Okay, so maybe I was looking a little harried that day last week in the supermarket. My four kids, ranging in age from seven and a half to one and a half, were all with me as we made a quick stop to pick up a few items we needed. The baby was in the stroller, trying to jump out, and yes, all the kids were clamoring for a sample of the treat I’d just bought for them. But I think it was the fact that I’d mistakenly left half the items I’d bought at the register that prompted the lady behind me to take a long look and weigh in on my situation.

“Wow,” she commented, “I’m not jealous of you.”

Unsure of how to take her words, I answered something about how we were managing okay, and tried to flash my most reassuring smile.

On the way home, I pondered the stranger’s comment and tried out different responses in my head. From her reaction, I realized we did not share a similar lifestyle, and I imagined how extreme I must have seemed to her. Why have so many kids in so few years? she must have wondered. Why choose such a difficult, harried existence, when life could be so much calmer? Trips to the store could be relaxing. I could have so much more time to myself. Why, indeed?

I’m not going to lie. There are days when my mommy duty seems like an almost impossible task: take care of everyone’s physical, psychological and emotional needs while remaining calm and pleasant in the face of a whole range of childish behaviors and often irrational demands. And while my own needs for time, space and nourishment of body and soul must be given the proper attention and cannot be overlooked, there’s no doubt that being a parent requires sacrifices, both large and small. Whether it’s cleaning up that raw egg the toddler grabbed and cracked on the floor, or working for hours with the seven-year-old who just isn’t learning how to read, there are moments of challenge when every parent needs an answer to that unspoken question—“Why?”

Of course, being their mother, I love my children and can’t imagine trading them in for an easier life, even when they are throwing tantrums or fighting with each other. But there must be a deeper reason why it’s not merely worth it to have kids, but absolutely awesome and utterly fulfilling. The answer must go beyond the standard cliché “My baby smiling back at me makes it all worth it.”

As I pushed the stroller and tried to keep my eyes on my young charges, it came to me: It’s all a matter of your point of view. If life is about me and how much pleasure I can squeeze out of every moment, then the lady behind me was right. There’d be nothing to be jealous of; in fact, my life would be considered quite difficult! Constantly having to focus on the needs of four little people rather than my own wants and needs—who would choose such a life?

But viewed from a different perspective, everything changes: in truth, one of the main reasons we’re in this world is to give to others. We are commanded to emulate G‑d, and G‑d is the quintessential giver. He gives us everything we have. We are like His needy, demanding children. And although giving is something anyone at any stage of life can do, it is parents in particular who are likened to G‑d because of the altruistic, never-ending fashion in which they give. In this light, each child is viewed as a blessing and an opportunity for the parents, rather than a burden that takes away precious time and energy.

In our increasingly self-centered world, it’s become harder than ever to focus on the needs of others. We are bombarded with subtle messages that “it’s all about me.” But last week’s encounter in the supermarket really got me thinking about my everyday struggles. So, when the kids are being especially demanding, I’ve now got a powerful tool to take things to a whole new level and turn frustration into patience. Whether I’m dealing with the chaos of bath and bedtime or a spilled drink on the new tablecloth, I can stop, take a deep breath, and remember that this isn’t just something to “get through”—this is the purpose of life itself.