the hardest thing I do without is alone time and creativity time…. but its worth it for my kids. I know I will get time all too soon, when they are old enough to not want to hang with me all the time!

    Comment by Robin — December 1, 2008 @ 7:55 pm

  13. karen, wonderful post. i would add that us ‘snag’ daddy’s do very much the same things when called on to do so.

    – john

    Comment by moonlightcricket — December 1, 2008 @ 9:05 pm

  14. exactly.

    Comment by Anonymous — December 2, 2008 @ 1:49 am

  15. beautiful.

    Comment by Shelli — December 2, 2008 @ 9:10 pm

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