Is there a mother among us who doesn’t intimately know the feeling of “mommy guilt”? Sometimes it comes at the hands of others: We feel like inferior mothers when we read certain articles or talk to certain people, their accusatory tone declaring that we are ruining our kids. Other times we heap it upon ourselves, comparing our worst moments to the polished and published lives of other moms and condemning ourselves.
I was at a gathering of moms recently where this topic came up, and the general consensus was that we all struggle with it, that it’s a part of being a woman. The solution offered? Something along the lines of “stop feeling guilty … realize that you have your own strengths … stop comparing yourself to others…” etc.
I have pretty big feelings about the ineffectiveness of “just stop it” as a response to heart struggles, so I asked myself: What can we do with this pervasive sense of guilt, this burden of shame that so often weighs us down?
The first step is to assess whether our guilt is legitimate. Am I feeling guilty because I am guilty? We tend to treat “guilt” as a dirty word, a negative emotion to be shed like a too-tight pair of shoes. But sometimes guilt is the only appropriate feeling. If we have broken God’s law — if we have sinned against Him and against our children — we should feel guilty, and trying to shrug off that guilt won’t make it disappear. The real solution to real guilt is to repent.
The good news is, if we really are guilty — if we’ve yelled at our children, if we’ve treated them with impatient contempt, if we’ve escaped online instead of loving and engaging with them — there’s a Savior for that. Guilt isn’t an end in and of itself; its purpose isn’t to make us feel miserable and hopeless. Instead of wallowing in our guilt, we can and must take it to Jesus. He is infinitely patient and gentle; He always loves sacrificially. He bore the punishment that our mom-failures deserve.
Beating ourselves up over our sin, while it seems like a good idea, is actually the height of arrogance. It says, “Jesus, your death on the cross isn’t enough to atone for my sin. I must add to your sacrifice my own misery and self-punishment, and then once I’ve suffered a while myself, I can return to you and regain good standing with you.” No. Jesus is most honored when we see our sin and run to Him — when we realize that nothing we do can add to His perfect redemption, that His death was completely sufficient to atone for every one of our sins.
That’s the response for real guilt. But not all our guilt is legitimate: Often, we labor under false guilt. We feel guilty because our Pinterest projects end up on a fail blog instead of re-pinned by admiring fans … because we aren’t juggling a successful career on the side … because we aren’t arranging enough extracurricular activities for our kids … because we aren’t doing X or Y or Z as much or as well as that other mom.
Surprisingly, the solution to false guilt is also to repent. Not because these kinds of failures are actually sinful; we aren’t offending God with our lack of sewing skills or our inferior cooking abilities or the fact that our home doesn’t look like a magazine spread. Rather, the offense here is secondary: it’s idolatry.
When we beat ourselves up over all the ways we don’t measure up to so-and-so, we’re making so-and-so our god. We’re looking to other people’s standards as law, holding our own standards up on an equal plane with Scripture’s commands, rather than looking to God alone as Lawgiver and Judge. We’re depending on others’ opinions for our identity and security, declaring that if only we had this person’s approval, then life would really be worth living.
Mamas, God is jealous for our hearts. He won’t sit by and let us pursue empty, soul-destroying idols like this. He loves us too much to let us chase the wind. He commands us to repent from our idolatry, to fear and worship Him alone.
The good news is, Jesus died for this kind of sin, too. Our idolatry should bring condemnation, but if we are hidden in Christ, trusting in Him, we have no condemnation — we are clothed in His righteousness, accepted and loved and welcomed. He invites us to come to Him and find rest for our weary souls. In Jesus, we can shake off the chain of false guilt; His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
Two kinds of mommy guilt … one Savior who is sufficient to set us free from them both. That’s real hope for a guilty mom.
Welcome to Ungrind!
Do you want to be inspired, motivated, and equipped to live the everyday story of your life well?
If so, you’re in the right place. Whether you need encouragement in your relationships or in your faith, I hope you’ll find the transparent voices of mentors and friends here at Ungrind.
So, grab a cup of coffee and keep reading. We're so glad you're here!
Ashleigh Slater, Founder & Managing Editor
Get Our Free Ebook!
To Those Who Want To Be Truly Happy: Stop Chasing Happiness
Chasing happiness isn't all it's cracked up to be. Here are a few reasons why.
How the Psalms Speak to Our Emotions
The Psalms is a book that's rich with the reality of what life's like in this fallen world. Here are...
3 Ways to Navigate Personality Differences
Sometimes personality differences can wear on us. Here are three ways we can navigate them in a loving manner.
Surprised By ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’
If you haven't seen this film, God may speak to your heart through it in ways you weren't expecting.
The Wedding Ring
Are you struggling in your marriage? Here's how a wedding ring helped one wife fight for her marriage.
5 Ways to Live an Out-of-Control Life
Here are 5 ways to let go of control and trust your present and your future to God.
5 Creative Places to Find Prayer Accountability
Do you want to pray more, but are easily distracted? Here are some practical ways to stay focused.
What Women Are Saying
-- Jenny Schroedel, author of Naming the Child: Hope-filled Reflections on Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Death
"Real life is not always pleasant. Every marriage experiences disappointments, misunderstandings, sickness and financial crisis. Ashleigh doesn’t camouflage the pain in her own marriage, and offers practical ideas on how to walk through the difficulties and find intimacy on the journey. If you are anything like me, I predict that as you read, you too will find yourself laughing, wiping tears, and saying 'Oh, yes.'"
-- Gary Chapman, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The 5 Love Languages
We are a member of the Amazon affiliate program and regularly use affiliate links. If you purchase an item from an Amazon link we provide, we will receive a small referral commission. This doesn’t cost you anything additional. We only share books, music, and products that our writers personally have used and highly recommend.
Faith4 years ago
When Doing Justly, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly Stand at Odds
Motherhood4 years ago
Surviving a Strong-Willed Child
Faith5 years ago
7 Ways to Create A Family Altar
Friendship6 years ago
Beyond the Registry: The Ultimate Gift Guide for Expectant Parents
Relationships8 months ago
5 Ways to Teach Your Child to Hear God
Marriage6 years ago
4 Reasons I’m Not Facebook Friends With My Husband
Everyday Faith5 years ago
6 Simple Ways to Give Thanks in the Thick of It
Articles6 years ago
10 Ways Life is Like a Box of Chocolates
Articles7 years ago
How to Lift Up the One You Love
Articles6 years ago
Relationships1 year ago
Facing Our Motherhood Fears
Digging Into Scripture5 months ago
How the Psalms Speak to Our Emotions