A good friend of mine told me women were born with a gene that stays dormant until they become pregnant with their first child. The guilt gene. Guilt over what we do that affects the unborn baby. What we eat or drink, how much we stress, the toxins in the air. And that’s before we bring the little one into the world! Then we stress over letting them sleep in the bed. In a cradle, a crib? And the changing opinion of how to lay the infant down. Back? Side? Belly? It never ends. After a while the stress, anxiety, the guilt over mistakes we make (or think we make) in raising our kids can sap all the joy and excitement out of being a mom. What should be a carefree time of sweet discoveries become a weight of second-guessing and hand wringing.
The opportunities for self-condemnation don’t end with potty training. Schools, activities, friends, dating . . . the years bring new questions, and doubt. And don’t think once they’ve left the nest you’re off the hook! Are you still their mom, or a friend? Do you offer advice? Help? Money?
I know I’m not alone in wondering: “Am I doing this right???” There are enough parenting books out there to tell me there are other moms in the same water-logged boat. We’re not sinking, we’re just puttering along. One good thing the guilt gene proves: We desperately love our children and want all the best for them. Unfortunately because we are imperfect we’re terrified we’re ruining them. And when they do make mistakes it’s all to easy to pinpoint where we’ve failed as a parent.
Thankfully we can shelve our shame and love our kids with abandon knowing they’re in good hands.
1.) You didn’t choose your kid and your kid didn’t choose you.
It doesn’t matter if you spent years trying to get pregnant, Jr. was a “surprise!” or if you adopted. We do not have control over who our children are nor who they will become. But here’s the great thing! God chose you to be the parent for your child! He knows everything about you. Every shortcoming, failure, fear and fault. He designed you and your child specifically for each other. Let’s take one example: work. You might be the mom who stays at home, but longs to be out working. You’d (maybe secretly) do anything to trade play dates for power lunches and diapers for deadlines. But you should be basking in the glow of motherhood right? Not necessarily. Don’t get me wrong, there are seasons where we will be called to excel despite our heart calling us to something else. But if diaper changing, finger paints and Paw Patrol leave you feeling unfulfilled, take heart. God knows. He made you that way. So you can stop feeling guilty over it.
Maybe you’re the other mom who would love nothing more than to stay home snuggling those little ones and every spit up, sleepless night and runny nose is bliss because you get to be there. But your circumstances require you be at work 8 hours a day 5 days a week, or more. The alarm goes off every morning and you whisk the kiddos to day care, or grandma’s or auntie’s and you spend the next 8 hours sick with guilt over not being the mom you think you’re supposed to be. God knows. He is in control and loves your little ones more than you ever could. Stop feeling guilty. The fact is you are who you are and where you are and God is always in control, no matter how random, upside down or chaotic our lives seem to be. And guilt just doesn’t have any place in what we’re doing.
‘You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it . . . Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.’
I can remember tossing and turning at night after losing my temper with my son. This little 3 year-old decided to throw a spectacular tantrum in the mall. By the time I got him to the car I knew I was on the verge of losing it. I won’t go into detail, and while it involved a lot of screaming, nothing physical occurred. But that night I knew I had irreparably damaged his self-esteem thereby hindering his ability to have a lasting relationship, a successful career and make wise food choices for the rest of his life. I’m pleased to report my engaged son has a bright career and is perfectly healthy.
We all want to be good moms. I’m not saying we shouldn’t work to improve. But I am saying to embrace who God made you to be and where he placed you for your children.
2.) We give our kids what they need, not what they want
From the time we birth our kids we are bombarded by choices. Toys, clothes, sports, cars, education. We’d like to think we’re above the materialism that so plagues our culture. But what happens when Mary makes-over her daughter’s bedroom to look like a fairy princess’? We look at our own little girl’s hand-me-down comforter and feel guilty we can’t give her more. Or clothing brands absolutely essential to high school success. When our child turns 16 do we splurg for the 2018 SUV? The 1998 beater? The bus pass?? What if paying for our child’s education just isn’t realistic? If I’ve learned anything it’s this: Our gift to our children is nurturing their relationship with Jesus. Period. I’ve reminded so many parents trying like mad to “provide” all the latest toys, gadgets, vacations and fun there are only three things our children are entitled to: Food, a place to sleep and love. Everything else is privilage, non-essential and, in excess, harmful. If you don’t have the means, your kids don’t need it. They shouldn’t get a toy every time you go to the store. They should be told no. If you have provided meals, shelter and love your child, stop feeling guilty about anything else.
The thing is we are created to be like our Creator. And he likes to give good gifts to us. It says so in Matthew 7:
‘You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.’ -Matthew 7:9-11
We just have to remember God also says “no” when it’s for our benefit. There’s nothing wrong with gifts, but don’t feel guilty when you “can’t” give what you think you ought.
3.) Making mistakes that seem unforgivable.
So you think you’ve made a choice, or choices, that will forever brand you as a bad mom and from which your child will bear the scar. Please don’t misunderstand. Abuse, physical, verbal or sexual, is NEVER okay. If you feel out of control or have lost control get help now. Imperfection is understandable but endangering a child is unacceptable. You can call this number: 800-799-SAFE and start on the road to being a healthy, loving parent and protector. This isn’t guilt, it’s conviction and should be heeded. However, even what we would consider “unforgivable” behaviour is totally redeemable by our perfect Father. God is waiting and wanting to forgive you. You just need to turn to him and ask. Get help, get healed, get whole. There is nothing too far gone. Don’t throw your hands up in despair and resign to being a dead-beat mom. A sweet friend of mine spent years as a meth addict. The courts removed her children and she seemed a hopeless case. But Jesus so sweetly entered her life, loved her and brought her back from the brink. She is an amazing woman counseling addicts while raising her kids!
‘Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord . . . ‘ -Acts 3:19-20
Guilt is debilitating, draining and often unwarranted. Striving to be better is one thing, but losing sleep when you miss the mark doesn’t help anyone. See guilt for what it is, a devise of your enemy to crush your spririt and steal your joy. Break free of it and walk in freedom!