Bekah writes for I Prefer My Puns Intended, a blog that explores the fact that life can be punny. Her articles span topics like faith and family as well as education, wellness, and dapper infant style. The titles of her posts may be cheesy, but the content gets feta. Sorry. Better.
I thought I was doing pretty well this morning.
Little bear woke me up at 6 a.m., he ate at 6:30, and we played from 7:00 until 8:00. He has gotten strong enough to sit up with the boppy and play with his toys. It was an exciting playtime for this proud mommy. I looked at the clock and thought, ‘if I leave now and run at my fastest pace with the stroller, I can be back in time for his nap time.’ It was a good plan. I could, realistically, tick all of the boxes off of my very full mommy planner before our playdate. Then, we could have the day free to do anything. No mid-afternoon sweltering run; just a nice, cool morning jog to start our day.
Combatting Mommy Guilt
Well, unsurprisingly, I didn’t hit my goal pace of 10:00/mile with the Bob. I was struggling with side-stiches, which has been a new thorn in my side during my postpartum training. I was about a minute over my pace and six minutes away from home; my run had crossed over into nap time. Most mommies know what happened next. Little bear began to cry and fight the sleep he so desperately needed. I felt horrible. There was nothing I could do but keep going and try to make it back home, ignoring the irritating pain in my side and devastating pain in my heart.
And then, another runner passed by. She was a tall, slender woman who looked to be in her mid-forties, and perhaps two miles into her run. She glanced down at my little bear, and up at me. I smiled, but she cocked one eyebrow up and pursed her lips. It was a momentary glance that stuck with me the rest of our run home. ‘I bet she thinks I am such a selfish mom; I am sure she is wondering why I am out running when I should be tending to my baby. Am I selfish?’
Little bear is asleep now. He went right to sleep as soon as we made it home. No harm, no foul. He will probably sleep for another hour or so. So why do I feel so guilty?
My mother-in-law once told me, “motherhood is guilt.” Oh, how right she was. My typical worries span the length of the day:
Did I let him talk too much in his crib before I got him up for the day? Was he uncomfortable in his crib because of his dirty diaper and I waited too long to change it? Is this diaper rash my fault? Did I feed him enough? He threw up, did I feed him too much? Am I making enough for him to grow taller? Should I take him in to see his dad while he gets ready for work, or will that bother his morning routine? Did I wake up his dad? Should I make myself breakfast? Should I just play with him and wait to eat when he takes a nap? Should I put him on his tummy now or will it upset his tummy? Am I interactive enough? Did I hold him too much? Did I hold him enough? I checked my phone. I remember that article about checking my phone too much and missing out on time with my kids. Will I teach him bad habits if I keep checking my phone? I care way too much about how many people read what I have to say. The TV was on. Bear saw the TV and watched it for a few minutes. I remember those articles about how screen time ruins little brains. Did I scar him for life? Did those two minutes of screen time delay his speech development? His eyesight? His language acquisition? Did he exercise enough? He is rubbing his eyes, but it isn’t nap time. Should I keep him up? If I keep him up too long he won’t sleep and then it is my fault for not putting him down soon enough.
…and that is just a typical morning in our home. Imagine what your mind can do when your baby cries in public places; on a plane; in a restaurant…the guilt is unbearable. The doubt is unreasonable. Instead of looking to the real heart of the issue (i.e. baby is tired, hungry, or needs to be changed), moms tend to put all of the blame on their shoulders.
In Psalms 38:4, David talks about guilt;
My guilt is like a heavy burden. I am sinking beneath its weight.
Any moms in this boat? Pun intended.
Some days, I find myself sinking in this endless sea of guilt. Guilt, however, is stumbling block to righteousness and real relationship with Christ. If you aren’t a Christian, it is simply an obstacle to a fulfilled motherhood. Instead of praising God (or celebrating the fact that we kept our baby alive through the night), we replace our joy with worries. For Christians, this robs us of our witness. For all mommies, this guilt gives us anxiety. Here are a few scriptures that I use in order to replace worry, doubt, and that ever-present “mommy-guilt” with joy and peace in the Lord.
1. Take away my guilty thoughts.
“Scrub away my guilt. Wash me clean from my sin.” Psalms 51:2
Am I sinning when I worry too much? Yes. Anything that takes me away from giving the glory to God is a sin. I need to remember to let it go. God has equipped me to be the mother that little bear needs. And that is enough.
2. Remember the goodness of God.
“You have forgiven the bad things your people did. You have taken away the guilt of their sins.” Psalm 85:2
It is so important to remember that God doesn’t keep a tally of our sins. Or, if you want to think about it practically as a mom, he takes away our mommy-mishaps. He promises to “take away the guilt.” We just have to let him.
3. Direct us in how to “let it go.”
“For my yoke is easy; my burden is light.” Matthew 11:30
God has given us the power to leave our worries with him and take on a much lighter load to carry. We just have to praise him in all that we do, and seek him first. Don’t seek to be the “perfect mom.” That particular role is elusive and impossible to attain. We are not gods, after all.
4. Become healed from guilt.
“Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved: for you are my praise.”Jeremiah 17:14
No where in that prayer are the words, “my children are my praise.” Parenthood is oh so important. We are tempted to believe that our children are our everything, however. This is not the case. God promises to heal our worried hearts and save us from the sinking ship of guilt if we focus on him.
5. Release the guilt given to you from other people.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
I once read a Buddhist fable about a man walking up to Buddha and criticizing his teaching, sincerity, and intelligence. Buddha said nothing and the man walked away. An onlooker asked why he didn’t respond and Buddha simply said, “when someone offers you a gift you don’t want, you throw it away. I refused to receive the negativity the man was offering, so I didn’t respond.”
That really stuck with me. God has promised us peace; the world gives us anxiety. I would much rather choose peace; and yet some days I am riddled with guilt. This particular scripture is so important when it comes to mommy-shaming, or even those sideways glances when you’re a few minutes from home and your baby starts crying. Mommy guilt is real, but God’s peace is a much greater alternative than bearing it all on your shoulders.
6. Live in the abundant peace that surpasses understanding.
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Phillipians 4: 6-7
Paul suggested that the people of Phillipi live a life filled with the peace of God that “transcends all understanding.” All mommies want to know if what they are doing is best for their children. Somehow, God beckons us to live each day apart from the full satisfaction of knowing whether or not we made the right choices moment-to-moment. Living in the worry of our guilt will never bring us satisfaction. As our children grow, the guilt will only carry higher stakes. The sooner we release our anxiety to the one who rescues, the sooner we can live a life separate from our guilt, and full of the presence and peace of God.