What’s This About Mommy Guilt?
It’s difficult to be a parent, to have a relationship, just to be a person in a world with other people sometimes. We all mess up, do and say things without thinking or out of emotion that we later regret. It’s just us. People. Tattered and torn. It’s what we sometimes do. Unfortunately.
Sometimes, we get stuck in the regret of our less than perfect moments. That guilt can hang around in our head as a constant reminder of our failures. As a parent, I think that is particularly true. If you are a mom, there is even a term for it—Mommy Guilt. (That in and of itself bothers me, but that’s another story for later.) A lot of people have been writing about mommy guilt lately, about what it is, what it means, and what we should be doing with it. Some articles have been constructive and honest, but there is also a disturbing trend, an ugly deceit, that has somehow crept its way into the conversation—it encourages women to embrace the mommy guilt, to give it a home in their daily thoughts, and to be glad it’s there because it is a great reminder that you love your child.
…WHAT?! Surely no one… but yes, over 60,000 women “liked” first one then other articles I read agreeing that yes, embracing the guilt made sense and was a positive thing to do. Over 60,000 women. I felt physically ill.
A simple search of the word guilt renders synonyms like burden, condemnation, self-doubt, feelings of unworthiness, and conviction. Those don’t seem particularly healthy. Measured against God’s Word, Isaiah says that unworthiness, or “unrighteousness, is as filthy rags,” which translates literally into filthy garments (Is 64:6). Ummm, not the image of something I want to embrace and hold close to me. A filthy rag is something I get rid of.
You see guilt, real regret, debilitates us with reminders of our failures, painting them in vivid detail with accusations of “You know better…,” “You should have…,” “You didn’t…” Making guilt our life partner, making daily space for him in our minds and emotions is crippling. Embracing guilt of any kind does not put the emotion into its proper perspective or make peace with it. Embracing guilt is without hope. And it is without peace. It creates a condemning cycle that just creates more guilt.
And if you are child of God, a co heir with Christ, feeling unworthy is not the kind of life that you were called to live. Philippians 3:9 says that in Christ we don’t have our own righteousness/worthiness, which is from the law, i.e. following all of the rules and doing all of the right things, but through our acceptance of Christ through faith, we have HIS righteous/worthiness! In other words, even when we mess up, we don’t have to be plagued by guilt because it is not our actions that make us a worthy person or parent. It is the finished work of Christ.
Just in case that slipped by, it is not our actions that make us a worthy person or parent. It is the finished work of Christ that makes us worthy. Everyday. In everything. It is what He completed by dying on the cross that allows us to live everyday free of guilt, free of burdens, free of condemnation. “Therefore there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus who do not walk according to the flesh (emotions are a part of your flesh), but according to the Spirit . For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.…”-Romans 8:1-2
Some may say, “Well that is for when we get to heaven.” No, God redeemed this life and the next life. His sacrifice was not a partial one; it was a COMPLETE one.
So what do we do when these guilty feelings come a’knockin’? Because they do.
- First, we need to know that having an emotion is okay, but wallowing in it is not. So when something happens or when reflecting on an event, if our immediate response is to feel badly, that is fine. But we should not stay there in that emotion any longer than it takes us to recognize it.
- We need to counter that emotion by seeing ourselves in Christ and identifying with Him and who He has made us through His finished work on the cross instead of identifying ourselves by what we do.
- If we have actually done something that we shouldn’t have, then we acknowledge that it was a mistake, decide that we don’t want to do it again, and make the honest commitment to do something different the next time. This is what repentance looks like. Repent means to “turn away from.” Repent does not mean to grovel and beat yourself up in order to prove how badly you feel.
- Instead of continuing to dwell on where we think we failed with our children, we choose to meditate on what God has to say about us (this includes us and our kids—do you know all of the wonderful things God thinks about you and put in his Word?). We can also remember our triumphs with our kids. This is walking out Philipians 4:8 and 2 Corinthians 10:5. Countering contrary emotions and debilitating thoughts with the Word of God is called “casting down our imaginations” (2 Corinthians 10:5). This means that we choose to hold Gods’ Word higher and to be more true than our emotions or the events of the day. We choose to believe one and discount the other.
If we truly understand our identity in Christ, we can stand and say NO when those nasty condemning thoughts come creeping in to niggle at the back of our minds and steal our joy. We can proclaim that we are the righteousness in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:21), that we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37), that we are supernaturally equipped to be the parent our children need us to be! We are enough; they have enough, and Jesus Christ is more than enough (Romans 5:17).
God has called us to a life of joy and peace, not self-doubt and burdens of past mistakes. Unfortunately, the battle with guilt is probably one that we will have more than once. But the Good News is that we don’t have to embrace guilt or any other crippling emotion in order to deal with life’s ups and downs. Jesus Christ died on the cross to bring us into a right relationship with Him. Being a member of his family means that you are well-equipped to do the job put before you! And that includes being an awesome parent!
If you haven’t accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, then there is no better time to do it than now. God’s sweet grace is waiting.
God’s Word has so much to say about peace, hope, and success. Below are just a few places you can continue to read about them.
- Philipians 4: 4-9
- 2 Timothy 1:7
- Deuteronomy 30:19
- Psalm 32:11, 40:16, 68:3, 70:4
- Hebrews 1:9, 10:22
- John 14:27
- Galatians 5:22
- Romans 8:33, 37
You might also like these other ASD top posts:
When Did Clingy Become So Cool?
How Overparenting Cripples Their Faith
Other great resources include:
Lysa Terkeurst’s Am I Messing Up My Kids?… And Other Questions Every Mom Asks
Steven Furtick’s series, Crash the Chatterbox: Hearing God’s Voice Above All Others (also a book)
Photo Credits: Melissa Witcher and Carolyn
I am so “guilty” of mommy guilt. I often feel like I have let my family down if something is less than perfect. I refuse to carry that burden. I am who I am. My best is my best. And my love is the biggest. Not much more I can give. Perfect post S. Perfect.
I think we all are sometimes. But you are right. That isn’t a burden we should carry. Sounds like you are putting it in its place though! Our love and our best is enough thanks to Christ’s righteousness because our enough is found in Him and His sacrifice, not our actions! THAT is such good news!
Wonderful words and fabulous advice for women! Keep up the great work! I have been making a point to include your articles in my daily private devotional time the last several days and your words have been such a blessing to me!!!!
You don’t know how humbled I am by that. Thank you! Makes all of this absolutely worth it. I sincerely ask that you keep me and the blog in your prayers, pray that I would write and post the things that God wants me to and that this will be a blessing and a help to others. Thank you!
Encouraging words of GRACE much needed in the life of mom’s and dad’s! Thank you Stacey for pointing us back to our heavenly Father for wisdom and encouragement to walk in newness of life…not in the slough of guilt!
You know, I am so glad you mentioned dads because sometimes society seems to forget that they FEEL the burden of parenting just as much as moms do. They struggle with whether or not they are doing a good job, making the right decisions, having the proper impact, but they often get left out of the conversation. Dads need encouragement just as much as we do.
Thanks, Tina! I am ready to do away with guilt and walk in freedom!
Awesome read!! I can’t wait to go to a bookstore somewhere soon and pick up a book you have written. I’ll say
“I knew her before she was famous!” You are so talented! Can’t wait to read more! 🙂
My dream! Maybe one day. I am just so grateful to everyone who is reading!
I love that in this article you talk about joy. Sometimes Christians seem to get so caught up in other things that we forget to have joy! There is joy in Christ! It is also a wonderful reminder that there is no obstacle (including parenting) that we can not overcome with Christ.
You’re right. Sometimes, we get so busy (even doing good things) that there is no time for joy! Joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22) and we are known by our fruit (Matthew 7:16-20). The best news for me is that because joy is a fruit of the Spirit, I don’t have to generate my joy. It was provided for me through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. I just have to rest in His finished work and let His joy flow out.
Over the years of parenting, I have been so encouraged to remember that I am well-equipped to do every task set before me especially on those days when I have felt like “I can’t do this. I don’t know what to do.” Sometimes, we get mired down and forget that promise to be well-equipped isn’t just about being equipped to spread the gospel or do “church-ey” things, but that promise extends to every area of our lives that are in accordance with His Will (Heb. 13:21, Phil. 4:13). We’ve got this parenting thing as long as we rely on Him!
Love! This! A very timely encouraging word for me.