What is “mom guilt”?
Mom guilt. I have yet to meet a mom who doesn’t struggle with it at times. I don’t have to describe the terrible pit in your stomach, the constant mental questioning, and the little voice that says, “You are a bad mom.”
“You are a bad mom.” That has ruined hours, days, and maybe weeks of our lives. It’s an identity statement. It says who you are. Identity statements are profound and defining and why mom guilt is inescapably painful.
How does “mom guilt” start?
The origins of “mom guilt” may surprise you. “Mom guilt” begins first and foremost in moments where you have made an idol out of being a good mom. In a day where women are more empowered than ever, shouldn’t it be a completely logical thing to say, “I am a good mom.” Sure! You should know and believe that you are a good mom. It becomes a problem when you feel your worth, significance, and security is defined by being a good mom. It is then that the pursuit of being a good mom becomes dangerous to your soul.
When being a good mom has become your idol, your highs will be high; likewise, your lows will be devastatingly low. Finding identity in your performance will make you exceedingly proud when you succeed and overwhelmingly low when you fail which you will.
Finding your worth, significance, and security in anything apart from God is dangerous. It is dangerous because it will fail you. Only God can answer the question, “Who am I?” Only God is powerful enough and loving enough to give you your identity. Finding identity in motherhood will make you miserable with “mom guilt.”
What are the symptoms of “mom guilt”?
1. Fear and anxiety
If your performance as a mom defines your identity, you will be afraid of failure and desire to control everything to escape failure. Deep down, we all know we can control very little, and this brings in more fear. Soon our fear and inability to control has us feeling “mom guilt” again. We actually can get caught in this loop and are pulled away from the God who is immeasurably powerful, loving, wise, and in control.
2. Comparison to other moms
If your performance as a mom defines your identity, you will continuously have to look to other moms to see if you are doing a good job. It is impossible to know if you are good unless you are seeing moms that are doing worse. We compare to feel good about ourselves. The problem, among many things, with this, is that there will always be someone that is doing it better. A life of comparison will devastate your heart, identity, and maybe even tempt you to despise others in your heart. It’s good and comforting news to know that while God could have defined us by all of our failures, he chose to sacrificially love us and redeem us through Jesus.
3. Letting your kids and your emotions take the lead.
Our kids give us measurable responses. When they are sad, we often know how to soothe and calm them. When they are happy, our hearts soar. It’s easy to begin to be led by our feelings, and our feelings will be tethered to our kids. We can lose sight of our vision as a parent and let our kids lead instead of God’s Word. God’s Word is an anchor to our soul. Setting his Word above all else gives God authority over our lives, and when we lead our children, we have vision and aim. We are obeying and responding to God, and we guide our kids with purpose and love them to reveal Christ. (James 1:5-8) When we are parenting them by God’s Word, we are modeling for our kids an eternal hope and happiness that does not change based on circumstances.
Hope for “mom guilt”
If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, there is hope when you struggle with “mom guilt.” In the beginning, when God made all things, he called his creation “good.” Men and women lived in perfect harmony with God. We found our identity rooted in his love. But that goodness didn’t last, did it? Eve thought she needed more than what God had given her. Adam and Eve disobeyed God. They chose to find life outside of God and go their own way. Maybe it felt good for a minute to find their goodness outside of God, but that high came crashing down to a devastating low.
This is our story too. We have all sinned. We, like Eve, have searched for our goodness and identity outside of God’s love and law. But God did not let our story end there. Though we deserve the death that comes with sin (Romans 3:23), God intervened. Jesus is the only one who is good and perfect, and he took our sins and guilt on his shoulders and died in our place. Instead of death, Jesus gave us his righteousness! (2 Corinthians 5:21) What Jesus did is the best news in the world!
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2: 8-10 ESV
Hope for a mom who makes mistakes.
Motherhood is messy. Those who trust in Jesus at some point have humbled his or her heart enough to say, “I am not perfect. I mess up. I sin and make mistakes.” It is essential to make a daily habit of repentance. Be encouraged that we worship and love Jesus because he took the crushing guilt off of our shoulders and extended to us undeserved grace. Our performance has not earned our salvation. Instead of riding the roller coaster of good mom and bad mom, put your hope and identity in God who loved you enough to forgive you, gave you his righteousness, and prepared you for good works. We must apply that Gospel truth to our lives every single day.
Here are some steps to walk through each day as we aim to give God all the glory in motherhood:
Do I find my identity in things other than Jesus? Does giving Jesus glory or myself glory motivate motherhood? Do I live a life founded on God’s Word?
Do I allow myself to be challenged and wrong at times? What sins can I honestly confess?
What can I ask Jesus to forgive me? What are the things I have done or left undone? Do I worship or find identity in being a good or perfect mom?
4. Faith in Jesus
Receive forgiveness and righteousness from Jesus. Receive that God loves you and trust him for your worth, significance, and security.
What does the Bible say about who I am? How has God been faithful to his promise to love and save me? How can I rest and remember this today?