My Biggest Mistake as a Mother

Years ago, I was asked, “If you could parent your daughters all over again, what would you do differently?” Mistakes and failures flooded my mind, but in a moment I had my answer.

I wish I had trusted God more.

One of my favorite verses is Psalm 37:3: “Trust in the Lord, and do good.” In my day-to-day mothering, however, I sometimes got this verse backward. I put the “doing good” in front of the “trusting God.”

“I obsessed over my failures and overlooked God’s faithfulness.”

It’s not that I didn’t trust God ultimately. But at times, doing good would creep up to the front, and trusting God would get shoved to the back. I was focused on what I was doing (or not doing) for my children, and only vaguely aware of what God was doing in my children’s lives. Trusting God became something of an afterthought, and I would mother my children as if it was all up to me.    

Guilt Dogged Me

When I put doing good before trusting God, guilt dogged my mothering. If my toddler threw a tantrum, I thought, My discipline is not consistent enough. If my teenager was spiritually lethargic, I believed, My discipleship is not compelling enough. If my child fell behind, made a mistake, or sinned in any way, I berated myself, You’re not helping them enough.

I lay awake at nights, rehearsing my deficiencies, revising my plans to be a better mom tomorrow. I obsessed over my failures and overlooked God’s faithfulness. When I put doing good first, nothing good I did was ever good enough.

Fear Stalked Me

When I put doing good before trusting God, fear stalked my mothering. I worried that my efforts would result in failure. I worried that my limitations would hold them back. I worried that my sins would scar them for life. I worried that my hopes and desires for my children would end in bitter disappointment.

When my doing good was propelled by fear, I would panic if my teenagers broke the rules, and then I would persist in admonishing them if they didn’t show signs of repentance. I tried to be the Holy Spirit to my kids, and we all know how well that works out.

What’s a Weary Mom to Do?

“Laden with guilt and full of fears, I fly to Thee, my Lord.” Isaac Watts

What’s a weary, guilt-dogged, fear-stalked mom to do? We must do what Isaac Watts did: fly to God. We must trust God in our doing good. Trusting God doesn’t nullify doing good; rather, it empowers every good work. Trusting God douses our fears and turns our self-effort on its head. Trusting God infuses our doing good with peace, joy, and energizing hope. In fact, trusting God and doing good go hand in hand. We can’t have one without the other. Only when we trust God can we do our children any good.

We must trust God that even though we are far from perfect, we are the perfect mother for our children. We must trust God that even though our doing good falls short, he is doing far more good than we can possibly imagine (Ephesians 3:20). We must trust God that he hears the cry of the needy, that he exalts the humble, and that he rewards faithfulness (Psalm 34:17; James 4:10; Matthew 25:21). We must trust God that our feeble efforts to do good are only fruitful because he is actively, aggressively doing good to us (Psalm 23:6).

What I Tell My Daughters Today

So, when my daughters lament their mothering failures and fears, “I’m not consistent enough in disciplining my toddler,” or “What if I’m not getting through to my teenager?” I tell them, “How like your mother you are! I too fell short and fretted at times, but the good thing for both of us is that our gracious God is always, only, ever doing good for us. So, trust him and continue to do good.”

“We must trust God that even though we are far from perfect, we are the perfect mother for our children.”

One of the benefits of getting older is that, in hindsight, I can see that God did what I could never have done. And I believe that God is going to continue to do above and beyond what I could possibly do. I look at my four adult children and see that they are fruitful in ways far beyond what I could have hoped. They excel in endeavors above anything I could ever have taught them. That doesn’t mean there weren’t setbacks and detours along the way. But this much I know: God is trustworthy.

Eighteen years after I was first asked the question, “What would you do differently?” my answer is still the same, but I would add one thing: I wish I had trusted God more because he is trustworthy. And I would declare it more confidently than ever because I am more sure than ever that God is faithful. And so I say to you, dear mothers, laden with guilt and fear, fly to him today. And trust him.