My husband recently told me that one of my common phrases is, "I feel bad that..." I never noticed how bad I felt for everything...for so many things I didn't need to feel bad for...until he made me aware. I felt bad when people were were sad, that they couldn't pay their bills or lost their jobs, or that their car broke down. I also applied this unreasonable guilt in my parenting. I felt bad when my kids got in trouble, got their feelings hurt, weren't having enough fun, or when I felt like a "bad mom."
At first I tried to justify my guilty feelings by telling myself that I was more in tune with people's feelings and needs. But, after years of trying to explain to him why I felt guilty (and why he should too), I realized I was worrying about things that weren't my responsibility. I was carrying other people's burdens in the name of compassion, but my true motivation was guilt. There's a very clear difference between compassion and overactive worry. Compassion leads us to trust in GOD'S ability to take care of a situation, while guilt-based concern focuses on WE can fix the situation. Compassion lets us release the burden to God, while guilt traps worry in our tight-gripped fists.
If you suffer from Mom guilt like me, you must learn to let it go (like I am). When we parent out of guilt, we are trying to control our kids instead of shepherding them. Guilt motivated parenting leaves everyone involved feeling stressed, frustrated, anxious and resentful.
This quote from Boundaries with Kids (Cloud, and Townsend), gave me a huge perspective shift in my parenting: "A child needs to know where she begins, what she needs to take responsibility for, and what she does not need to take responsibility for. If she knows that the world requires her to take responsibility for her own personhood and life, then she can learn to live up to those requirements and get along well in life."
Here's the truth. Guilt motivated parenting often removes consequences from our kids lives that they need to experience. They need to suffer the consequences of bad decisions, mistakes and even learn how to overcome insults from others. They will experiences all of these things in life, so instead of helping them avoid trials, we need to help them navigate them well.
Not only do my kids need me to stop parenting out of guilt, my soul does as well. I can't stand how guilt and worry squeeze the joy out of my soul, so I've come up with three ways to fight mom guilt.
- I remind myself that Jesus loves my kids more than me. You've probably heard me say this before, but it's worth saying again. When I feel inadequate as a mom, I HAVE to remind myself that Jesus created my kids and he gave his life for them so they could become sons of God. (John 3:16 and I John 3:1). If God loves my kids more than I do, I can trust Him to correct my mistakes with them as well as their own mistakes. In other words, I can loosen my grip on worry, lifting my hands to him instead.
- I remind myself that grace is a verb. When Jesus was twelve, his family took a trip to Jerusalem. When it was time to leave, his family packed up and travelled for a day before they realized they had left him behind. They panicked as they travelled back to get him, but they found their son still studying the Bible in the temple. Once they found him, he "came to Nazareth and was obedient to them. And his mom treasured these things in her heart" (Luke 2:41-52). I can't prove this, but I bet Mary and Joseph felt anxious and guilty when they first realized they left Jesus. But, I bet, after they found him, they were angry and frustrated that he hadn't joined the family when they originally left. In these kind of circumstances, I have to use grace as a verb instead of a noun. I use grace to free myself and my kids from having to be perfect. I have to use grace to look for the positive in a negative situation just as Mary treasured Jesus' obedience in her heart after their big misunderstanding.
- I remind myself that worry isn't worth it. When I'm tired, or busy, or in the middle of something and my kids ask me to do something, anxiety begins to build up in my soul. I can feel worry building and I'm tempted to give in. I don't know why because it never feels good and certainly never produces peaceful results. So, I have to remind myself that I can't "add one moment to my life-span by worrying" and I have to tell myself, "don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:27 & 34)
If you're a mom, I hope these tools are useful to you. If you're not a mom, the same principles can apply to stressful situations with your family and friends. If you have some ways you fight mom guilt, I'd love to hear them.
Praying you keep moving forward in your faith until next time! ~Sharie
© 2017 by Sharie King. All rights reserved.