It’s almost the beginning of another year of school. Every end-of-summer feels like a fresh beginning: the backpacks aren’t grungy yet, the jeans haven’t grown a tad too short yet, and it’s the chance to create a new routine for your family.
Whether you’ve been a mother for five minutes or for forty years, you know what mom guilt feels like. It stalks you at night when the kids are in bed. It pains you in moments when you know you could do better. The truth is that even when you’re doing awesome and knocking motherhood out of the park, for most of us nagging doubts and anxieties and guilt will find us out and will leave us feeling like we’re messing the whole thing up.
So, for you, dear mamas who know just what I’m talking about, I have some ideas for this school year, this fresh start, that may help to alleviate some of the mom guilt that is bringing you misery. These are four areas where I feel I’m the most vulnerable to mom guilt. Maybe you can relate.
1. Put down your phone. This is not going to be another preachy blog post about phone use. We all have phones, and we all look at them a lot. Chances are, you have pangs of guilt every time you see one of those articles about a sad little boy who was just trying to talk to his mama. I don’t think cell phones are the end of good parenting. But, I do think that you will enjoy life with your kids more if you designate some phone-free time. Decide that the first three hours that your kids are home from school will be phone-free, and spend the time helping with homework, talking about their day, making dinner together without the interruptions of the outside world.
No Guilt Zone: You will end your day knowing you gave your undivided attention to your kids.
2. Get Your Kids Involved in Housework. I used to fret constantly about the state of our house. I would worry that my kids were going to remember nothing about their childhood but the piles of laundry that constantly plagued me. At the same time, I was concerned that my kids were too entitled. I was trying to do everything, which led to them learning how to do nothing and it also caused me to constantly tell them that I couldn’t play because I had work to do. So many opportunities to feel guilty. Enter family chore time.
I gave my kids lists of chores based on their ages and abilities. At first they grumbled and struggled. Now they do their chores with no trouble at all. Our house stays cleaner, I can focus on a few things that they’re not quite big enough to do yet, and they take care of some stuff that is teaching them important life skills. Our entire life is more organized and more manageable. I’m a more pleasant person and they are more responsible. Suddenly, the workload that I was constantly up against was a team effort, and my many areas of guilt over our home went away.
No Guilt Zone: You won’t feel like you’re raising lazy human beings, you won’t feel like you’re failing at homemaking, and you won’t have to say no when the kids want you to play with them.
3. Read Together at Night. In a busy family of five, it’s so difficult to find time to really engage in face to face discipleship with my kids. I wanted to do family worship times, something elaborate, but it seemed like I kept failing to make it happen. Then I would feel guilty about my lack of spiritual discipline, which I felt sure was ruining my kids forever. Then one day I realized that I could teach them a ton of stuff in the ten minutes before bed. We started when they were small with simple books, like The Big Picture Story Bible. As they grew older, we moved up to more in depth things. We just started reading a book called Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door: Know What You Believe and Why.
Do we read every night? No. Sometimes life circumstances have us getting to bed late, so we don’t read. But, we try to allow a few minutes before bed to read together, and I’ve been amazed by how much I have learned and how much I’ve enjoyed teaching them about the Bible and their faith, even just a few minutes at a time.
No Guilt Zone: You won’t wake up in the middle of the night overwhelmed by all the things that you feel you need to teach your kids.
4. Tell Satan to Get Behind You. I’m convinced that mom guilt is one of the favorite tools of the enemy who wants to destroy us. God has perfectly equipped and gifted you to be the mother of your children. Yes, there are small changes you can make to address areas where you are feeling a sense of guilt. But, the main thing you need to do as a mother is remember that God didn’t make a mistake when He gave you children. He isn’t watching you parent all day and shaking His head in disapproval.
The quickest way to become paralyzed as a mother is to allow mostly unfounded mom guilt to eat away at you. If you want to make sure you are ineffective and endlessly frazzled as a mama, indulge all of those feelings of guilt and dwell on them as much as possible. If you want to become a flawed but joyful mother, let your mistakes be lessons that you learn from instead of blocks of cement around your ankles that continually weigh you down. Make changes where you can, and don’t let Satan tell you that you can’t do this. He wants you to feel like a failure so that you will stop trying. He wants you to feel fearful and anxious and awful.
But, Jesus came so you would have an abundant life, one filled with hope and joy and wonder and adventure. Not a life of self-hatred and shame and endless guilt. Your kids love you. You are their favorite mother. Don’t be afraid to change where you need to. Don’t be afraid to admit that the truth is you are pretty amazing. And, whatever you do, when you wake up in the middle of the night overcome with guilt and worry, don’t forget who you really are. God’s beloved daughter, a precious mother, an overcomer. Ask Jesus to replace that guilt with thankfulness and joy. And then work hard to love your children well, with His help.