Dealing with Mom Guilt
Mom Guilt. Just the phrase makes me groan because it reminds me of how much I struggle with it on a day to day basis. For the few of you who don’t know what Mom Guilt is, here is a definition:
Mom Guilt is the feeling of guilt, doubt, anxiousness or uncertainty experienced by mothers when they worry they're failing or falling short of expectations in some way.
I think it’s safe to say that most moms have felt this guilt, even before unexpectedly being saddled with being their children’s sole educator. However, I for one have experienced it in a much heavier way in the midst of this pandemic, and I think it’s likely some of you have experienced this too.
The lies start creeping in. I’m not doing enough. I only spent (fill in the blank) amount of time teaching or playing with my kids today. My kids are miserable being stuck with me. Personally, the lie I hear most is “I’m a garbage parent and I’m going to ruin my children forever” but that’s just me.
Last fall, I had the chance to read the book Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung. There is so much in that book that is helpful for a Christian struggling for spiritual rest in the midst of our busy lives, but I found the chapter on parenting to be particularly impactful. DeYoung talks about putting all our time and energy into our children’s happiness and success in the name of being good parents. He then writes this statement that stings with painful truth: “Parenting may be the last bastion of legalism.”
I think we Christians can fall into two categories of this legalism when it comes to parenting. The first is one that was more common fifteen years ago, but is still a trap we can fall into today. It’s that we know the formula. Proverbs tells us if we train up our child right, he or she won’t walk away when they grow up. We just have to do x,y, and z and then our kids are set for life. So, we meticulously plan, we control, and we hold tight to the right way to do things and count on it to save our children.
The second category is like the first, but I believe it’s sneakier and more dangerous. We know in our heads that there’s no “magic formula” to get our kids right. We’ve seen plenty of families raise their children the “right” way, only to have those same children leave the church as soon as they get the chance. But instead of resting in knowing God is in control, we are overwhelmed with anxiety. Kevin DeYoung puts it this way:
“We fear that a few wrong moves will ruin our children forever, and at the same time assume that the right combination of protection and instruction will invariably produce godly children”
I would add that we don’t know what that combination is, but we believe it’s out there. If we try hard enough, reach far enough, we can find it and our kids will be saved. We need to do and try all the things to have maximum opportunity for success.
Do you know what God has to say about being a parent? It’s pretty simple. He tells us to teach our kids about him, (Deuteronomy 6, 11, Ephesians 6), he tells us to love them (Titus 2), and he tells us to not exasperate them (Ephesians 6).
So, here’s a quick test. Do you love Jesus? Do your kids know you love Jesus? Do your kids know Jesus loves them? If you answered yes to these, congratulations! You’re doing great!
I know it’s easy to read those words and know that they’re true in your head, but your heart still can’t believe it. As I type this, I’m looking at my two daughters and I know that in a few hours I’m going to be agonizing over why I didn’t throw in a few more flashcards, pull out the painting supplies, or find some sort of baby-safe craft for them to make together today. I will feel like I am not enough.
And you know what? It’s true. I’m not enough. But God is, and that’s how it’s supposed to be. Fighting mom guilt (and parental legalism) is not a one-time fight. It’s something we have to face every day. We are promised in Philippians 4 that God will supply our every need according to his riches in glory in Christ. So, the next time you’re feeling like a garbage parent, or like you’re doing this parent/homeschool/social distancing thing all wrong, or the lies are especially loud, remember that you don’t have to be enough, because that’s God’s job. Love Jesus and love your kids and let God do the rest.