Mom Guilt

As I discussed in previous posts, I was in a hole. The birth of my second child threw me into a dark place of illness and depression. My body was weak and my soul was sad. And then Satan came at me with one of his favorite attacks: guilt.

I’ve never met a mom who hasn’t dealt with guilt. I think something deep in our hearts wants what is best for our kids, and we feel bad if we can’t provide it. Lots of situations can exacerbate those feelings – being a single mom or working long hours, financial struggles or family stress. Or in my case, prolonged illness fed the guilt monster.

I felt guilty that I wasn’t getting up in the night to do every feeding. I felt guilty that I couldn’t nurse. I felt guilty that they had so many babysitters (even when the sitters were loving grandparents) and that I didn’t play with them very much. I felt bad about the stress I was putting on Brett and the rest of our family. I would feel guilty when I heated up a frozen pizza – again! And said “no” to going to the park – again.

And even when Brett would tell me, “This is not your fault. You’re doing the best you can and the kids are fine,” it didn’t help much. I wanted my little boys to have a great childhood, and every boring day and microwaved meal made me feel worse.

I have recently been reading a book on shame by Brene’ Brown. (You can check out her Ted talks on YouTube or pick up one of her books at the library – they’re great.) She defines guilt as the feeling/belief “I did something bad,” and shame as the feeling/belief, “I am something bad.” During the time when my boys were young, Satan used little everyday parenting imperfections to move me from guilt to shame. I started to believe “There is something wrong with me,” and “I am a bad mom.”

I had a breakthrough one day watching Oprah. The show was on children who grow up with adult responsibilities. The story that touched me was about an 11 year-old-boy – I’ll call him Jack – who had to take care of his quadriplegic mom – I’ll call her Beth. Jack and Beth lived by themselves in a small apartment. Beth was in a wheelchair and had very little use of her arms and hands. Jack got up every morning at 5am to do all of his jobs before school: getting his mom up and dressed, fixing breakfast for them both, fixing both of their lunches, doing the dishes, straightening the house and getting his mom set up for the day. He then went to school, where his teachers were concerned he wasn’t doing as well as he could because he was always tired, and went home to take care of his mom, make dinner, do his homework, do chores, and get them both in bed. Then he got up the next morning and did it all again. But do you know what he said in his interview? Jack looked straight at the camera with bright, happy eyes, and said, “My mom is the best. She loves me so much and does everything she can for me. She always supports me and is proud of me. We laugh together. I know a lot of kids who don’t get along with their parents but I love my mom so much.” Beth looked happy too. She talked about how much she loved her son and what a good life they were building together.

I sat there, stunned. It took a long time for all of the truths of that story to sink in, but I saw one right away. Jack was not judging his mom by what she could do for him. He was not comparing his life and activities to everyone on Facebook. He was enjoying a home built on mutual love and respect, and that was enough.

Proverbs 17:1 says, “Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting and strife.”  I don’t think it’s out of line to make this application – “Better some illness with peace and quiet than a house full of health and strife.”

What is the core of a happy home? Love and the fruits of the Spirit! I knew that! My parents had taught me that! But in my perfectionism and ambition as a mom – the desire to make everything great for my kids – I forgot it and let microwaved dinners and babysitters steal my joy.  THEN I let Satan convince me I was a bad person because of it.

It took a lot of time, and prayer, and implanting truths from God’s word to completely overcome the shame Satan had planted. But God is faithful, and He wants you to live in His truth and joy.

Sometimes, when I start to feel overwhelmed and guilty as a mom again, I think of Jack saying, “My mom is the best,” and I pray, “Lord, revive your spirit within me right now and help me to parent out of YOUR love and YOUR patience. Give me the strength and wisdom I need to care for my family today, and the humility to let go of everything else. Give me the peace that comes with submitting to and walking in YOUR will. Amen.”