If you have been a mom for more than 48 hours or so, there is a good chance that you have experienced “Mom Guilt” to some degree. (It’s part of the job description. In the fine print, I believe.) Mom Guilt can be extremely powerful! It shows up in two ways, conviction and condemnation. One is instructive and one is destructive. The truth is, as moms who are humans, we will make mistakes. Every day. And we can still be victorious! We cannot believe the lies of condemnation!
I recently saw a Face Book post, with this fun little game where you add up the ages of your kids to find your “parenting age.” So if your kids are ages 6, 4, and 2, your parenting age is 6+4+2= 12 years. Cute, right? I added up mine… and it came to 199 years. All I could think was… 199 years of MOM GUILT! (I have a bunch of kids. Read here. My 5th born is having a birthday this month which will push me right over the edge to a Mom Guilt age of 200!)
Oh my… I could tell you some stories… And I will! Three stellar Mom Guilt incidences. This is not a comprehensive list, to be sure. There are many more. But here are a few of my real winners. And I promise, there is a point to my stories!
The Peanut Butter Fiasco
So a few years back, my kids all got the stomach flu. Upchucking right and left. Diarrhea. The whole nine yards. It was one of those special illnesses where the kids don’t have time to get to the bucket, and they would lose their cookies without a moment’s notice. In a few days, they recovered, and we resumed life.
Then they got it again. More grossness.
Got better. Then got sick again.
Four times total over several weeks. I believe I cleaned up more vomit that fall than in all my other years of parenting combined.
One lovely day in January, the moms in our homeschool group were all abuzz about a recall on peanut butter. Apparently, a particular brand of peanut butter had been tainted with salmonella that was making people sick.
Now I should take a little side step here, and tell you that in my family we eat a ton of pancakes! With peanut butter! Because
- It’s really good that way, and
- Peanut butter adds protein.
I bought the biggest jars they had in the store.
Just after the last round of sickness, for whatever reason, I decided to try a different brand of peanut butter. The brand I had previously bought, was the recalled brand!
So in full blonde-mode I said, “Oh, I’m so glad I switched brands! My kids have been sick so many times, I just don’t think we could take any more!” Then of course, they replied that, in fact, this tainted peanut butter had been on store shelves for months. It was not a new batch that was bad.
That’s right, I gave my kids salmonella poisoning. Not once, not twice, but 4 times! Every time they got well from “the flu”, I fed them diseased peanut butter… AGAIN. Bet you can’t top that. Please don’t try.
The Reading Disability Fiasco
I homeschool my kids. That comes with it’s own, special category of Mom Guilt. If you also homeschool, you know what I mean.
Some of my children have learned to read easily, and some have not. One of my daughters had a particularly tough time. Because I had already taught other children to read successfully, my initial reaction was that she was “being difficult.” She greatly disliked school, and I honestly thought she was just being dramatic. I didn’t see the symptoms as “symptoms” at the time, but…
- She would rub her eyes, and tell me that they hurt.
- She complained that the letters moved around.
- Even though she knew all the letters on flashcards, she often didn’t recognize them when printed on a page.
- If I pointed to each and every syllable with a pencil during our reading sessions, she would more or less struggle through. But if I took the pencil away, she was lost!
- As time went on, she was able to focus on a “big” word and figure it out, but
- Every little word like “to, in, the, at” she would get completely wrong.
Early on, I thought maybe she needed glasses. But a vision screening indicated 20/20 acuity. “So obviously, it’s not her eyes, ” I reasoned. And that whole “letters moving around” thing. Honestly, I thought she was full of it. I cannot tell you how many times I said things like:
“You ARE going to learn to read whether you like it or not!”
“You’re just not trying!”
“That is an S! You know that!”
My poor child. I wonder how many times she wished that her pencil was a magic wand so she could turn me into a toad.
Privately, I cried and thought, “It’s me! I’m a terrible teacher! Why can’t I get through to her?” This went on for a long time. I really don’t want to say how long, to protect the guilty. The guilty being me. But… years.
Eventually, a friend of mine had a son who was diagnosed with Convergence Insufficiency. Because my friend’s vision insurance would not pay for the local optometrist, she had taken him to an optometrist in another town who screened routinely for this condition. (Our local optometrist did not.) She told me all about his symptoms, and my mouth fell open in what I can only guess was a rather unattractive manner. His symptoms were identical to my daughter’s.
So long story less long, I made an appointment and took my daughter there. Thorough testing confirmed that she did have convergence insufficiency, which is a condition where the eyes do not work together as a team at close range. Reading range.
Each eye sees a unique image, and when they work properly, those images are laid one on top of the other making one seamless, clear image. When the eyes do not work properly together, the images do not converge sufficiently, and all kinds of mess can occur. Including letters which seemingly jump around. As you might imagine, this makes reading a nightmare.
After a year of intense vision therapy, she finally began making huge improvements with reading. So yeah, complicated, long term Mom Guilt.
The Cake Mix Fiasco
Birthdays! So much fun! Especially for mom, with no pressure ever! Ahem…
One particular day, I was very busy. We were having extended family over for a birthday party! I had a cake to bake and decorate. A house to clean. Gifts to wrap. Supper to prepare. Etc. I had been to the store the day before, because I definitely didn’t have time on b-day. (We live about 14 miles out of town, and going to the store with a bunch of kids is a serious time commitment.)
I set out a cake mix in the kitchen, the boxed Duncan Hines type. And then wandered off to get lost in some other task. My 5 year old son, Cole, decided to help mommy! He proceeded to mix up that cake mix for me!
When I walked into the kitchen and realized what he had done, I had a complete meltdown. I was absolutely sure that the cake was ruined. He couldn’t possibly know what he was doing, he couldn’t even read! And I did not have time to load everyone up and go buy another. The whole birthday was ruined, so I thought, and I yelled at him. He was crushed. He just wanted to help.
When I calmed down enough to ask like a civilized human, he explained to me that he looked at the pictures on the back of of the box, and followed them. He was a smart kid, and he had watched me do it before. Upon examination of the batter, I decided maybe it would be okay? I took a chance, baked the cake, and it turned out perfectly.
What I would give to undo that meltdown, and uncrush that sweet little helper whose motives were absolutely pure.
The 2 C’s
Mom Guilt has two faces, Conviction and Condemnation.
Conviction is instructive. Conviction is when you realize that you are in error, and determine to do better. It motivates you to move forward.
Condemnation is destructive. Condemnation is defeating. It holds you, presses you, under its weight with no way out.
It would be very easy for me to remain in a state of condemnation in at least 2 of my 3 Mom Guilt stories.
After the peanut butter fiasco, I felt pretty stupid. I really did. In fact someone said to me, “Wow! Mother of the year award!”
But realistically, there was absolutely no way that I could have known that peanut butter was tainted with salmonella before the story broke on the news. It did not look, taste, or smell any different than it ever did. There were no special symptoms that differentiated that illness in any way from a stomach virus, other than perhaps the frequency. Even our family doctor had told me “Hang in there, stuff is going around.”
Sometimes, mama, life is just out of our control. Things happen, and there is little we can do except clean up the proverbial vomit and try to get those kiddos to aim for the bucket. In this case, just cut yourself some slack. If it was your best friend in the same situation, would you hold her accountable? Would you blame her?
With my daughter’s reading disability, there is a mix of “not my fault” and “totally my fault.” The convergence insufficiency was completely beyond my control. But I was not guiltless. I became impatient and frustrated with both her and myself more than I care to remember. The condition was out of my control, but my response to it was not. I wish I had searched more for a “why.” And I wish that I had spent more time encouraging her and hugging her than I did.
The therapist who did her testing must have seen the Mom Guilt swallowing me whole, because she was quick to reassure me. She told me that my determination as a mom, who cared so desperately that my child learn to read, was the only reason that my daughter could read as well as she did. In short, she didn’t have a reading disability because of me. She had learned to read, in spite of her disability, because I had struggled and pressed on. And finally, when I understood where to go, I got help.
Going forward, I will always recognize the symptoms of a reading disability in any other child. And I hope and pray that I will be more patient, and give more grace when I don’t know what the problem is. I won’t make that mistake again. That’s the purpose of conviction.
Now on to the cake mix fiasco. I was completely guilty. The cake turned out fine. But that’s really not the point. The point is, my sweet little guy recognized that mom had a ton of stuff to do. And he wanted to help. I crushed his joy and his accomplishment. Afterwards, I apologized and hugged and kissed, but there was no undoing the deed. And I can feel the condemnation trying to creep up on me as I type this.
It does me no good to dwell there though. It changes nothing. I have asked God’s forgiveness, and Cole’s. And it was granted.
The enemy of my soul would like me to believe that I am a bad mom, and every good thing I’ve ever done as a mom is buried in the mistakes I have made. But that’s just not true. My son did not run away and join the circus. He knows I love him. (Also, he knows I’m a slightly crazy mess. He might argue the “slightly” part.) So I reject that condemnation and move on.
The powerful truth, mama, is this: God is bigger than your mistakes! I have long believed that if I will be obedient to wholeheartedly attempt what God is calling me to do, I can trust Him with the results! He will fill in all the potholes and gaps of the failings that I leave along the road. I have seen Him do it over and over again!
Here is another powerful nugget of truth that I really want you to get:
God KNEW that you would make mistakes as a mom, both how many and what kind. And He picked you to be your child’s mom anyway.
Whether this child was born from your body, or grafted into your heart through another, He picked you. And His grace is enough for all of it.
Conviction is a gift from God, to let us know when we mess up and teach us to do better. Conviction is His way of saying, ‘I love you no matter what. But I love you too much to let you keep going the wrong way.”
Condemnation is the enemy saying “You aren’t good enough. You will never get it right. Give up.” Don’t listen to those lies. Don’t you dare listen to those lies.
There is one, and only one, reason for the enemy to condemn you. He knows how powerful your position is as a mother. And should you be victorious, he will be defeated! He wants to tangle you up in any way he can and stop that from happening. (If the enemy is stealing your joy, Read Choosing Joy in the Chaos of Life)
As I sit here typing, with tears on my cheeks, know that I am praying for you! You can do this, mama! You were made for this!
“Now, there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.”Romans 8:1
As always, I would love to hear from you in the comments below. Hugs!