Stop Reacting, Mom!

If you were on our free call yesterday for Fun Friday you’ll remember me mentioning about RFA’s, which are Red Flag Alerts.  Here is my own personal story with RFA’s that I thought you might enjoy reading.

I am not endorsing Christianity or any other religion, but this was my experience, which is a common message taught to women whether through religion, culture or media.  Luckily that’s changing somewhat today, but I think you’ll get the point from my specific story and be able to apply it to your unique situation.   Especially if you find you’re frequently putting your needs behind everyone else’s.

When I was a child I was taught a song in Sunday School that went something like this:

Jesus and others and you
What a wonderful way to spell joy
Jesus and others and you
in the life of each girl and each boy
“J” is for Jesus for He has first place,
“O” is for others you meet face to face,
“Y” is for you, in whatever you do,
Put your self third and spell JOY.

I remember patiently raising my hand silently hoping to get picked to hold one of the J-O-Y cardboard squares at the front of the class.  I learned to put myself last at a very early age, and that is what I believed for years.  Indeed I even found a blog that still promotes this way of thinking, (which is how I found the lyrics to that song of old as well).

But fast forward a few years.  Being a young mother with three children and this mentality became a problem for me.  Why?  Because the endless list of the needs of others never ends.  Whether it’s tying shoes, making sippy cups, changing diapers, cleaning up messes, making dinner or doing laundry, these “O”thers take over.  And the result for me became anger, frustration and resentment.

Now what is a woman to do who is supposed to be experiencing JOY by serving others, and isn’t?  For one thing I felt guilty.  Not only were the negative emotions confusing to me they were not okay in my opinion.  So I tried harder.  I felt like a terrible person for not feeling joy in serving others.  And the cycle of anger, frustration, guilt and resentment continued.

This describes many women, and certainly describes what I experienced as an at-home mother those years ago.  I was giving and doing until there was nothing left.  I was breathing out in service to others in  but was not breathing in to serve myself.  If you’ve ever traveled by airplane you know the gig, “Put your mask on first…then help others.”  Well it makes sense in the physical world, but why doesn’t it make sense in the emotional, non-physical world?  Hello, it does!

So this is where the shift comes in.  I call these emotional bumps in the road RFA which simply means a Red Flags Alert.  The story of Mary and Martha illustrates it beautifully.  Here is the quick story for those of you who aren’t familiar with it from the New Testament book of Luke, Chapter 10.

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”  41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

I hated this story because I was Martha.  I couldn’t understand why Mary was getting the validation and here was Martha working her tail off to help serve the crowd.  Martha was serving others, and Mary was not.  Martha was busy, helping, serving to make sure everyone else’s needs were met.  Mary was sitting down taking it all in.

What had Mary chosen that Martha had not?  Mary chose to take care of herself first.  She wasn’t worried about everyone else.  She wasn’t putting everyone else before her.  If that would have been the ‘right’ way to do things certainly Jesus would have said, “Yes, Mary, get up and help your sister Martha,” but He didn’t.

And how do we know Martha had not chosen properly, her emotions were telling her so…she was getting an RFA (remember a “Red Flags Alert”)!   It says she was distracted by all the preparations and shouted out (at Jesus!) “Don’t you care…!”  It says she was worried and upset about many things.  I can picture her rushing around, complaining playing the ‘it’s not fair’ card.  Maybe she was thinking, “Sure, as usual, I invite the crowd in and no one helps me.  No one ever helps me.  I guess I’ll just have to do this all myself.  Mary is so self-centered…look at her just sitting there…while I rush around and make sure everyone else  is ok….Typical!”

How often do we do this to others?  We want people to notice all we’re doing and when they don’t we get upset.  We want others to change, to help us more, but the only one we can change is ourselves.  This is what Martha didn’t understand.  And how you know you have crossed that fine line over from serving into sacrifice is…notice your emotions and see if you are getting an RFA!

So the moral to the story is:

1)  Serving others is noble to the degree you can do it with a happy heart.

2)  Once your emotions become negative or you start to resent others, think life is unfair or feel distracted by all that life has for you to ‘do’ take notice.  This is your RFA!

3)  Make corrections to your RFA by stepping back and taking care of you first.  Service with a sour attitude benefits no one.

So go ahead.  Be Mary and take care of yourself first.  All that others stuff can wait.  That is choosing the better part and it won’t be taken from you.  If this is you won’t you consider taking action and doing something for you today!  If you haven’t already join FREE and start putting yourself back on the priority list.  🙂

April O'Leary

April O’Leary is a Certified Life Coach, Author and Founder of the University of Moms. She happily resides in Florida with her husband and three daughters. For more info visit and

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