Thoughts on Mom Guilt

Conscientious – wishing to do what is right

The desire to be a good mother is good. I believe God gives us this instinct. But mom guilt comes from the desire to be perfect, the need to be perfect.

We need to be perfect because we mistakenly believe that everything, everything, depends on us. If we make a mistake our children are done for, they are irreparably harmed. And it’s all our fault.

But we also need to be perfect for ourselves and for others, for our reputation. We’re supposed to do it all, to be all for our children, so they will praise us, so the world will praise us, so we will feel good about ourselves.

The lie in the beginning was, “You can’t trust God. He isn’t good. You need to take control.” It’s the theme they listened to in the garden.

The variations on that theme are myriad. For moms, it may be: You have to be perfect, your children’s lives, who they will become, is completely dependent on you. At one time I listened to that lie and ever since it’s become the background music of my days. It seems to always be there, pulsing underneath. When I screw up, when I fail to provide what I think they need, when I don’t live up to my own expectations as a mom, the background music gets turned up. It blares in my ears. Why did I do that? I didn’t provide enough, be enough. Your children are going to hate you.

That song is all about me. I can’t trust God with my children. He isn’t really good. I need to take control. I need to make sure they turn out well, for their sake, and for mine, if I’m brutally honest. Self-assessment becomes inextricably linked to my children’s performance. Do you see the tortuous results of this lie?

What is the solution? The solution is not to build yourself up with positive self-talk. That’s just another variation on the same lie. You’re a good mom. Your kids love you. Don’t worry, you’ve got this. It’s still focusing on yourself.

The solution is the gospel. Every time I hear that song in my head, that variation on the lie, I need to change the channel to gospel truth.

I will screw up, but God forgives and God redeems. “O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.” Psalm 130:7-8

I will fail to provide everything for my children, and that’s because I’m not God. I am not ultimate. God is. “Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.” Isaiah 46:8-11

Trying to live up to my own expectations as a mom is idolatry. This need, (this lust, almost) to look good in my own eyes and in the eyes of others is trying to serve the idol of self. And it’s exhausting! This god is never satisfied. It never has enough. No wonder we never feel like we’re enough. We’re serving an insatiable idol! Stop serving this idol and come to Christ, for he gives rest. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

We serve a God who knows all, sees all. He will sovereignly accomplish all his purposes, in me as a mom, and in my children. And he is good! He is gentle to this mom who cries out for her children. His yoke is easy. I don’t need to carry around a heavy burden I was never meant to carry. And God is in the business of forgiving and redeeming my mistakes and my children’s.

At the end of the day, will I listen to the variations on Satan’s lie? Will I allow it to play on repeat in my mind, poisoning my heart? Or will I change the channel and let the truth drown out the lies?

The desire to do what is right by our children is good. The need to be perfect is not.

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