Wrestling with Mother’s Guilt

This weekend we celebrate Mother’s Day. It’s a day when women experience a plethora of feelings and emotions. Many Mum’s are looking forward to spending time with their children. Some Mum’s are experiencing grief over the loss of their own mothers or children, or perhaps heartbreak from wayward children. Some Mum’s are feeling forgotten by children who are busy with their own lives, or have moved away. Some Mum’s are feeling exhausted and didn’t even realise Mother’s Day was approaching! Then there are women, we might call them spiritual mothers, who have never had the opportunity to have their own children who feel a certain sting on this day.

Talking with Mum’s from all walks of life, I know one thing to be true for us all: mother’s guilt. Why is it that this feeling of guilt finds its way to every Mum? I read an article during the week that I found answered this question, and more importantly, gives us the Godly response to this guilt.

Courtney Reissig writes: Mums love their children deeply. There is no denying that. We have a God-given desire that compels us to do right by our kids. We see it evidenced as we watch mothers care for their children, don’t we? From the time a baby is conceived, a mother is on a quest to give her life for that little baby. This love that we have for them often leaves us feeling spent at the end of the day. We give and give, only to feel like we are coming up short when the sun sets and the dust of a busy day settles. There is always more to do. More pretend castles to build. More kisses to give. More books to read to them. More training to take place. And we never seem to have enough hours in the day. So we lay our heads on the pillow and try to ignore the nagging feeling of guilt that has now become our constant companion.

Why do we feel guilty, then? I think our guilt is twofold:

  1. Our guilt is the wrong kind of guilt.
  2. Our guilt is rooted in a desire for perfection.

Let me explain. 2 Corinthians 7:10 says, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” Here Paul is talking about two types of guilt. One is the right kind; the other is not.

The right kind of grief (guilt over sin) should lead us to repentance. If repentance should be a turning from sin to the sinless Saviour, then the right kind of guilt entails actual sin. Of course, there are times (more numerous than we realize) that we sin against our kids and that necessitates true repentance.

But often our guilt is a lingering feeling that isn’t rooted in any particular sin. It simply hangs over us like a dark cloud. We run out of time cleaning up from breakfast or making dinner and fail to play with our kids as much as wanted to. Our son wants us to read him a book, yet our other son needs his nappy changed. One child is sick, demanding more attention from us, so we feel guilty when we leave the other children to care for themselves. This kind of guilt is not rooted in sin, yet we can’t seem to shake it.

This guilt fails to recognize that there is no one who is perfect, not even Super-Mum. We will never have enough hours in the day to play with our kids. Only God gets His to-do list done, so we should expect nothing more from ourselves. Our inability to give our kids everything we long to is a reminder that we are not God.

It is also a reminder that this world is not how God intended it to be. When sin entered the world, everything was fractured, including motherhood. Our feelings of failure, even though they aren’t really failure, are a sober reminder that the curse is still alive and well on this earth of ours.

Where to you go with your guilt?

Listen to the words of Micah 7:7–9: “But as for me, I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me. I will bear the indignation of the LORD because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication (emphasis added).”

Did you hear that? The answer to our nagging guilt as a mum is not to chant the mantra “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” That won’t serve any momma up to her eyes in laundry, tantrums, and crumbs. What we need, as mums, is a healthy dose of the merits of another. We need the finished work of Christ. The answer to this guilt that hovers over us is to claim the righteousness of Christ. In the face of screaming inadequacy, we have hope that Christ accomplished it all on our behalf so we can serve our children in freedom, knowing that while we may not do it all perfectly on any given day, our guilt is not the final word.

So dear, weary, guilt-ridden mumma, where do you go with your guilt? Will you kick it square in the face with the overwhelming promises of God’s Word? Will you let your guilt remind you that Christ is all you need? The hope for all of us is true whether we are facing true guilt or false guilt. Jesus has paid for it all. Every last bit of it.”

Mums, I hope that this Mother’s Day you rest in the hope of Christ. Just like a mother loves, in fact more than a mother loves, your heavenly Father loves you.

Motherhood takes many shapes and forms and today we honour all mothers.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Love, Emma