Mom Guilt Is Real
One year at Christmas I accidentally threw away the gingerbread cookie that my daughter had painstakingly decorated. She was so upset with me that I heard about the gingerbread incident until well past New Year’s. I suppose that at the same time I fumbled the cookie into the trash, I threw away my nomination for Mother of the Year as well.
The gospel changes how we view our failures, and we see how God redeems our flaws for his own glory.
Of course there is not a real “Mother of the Year” award, but we talk about it as we would a lighthearted joke. The reality, though, is that every mother fails to image God perfectly in her mothering. What doesn’t seem so lighthearted is the feeling of guilt we experience when we honestly consider our inadequacies.
And the Nominees Are Not . . .
What mother isn’t plagued by her feelings of inadequacy and guilt over her mistakes? A friend of mine told me that she has made it a rule to avoid gatherings of mothers because she feels overwhelmed by all of the “perfection” she sees. One can sympathize with her feelings. Imagining a room full of people whose presentation of their lives draws out your feelings of insecurity and guilt would make even the most confident person feel self-conscious.
Even those of us who rarely have thoughts of self-consciousness naturally sense our inadequacy to measure up to God’s holiness. And rightly so. The Lord graciously created us with a conscience that bears witness to this very idea—not one of us is “good” by God’s standards.
Even if we haven’t committed any gross infractions that we’re aware of, we don’t have to look very far into our heart to uncover our sinfulness. We use our children to bloat our egos and make us look good. We criticize other mothers to alleviate our feelings of insecurity. We fail to love our children with selfless, sacrificial love. We neglect our children in the name of ministry. We break fellowship with our Christian sisters over petty matters of parenting preferences. We set bad examples and train our children to value the world’s opinion over God’s. And these are just a few of the ways we fail to live righteously.
There are also the other impossible standards that we invent and hold ourselves to. We feel shame over projects we start and don’t finish. We feel guilty that our children aren’t “turning out” as we had planned. We stumble into the snare of “the fear of man” and live for the approval of other mothers. We get angry over dreams of mothering perfection that could have been. We are our own harshest critics, meting out punishment for crimes against our fragile egos. In looking over this list, I realize that it wasn’t too hard to come up with; I’m well acquainted with these issues. When I look back at my mothering track record, there are more flukes and failures than fantastic feats of faith.
There Is Hope
What hope does a flawed mom have?
Against the backdrop of this bleak outlook, the gospel shines brighter and gives a more durable hope than the empty promises of self-actualization and the short-lived encouragement from glass-half-full optimism. The gospel changes how we view our failures, and we see how God redeems our flaws for his own glory. God has delivered the Christian mother from the domain of darkness and transferred her to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom she has redemption and the forgiveness of sin (Col. 1:13). In the gospel we hear about how we have grace for today and bright hope for tomorrow.
The gospel of grace says that God accepts you in Christ, and then he gives you his Son’s righteous standing as a gift by faith. We don’t first make ourselves holy so that God will then accept us. Our position in Christ lets loose a whole host of joys that transform our mothering.
This article is adapted from Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full: Gospel Meditations for Busy Moms by Gloria Furman.
As dizzying as the pain we experience in raising children can be, we need to have the wherewithal to remember how it points us to God himself.
Am I faithfully obeying God as his child by meeting the genuine needs of others, or am I pursuing self-actualization, self-fulfillment, or selfish ambition apart from him?
The world tells mothers that they can do it all and have it all, but that they need not give their all.