It was Mother’s Day. My sweet husband and children took me out for lunch after church. Then they gave me a blank slate. We could do (or I could do) whatever I wanted. This particular Mother’s Day, I was feeling especially exhausted. The children’s packed spring schedules, along with having an intense month of ministry commitments, left me drained.
What did I really want to do? Go home and take a 2-hour nap. But the feelings of mom-guilt attacked me. Any good mother would choose to spend the afternoon with her children, not sleeping in the other room. We went for a family walk after lunch and I confided my dilemma to my husband. He graciously encouraged me to go home and take a nap, free from guilt!
But why is that so hard to do?
I know I’m far from being alone in the battle with mommy guilt. That same day a friend of mine with a child with special needs told me of her similar dilemma. She also wanted to just go home and sleep, but it was Mother’s Day. So she would push through the exhaustion to do something fun with her kids. Never mind if she could hardly keep her eyes open while she did it.
A while back I noticed a post from a young mom on social media, pouring out her feelings of despair over not being a good enough mom. She sent a plea out into the cyber abyss sharing how she always felt like she wasn’t giving her kids enough — enough time, energy, fun experiences, and more. My heart went out to her. I could identify with the feelings she honestly expressed. She was searching for validation in her mothering skills. And as the responses rolled in, she was affirmed in what a good mother she actually was.
Culture of Comparison
In our day and age, it’s easy to feel like we’re never doing a good enough job. We live in a culture of comparison. Just open up your social media account and you can see plenty of reasons you aren’t measuring up to the mom who is packing her kids’s lunches with homemade bread, the mom who created an elaborate thematic birthday party (with live camels), the mom who helped her daughter create a replica of the Taj Mahal for her school project. Suddenly my box cake mix and “Happy Birthday!” sign hung in our dining room don’t seem like enough.
We quietly compare ourselves with the moms in our friendship circles, on social media, and at our churches, and judge whether we’re doing an adequate job. Pride can puff us up to say, “At least I’m not doing that.” But it can also make us fall into feelings of despair and self-pity.
Finding Righteousness in Mothering
The constant battles over the “right” way to mother our children can leave us feeling confused, angry, jealous, proud, or depressed. There are endless debates over the type of schooling we choose, to work or not to work outside the home, breast feeding versus bottle feeding, organic versus non-organic food, even the type of sunscreen you’re using.
Depending on how we respond to these options reflects who or what we’re trusting for our validation as a mom. If we find ourselves getting defensive and upset over our friend’s passion to homeschool her children, for instance, we might need to check our own hearts.
It might be good to ask ourselves why we feel the need to convince others of our way of eating, or schooling, or caring for our families. There is a constant temptation to find our righteousness in our standard of mothering instead of in Jesus. We may not even realize we’re doing it.
Finding Rest in Christ
When the feelings of mom-guilt begin to tempt you, ask God to help you discern whether it’s valid. We should feel guilt when we’ve truly sinned, or have selfishly neglected the needs of our families. But oftentimes that guilt is creeping in from our own comparisons with others.
Our righteousness does not come from providing our children with the picture-perfect childhood, or the most nutritious meals, or the best education. Our righteousness comes from Christ alone. “As by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19).
Only in Jesus are we able to truly be free from mommy guilt-trips, and trust that his blood has cancelled all our sin. Ask him for wisdom (which he loves to give, James 1:5) as you seek to make the best decisions in your mothering, and then walk in the freedom and joy that he provides — and don’t be afraid to grab a nap.