And let me start by saying that I do not speak as an authority on this issue - only as a mom who is learning her own very valuable lessons about this ugly little thing we'll call mommy guilt. I won't give advice...I'll just speak to what has helped me as I've traveled this tricky road.
Mommy Guilt. Had never heard of it until about a year ago when another dear friend of mine said the words during one of our conversations. She said "mommy guilt" and I felt like someone had finally uttered the two words that could sum up the past six years of my life. There's a term for it? For this thing I deal with all the time...this feeling that I can never do enough, be enough, invest enough...that every other mother is always at least one step ahead of me, looking more beautiful, smelling sweeter and smiling bigger as if her job as a mom is just the easiest thing in the world, of course. I had no idea that I wasn't the only one suffering from this disease.
Yes, even though I apparently lived in the dark ages for quite some time, there is a very common term for this feeling we have as moms...and mommy guilt plagues just about every great mom I've ever known. (And if you read my post on anxiety, I'll just say that Anxious Amanda has a backpack full of this guilt stuff that she loves to sling all over me whenever she makes her delightful appearance.) So what is mommy guilt exactly? Well, as far as it concerns me, it's feeling guilty over every single decision you make as a mom...not being able to be at peace regardless of how good and pure your intentions and motivations are toward the decisions your make for your family...never feeling like you measure up, like you can do all that you need to do to be a #1 Mom.
Back in the fall, I stumbled upon a book that I highly, highly recommend to any mom who has ever felt the pressure of mommy guilt. It was written by Dr. Sheila Schuller Coleman and it's name is so appropriately, "Mommy Grace". It's an easy read and will really open your eyes to how this guilt thing can so sneakily wrap it's suffocating fingers around your throat until you get to the point that you feel helpless, overwhelmed and completely lacking in joy. The author is the mother of four boys, so, as the mother of three boys, it's easy to see why what she says in the book resonates so well with my heart.
In reading this book, one of the best things I realized about my role as a mother to Wilson and Chance (True wasn't here yet, but it now applies to him as well) is that I am the BEST mother in the world for those three boys. God gave Wilson, Chance and Truett to Curtis and me...not to anyone else. And God knows them just as well as He knows me and we are matched perfectly. I only have the resources I've been given...I can only be as smart as I am, I can only have the creativeness I have, I can only deal with my own minimal amount of sleep and still function as a normal human being. There simply is no one else on the planet more aptly equipped to be their mother.
So what, right? No, the so what is that I finally stopped comparing myself to every other mother. What works for them won't necessarily work for me. What makes their kids happy won't make my kids happy. What looks like a successful day for them might not be a successful day for me. There is no comparison between moms. I can't do that because there is always, always going to be someone who can do it better, quicker, prettier, smoother, faster, cheaper and more elaborately than me. But what counts is that I am doing the best job I can do with my children given my particular skill set. I have friends with kids who eat better than mine, who sleep later than mine, who are more self-entertaining than mine, who can read better, who can play sports better...and friends of mine who are calmer than me, more creative than me...the list goes on forever. But in my head, what happens is that if my friend's child does one thing better than one of my kids, I automatically assume that they can do everything better. Or if a friend of mine is more ingenious with her older children during a younger sibling's nap time, she must be superwoman and possess skills far beyond mine in all areas. I have strengths and weaknesses...just like every other mother. I simply can't compare myself because it's always a no-win situation and leads to severe discontent.
Another thing that has helped me tremendously is to be very picky with what I choose to read about parenting. I have read a total of two books about parenting in my almost seven year mommy career. Both were written by Christian authors and neither one is in the mainstream of what's new and cool. Ted Tripp wrote a book many years ago called "Shepherding A Child's Heart". It is hands down the best thing I could have gotten my eyes on in my early months as a mom to Wilson. It's dry and textbookish but it has a Biblical model for parenting; Curtis and I have tried to follow Tripp's advice to the best of our ability. The other book is "Mommy Grace" as referenced above. I stay away from parenting magazines and websites that give the latest study statistics about what my kids should and shouldn't be eating, what they should and shouldn't be watching, why they should be given an allowance, why they shouldn't be allowed to play outside by themselves, and on and on. If I do happen to digest some of pop culture's choice morsels, instead of being helped, I find myself in a desperate second-guessing-every-decision song and dance. All of the sudden, I abandon the well-functioning brain God gave me and I'm relying solely on the advice I read in some magazine.
|Brothers...watching a video. Happy, quiet, contented.|
Mommy guilt is a tough thing. But something that Curtis is great to remind me of is that guilt is not from the Lord. Conviction is from the Lord, guilt is from the enemy. If I am feeling conviction about how I am spending my time in relation to my job as a mother to three boys, then yes, I need to make some changes...quickly. But if I feel guilt, not conviction, then there is another force at work. Christ does not condemn us - He loves us and knows that it is hard for us to make the best decision 100% of the time. And that's exactly where grace enters: being given the benefit of the doubt, another chance, the ability to try again another day and the opportunity to be the mom He wants me to be to the kids He has given me.
The author of "Mommy Grace" put it so beautifully: "Spare my children and me from my well-intentioned mistakes, my lack of careful attention, my need to be all they need. Free me to be a mother who knows that I am all that I need to be because I am trusting in you. God give me the strength to forgive myself and the courage to try again tomorrow."