7 Good Things to Remember When You Experience “Mommy Guilt”
This edited excerpt from Sufficient Hope: Gospel Meditations and Prayers for Moms by Christina Fox is used with permission from P&R Publishing Co.
I’ve often felt that I’ve let my children down by not being the mom they needed me to be. I’ve felt angry at myself for missing things I should have caught. I’ve bemoaned the weaknesses and insufficiencies that have kept me from providing for or meeting my children’s needs at all times and in all places.
Mommy guilt. At some point in our motherhood, we will experience it. Our child may have an illness we were slow to detect. Our son might have a learning problem for years before we realize it. Our daughter might complain about other kids picking on her, which we disregard until she comes home in tears, afraid to go to school.
Whatever the circumstances, we know that feeling of guilt when our children are hurt. We feel responsible. It weighs heavily on our hearts. We can’t stop thinking of how bad the situation could have been. We consider all the additional ways it could have been worse. We vow to be more vigilant in the future. If motherhood were a job, we’d likely have fired ourselves by now. Here are seven good things to remember when you experience “mommy guilt.”
1. Moms can have excessively high expectations of themselves than they would never have of anyone else.
As moms, we tend to hold ourselves to a high standard. We demand and expect more of ourselves than we would of anyone else. We try to be all things to all people. We expect ourselves to know everything, be everything, and be capable of everything.
When it comes to our kids, we expect ourselves to know that they are sick before anyone else does. We expect ourselves to never forget to take them to an appointment or overlook atypical behavior. We expect to always be on top of things and to never miss that they’ve been secretive or that their best friend stopped hanging around or that their appetite is off. We expect ourselves to know immediately if they are behind their peers academically or are having trouble fitting in with other kids on the playground.
2. We can feel false guilt over things that are not sin.
And when we do miss something, we berate ourselves. We’ve let our children down—and as a result, we deserve the Worst Mom of the Year award. But the truth is that the guilt we feel isn’t true guilt. True guilt is the result of sin. When we sin and break God’s law, we are guilty. In fact, we are all guilty; because, as James reminds us, “Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it” (James 2:10).
However, missing something is not sin. Forgetting something or failing to prevent something is not sin. Being ignorant or lacking knowledge about something is human frailty, not sin.
When our child gets hurt and we can’t stop it from happening, that is a human limitation, not sin. When something happens that we don’t know about, that’s because our knowledge is limited to a specific time and place. That too is not sin; it’s a reflection of our humanity. We are finite human beings—we are not God. We cannot know or foresee the future for our children. We cannot know everything about our children. We cannot control everything that happens. We cannot prevent things from happening. We are limited by our humanity. We make mistakes. We miss things. We forget things.
3. We need to acknowledge our human frailty and limitations.
It’s important that when we feel the weight of guilt on our hearts, we determine whether what we’re feeling is true guilt or false guilt. Have we sinned, and do we need to come to God and repent of that sin? Or are we simply human?
Acknowledging our human frailty and limitations is hard for us as moms. We try to be the best mom for our children—which is a noble task and aspiration. But the reality is that, try as we might, we cannot control everything. We cannot know everything. Things will happen that we did not expect or anticipate. Our human weaknesses and limitations will interfere in some way. And that’s when we have to face the truth: we are not perfect.
4. All but one of the people whom God used in his plan of redemption were not perfect either.
You know what? All but one of the people whom God used in his plan of redemption were not perfect either. They had weaknesses and limitations too. By the world’s standards, they had nothing to offer.
Take Moses, for example. He had a stutter and was an unlikely candidate for leadership. But God used him to lead the Israelites out of slavery. David was a young shepherd boy, the youngest of his family, yet God chose him to be king. Mary was young, poor, and insignificant, yet God used her to be the mother of our Savior. The apostle Peter was an uneducated fisherman who often spoke without thinking first, yet God made him the “rock” and an important leader in the early church.
Yes, we are imperfect as moms. Yes, we fail our children from time to time. But God has called us to this important task, and he will make us who we need to be for our children. How will he do that? Through Christ.
5. Our Savior is perfect, knows all our cares, and meets all our needs.
Our Savior is the second person of the Trinity. He is God incarnate. He is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3).
Our Lord knows all our cares and meets all our needs. He is loving, kind, and compassionate. “For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations” (Ps. 100:5). He always does what is consistent with his character. God has proven his faithfulness time and time again. His ultimate act of faithfulness was securing our redemption from sin at the cross. If he was faithful to save us from our sins, we can be certain that he will be faithful to us in our motherhood.
6. We need to turn to Jesus when we feel guilty over our imperfections and weakness.
When we feel guilty because of our failure to meet our children’s needs, we need to turn to Jesus. When we are imperfect and weak, we need to rest in him. When we face the reality that we cannot control all things, we need to trust in him. We need to remember who he is.
Jesus Christ is everything that we cannot be. He is our Redeemer who obeyed the law that we couldn’t obey, resisted the temptations that we couldn’t resist, and trusted God when we failed to. He is our strength in our weakness, our sufficiency in our insufficiency, our wisdom in our ignorance. Jesus Christ is perfect for us.
In a letter to the Corinthian church, Paul described his ministry to them.
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Cor. 2:1–5)
One of the problems plaguing the Corinthian church was the confidence they had placed in human wisdom and strength. That is why Paul did not preach to them using Grecian arguments or fancy speeches. He spoke with weakness and human frailty so that the Spirit and the power of the gospel would be exalted. He wanted them to know Christ. He wanted them to notice not him, and what he could do, but what God could do through him.
7. We should never trust in human wisdom or strength but rather in who Christ is and the power of the gospel at work in us.
Paul’s goal and our goal as moms are the same: to know nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified. We don’t trust in human wisdom or strength. We don’t rely on ourselves and our abilities. We don’t place confidence in who we are and what we can do; we place it in who Christ is and in the power of the gospel at work in us.
My friend, if you struggle with mommy guilt, remember who you are as a weak and finite creature. Also remember who your God is. You are not perfect, but Christ is. Find your hope in the gospel and in who Christ is for you.
Christina Fox is a speaker, editor, writer, blogger, and author of several books including A Heart Set Free: A Journey to Hope Through the Psalms of Lament, Closer Than a Sister: How Union with Christ Helps Friendships to Flourish, Idols of a Mother’s Heart, and Sufficient Hope: Gospel Meditations and Prayers for Moms. You can find her at www.christinafox.com.
Sufficient Hope: Gospel Meditations and Prayers for Moms by Christina Fox
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