Let’s Talk About Mommy Guilt

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Because that’s what’s at the bottom of the whole discussion about where and how women should be productive. If you are just joining us today, I encourage you to read Is Your Role “Full-Time-Playmate-For-Little-Kids?”

You know exactly what I’m talking about. We feel it at church when someone asks us about what or how we are doing something in our home or with our kids, and after we tell them, they tell us how they are doing it differently. We can tell they think their way is better. We feel defensive. We might even feel guilty.

We feel it when we read blogs where the writers seem to have it all together and do so many things differently from the way we do them. We wonder if we’ve missed the boat somewhere. We feel pulled in different directions. We feel defensive and maybe even guilty.

We feel it when we look at all those beautiful Pinterest pictures of perfection and wonder why our meals and our homes don’t look anything remotely like any of them. What’s wrong with me? we wonder. We can’t achieve that standard, and it makes us feel bad. Sad. Kind of mad. Even guilty.

We feel it when we read the parenting magazine articles. The parenting books. When we watch the parenting shows. When we see parenting happen in the movies.

And if all those voices were silenced, our own thoughts would torment us with discouraging messages of criticism, fear, and guilt.

WHY? I think there are three reasons:

1. We were created to crave perfection (all things made totally right), and we can’t ever achieve that.

I’ll insert a little Downton Abbey wisdom from everyone’s favorite character, the Countess Violet (this is a paraphrase):

“Life is just one problem after another after another that we have to continuously solve until at last we come to die.”

So true. We want everything to be right. And when we are young, we truly think we can figure out how to achieve that for ourselves. I remember babysitting with my two college aged roommates. We would see how the children would misbehave and tell ourselves how we were going to do it differently. Why, our children would never have the problems these kids did. What were these foolish parents thinking?

We’ve all dined on crow since those wonderful days of idealistic thinking.

We are fallen human beings who live in a fallen world and rub shoulders almost every single minute with other fallen human beings. Nothing can ever be right about that. 

The solution for the huge bummer of our lives is not to stand up with our snoots in the air, our mouths running wild and free, and our muscles flexed with bravado. The antidote is humility. Brokenness. Face on floor. Love breaking over us. Spilling around us. Flowing through us. Love that doesn’t come from us, the broken thing, but from Jesus Christ, the Lover, Healer, Creator, Romancer.

Let me put this point another way. We have mommy guilt because we love ourselves more than we love Christ.

2. We, in our sinful nature, take our eyes off of our Creator and fix them on the created creatures around us; comparing ourselves with them and competing with them for love and acceptance.

Tina put this very well in her comment on the last post when she wrote:

I also found that the more I peek my head over the fence at the boundaries God placed in the lives of fellow mothers the more my mom struggle gets harder. The times I feel like I need the biggest break are the times I need to RUN back into the middle of the life God has picked out for me. Hanging by the fence can do more harm than one thinks. Most of the battle is in our minds as moms.

Rather than looking to our Savior for love and acceptance, for purpose, for direction, for wisdom, for hope, for courage; we look to fellow Wemmicks. Silly, fumbling, bumbling Wemmicks, just like us. We glance sidelong at them to see what they are doing and what the results are, and if they are currently in vogue, we embrace their methods for our own.

And of course, whatever we choose to do is obviously the very best way of all. If it were not the best, we would not choose to do it that way. Right? So we compare our education methods, our discipling methods, our potty training methods, our homemaking methods, our children, our homes, our husbands, our meals, our roles, our careers, our appearances, EVERYTHING!

We jockey for position, for power, for influence, for money, for popularity, for prestige. And we vacillate between feel guilty and thinking we rock for going to work, for staying home, for home schooling, for private schooling, for public schooling, for homeschooling with videos, for homeschooling with worksheets, for nursing on demand, for nursing on a schedule, for wearing jeans, for wearing jumpers, for investing in organic food, for not feeding our family organic food, for circumcising, for not circumcising, for correcting our husbands, for staying silent, for having a C-section, for having an epidural, for having only one kid, for having 24 kids.

Let me put this point another way. We have mommy guilt because we admire other Wemmicks more than we admire Christ.

3. We fail our children every single day.

Again, it’s part of the package we unwrapped when we ate the forbidden fruit. It is inevitable. We fall short of kindness. Patience. Long suffering. Peace. Joy. Self-control.

Instead we are angry. Frustrated. Tired. Busy. Confounded. Foolish. Distracted. And our children’s lives reflect our own sin right back at us.

This is where I think a brief rabbit trail is necessary though. Our sin doesn’t make our children sinners. They are born that way. Yes, we can trip our children into sin by our sin, but their sin is not as a result of our failure – though we do fail. It springs from the same root our own sin originates from. I don’t care how wonderful that kid who sits in front of you at church looks on the outside. He’s a naughty little thing at home sometimes. Don’t let perfect families fool you. There is only one Jesus Christ.

Alternatively, when you see a child raging in the Walmart parking lot, don’t cluck your tongue at the harried mother who wishes she could crawl under a rock. You don’t know her situation. She could be doing all the “right” things and still be pulling her hair out over how to help her child control himself. You don’t know. Hold your peace, and pray for her.

So we can compare our children with other children too. Our families with other families. Why is my child so shy and seemingly unsocial while so-and-so’s child is outgoing and obviously comfortable around other adults? How come my child has snit fits over cleaning her room every single day? I’m certain so-and-so’s daughters would never sport such a rebellious attitude. What is my problem? Why can’t I get it together? How come I’m so unsuccessful at this mothering thing?

Let me put this point another way. We have mommy guilt because we worship our children more than we worship Christ.

Let’s continue our discussion next time, but for now, please leave your thoughts in the comment section, and enjoy this related video along with a box of Kleenex.

A New Perspective For Moms from Elevation Church on Vimeo.

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Natalie Klejwa is a Wemmick, loved by the Woodcarver, wife of 22 years to Joe, and mother to 9 Wemmicks ages 2-20. She is a business owner (Apple Valley Natural Soap), founder and administrator of the Visionary Womanhood blog, publisher and contributing author of Three Decades of Fertility, You Can Do it Too! 25 Families Share Their Stories, and The Heart of Simplicity: Foundations for Christian Homemaking.

You can hear her being interviewed on Kevin Swanson's Generations with Vision radio program.

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9 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Mommy Guilt

  1. While I think this is a great read, I’m not so sure I 100% agree. Yes mommy guilt CAN stem from selfish desires but also, what about those of us who desire and feel called to do something but are forced to do something else? Like those of us who work when we feel called to be a SAHP but can’t because of finances? Or those who are forced to SAH but feel called to work or do a certain career because thats where they feel God has called them but they can’t because of extenuating circumstances? You do give a great perspective and force us to take a closer look at our motives so still a great article. Thanks!

    • I was hoping to communicate that mommy guilt can come from a number of different directions. We can have good desires (not selfish) such as the desire for our children to be well behaved, that take over and control us rather than a better desire (for Christ). We can do what we can to get a desired result, but if that desired result doesn’t come (our child has a learning disability or a brain imbalance, for example), we need not beat ourselves up for it (mommy guilt). We have to put our focus and our hope in Christ.

      A lot of mommy guilt is false guilt based on wrong comparisons with other people. In addition, when a person is forced to do something they know is wrong (sexual abuse comes to mind) they experience a false guilt as well. Some mothers would like to stay at home and can’t. Single mothers especially have severe limitations as to what they can and can’t do. This false guilt is something I’m trying to address – whether it comes from wrong comparisons or life limitations. The solution to mommy guilt is not to be a better mommy or to stay at home or to have the best kiddos. The solution is to focus on Christ and His finished work on the cross for us. We are broken. We have messed up lives. We have limitations. We have guilt. But the good news is – we have a Savior! That’s what I was hoping to communicate.

  2. This is a great series ( should I call it a series?) Natalie. It really hits home for me because I am surrounded by what seem to be perfect homeschool families. Just recently I came to the conclusion that my oldest child has a touch of ADD ( which runs in the family) or possibly a food allergy causing some impulsive behavior. Sometimes this behavior is seen in public, and it is embarrassing due to his age. ( It looks like disobedience or unsociable behavior at times) I have realized that it could be easy to lose his heart because I am trying to ” save face” around others or I get so frustrated at home. Instead, I *am* trying to find practical solutions… but it’s hard. My parents lost my ( ADD) sister’s heart when she was in her teens. They could not understand her, and she was kind of labeled as a ” bad” kid… As an adult, she has learned how to manage her ADD, but she has never come back to Christ. :(

    Anyway, I am enjoying the series.. Keep it coming

    • Thank you for sharing this. I have a daughter with either ADD or Oppositional Defiant Disorder or both. She has been raised exactly the same as the other 8 children, none of whom exhibit the same kinds of symptoms/behaviors. She has been “different” from the time she was a newborn. Fortunately, there are a handful of other largish families from our church who have a child with various related issues. This helps cut down on the embarrassment since a few families can relate to what we are going through with our daughter. What happened to your sister is my deepest fear for my daughter and something I literally beg God about on a daily basis. The one saving grace about having a child like this is that it has increased my understanding and compassion for others who live with this on a daily basis as well. It is one of the most heart-wrenching, frustrating, guilt-inducing, emotional situations I have even been in. As she gets older, the fear grows stronger. I feel like we are scrambling for answers and coming up empty – and time is running out. My heart goes out to you – and I think there are many hurting mothers out there like us. I hope people know that a lot of what I write is meant to keep ME walking in truth…writing helps me process…and I have only hoped it might help the faith of others too.

  3. Natalie,
    I appreciate you sharing your daughter’s struggles…. This has been a recent light-bulb moment for me, so I would be appreciative of any info. that you or your readers could share with me. One thing I have read over and over is that Cod Liver oil helps those with ADD. We are trying it.

  4. I have enjoyed reading these posts, Natalie. I really have. Is that your youngest? He is a CUTIE!!!! And thank you for understanding me. I though you would.You have always had a gift of understanding tina talk.