The Truth About “Mom-Guilt”

Mom guilt. It’s a real thing.

We wonder if we are spending too little time with our kids or not letting go enough. Are we being too gentle or not firm enough? Are we focusing too much or too little on the cleanliness of our home? Should we be breastfeeding or doing formula? Should we be doing more creative things with our kids? Are we feeding them the right kinds of food? Have we been patient today? Have we been selfless? Have we encouraged growth? Have we created a happy environment? Have we served our families well?

The list could go on and on.

We’re constantly running our lives through a scanner that either says “Yes, you’re a success. Your kids will turn out fine” or “No, you’re a failure. Your kids will never learn to love Jesus.” And quite honestly, based on the choices we’re making at the moment, the scanner results can change within minutes. The end result? A roller coaster of emotions that either leave us filled with pride or deflated with despair.

Often, I allow the guilt to rule, following it helter-skelter as I make decisions in an effort to appease it. I forget to take into account the truth of God’s Word. And while the phrase “mom guilt” is not found in the Bible, the Bible does have a lot to say about guilt.

Sometimes the guilt we experience is authentic. We are indeed guilty. In Romans 3:23 we read “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” No one is excluded. Depressingly, we also read in Romans 6:23 that  “the wages of sin is death.” Yes, we have sinned before a holy God and the payment for that sin is death, both physical and spiritual. This is the debt we owe.

Thankfully, God knew we needed help and sent “His only begotten Son into the world, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Jesus Christ came and lived perfectly before willingly laying down His life on the cross in our place, paying our debt in full.  Three days later, He rose from the dead, giving us living proof that God had accepted Christ’s payment. Death could hold no power over Him. In turn, those who have placed their trust in His payment have been set free from their sin and guilt. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it” (John 3:17).

We also read in Romans 8:1 that “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit”

This does not mean that once we are saved we never experience guilt. We still live in a broken and sinful body as we wait for the ultimate redemption of glory. We mess up. We forget we are new creatures and we go back to our sinful ways. However, when this happens the guilt shouldn’t keep us from coming to God. Rather, guilt should push us back to our need of redemption.

If you are a follower of Christ and struggling with guilt, take it to God. Ask Him to examine you, confess any sin and then live in the freedom of knowing that you have been forgiven. Lasting guilt is not necessary. As Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 7:10, “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.”  

Sometimes, however, the guilt we are struggling with is a self imposed guilt. We’re comparing ourselves to other moms and allowing them to be our gauge of success. We’re been looking on Pinterest and Facebook only to realize that other moms have the capability to do some things we may not have the time, energy, or resources to pull off. We wonder if they are a better mom or if God is happier with the decisions they’re making. Do moms who throw big parties truly love their kids more? Are moms who breastfeed their babies more selfless? Ar we weaker if we get/need more breaks than other moms?

Instead of encouraging this kind of guilt through comparison or discontent, we need to take our questioning heart and align it with the truth of scripture. What does God have to say about the decision we are struggling over? Often we will find that aside from the heart attitude involved, a lot of the issues we are comparing among ourselves aren’t even ones that God would state as being important. He gives us freedom to make choices as we seek to bring Him glory in many different areas of our lives.

Taking all of these things into consideration–both true guilt and false guilt-here are some of the biggest lies I can find myself struggling with as a mom, along with the corresponding truth that I need to remember from God’s Word.

Lie #1 – My worth is in the performance of my kids.
Truth #1 – My identity is in Christ, not in my kids.

I am valued by God because of what Jesus Christ did on my behalf, not as a result of how my children may (or may not!) be performing. Ephesians 1:5-7 says “Having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.”

Lie #2 – I have to do everything right in order for my day/week/years to turn out right.
Truth #2 – I will never do everything right. Only Jesus did that.

We have already established through Romans 3:23 that we’ve all sinned/messed up, however, in Hebrews 4:15 we also read that Jesus “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” He alone is our hope!

Lie #3 – What other people think of me is important.
Truth #3 – I am supposed to be serving God, not other people.

There are many verses that deal with who we should be aiming to please through the choices we make. Galatians 1:10 asks “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” We also find a warning in Proverbs 29:25 that “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.”  Again in Isaiah 2:22 we read “Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?” And finally, 2 Corinthians 5:9 says “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please Him.” So, whether we’re showing grace to an overtired toddler or cracking down on some behavior in a less than ideal setting, God should be the motivation for why we do what we do.

Lie #4 – To admit I need help means I’m failing as a mom.
Truth #4 – God created us to need the church body.

We aren’t called to figure out this parenting thing on our own. Galatians 6:2 exhorts us to “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Even more specifically we read in Titus 2:4-5 that the older women are to “teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.” We need other people to be actively involved in our lives as we seek to bring God glory in our role of wife/mom!

The truth is, I’m never going to be enough for my kids. And to think I somehow can be is to put myself in the place of God. I can’t always be there for them. I can’t always manipulate their schedules. I can’t always make them happy. I can’t be their all in all. Only Jesus can fulfill that role. And the sooner I remember that, the better off I (and they!) will be. I was God’s choice for these precious children, but I will make mistakes.

The good news, however, is that despite my failures, God’s grace is there for both me and my children. I can dig into God’s Word, seek wise counsel, pray carefully over the decisions I make, confess when I fail, and freely parent my children knowing that ultimately my debt has been paid!