Let’s Talk About Mom Guilt

Guilt is a heavy emotion, but my oh my does it ever kick in in motherhood. A bad day and a flurry of emotions results in moms everywhere wondering if they’ve ruined everything. Thoughts spiral as we contemplate the worst case scenario. Do they know how much they’re loved, or will our whole relationship crumble into a sea of resentment?

Heavy? You betcha, but conversations with friends have showed me that this is a burden that most moms bear. Mom guilt is universal. Every mom I talk to wrestles with it on some level, the difference is some of us feel it heavier than others. Some of us carry it, and let it overwhelm us day to day.

The problem with mom guilt is that it is incredibly unnecessary, unhealthy even. A little self awareness is important. It’s great to be accountable for your mistakes, but we don’t need to be weighed down by them.

The amazing thing is that grace covers all. My kids have shone in strengths that my husband and I just don’t have. Despite ourselves, despite the baggage we carry and sometimes pass down to them, they are turning out pretty great and that’s the grace of God. As Christians, we don’t parent on our own or in pairs, there is another Father in the mix, and He makes up for the things that we lack. When we rely on Him, He teaches our kids things that we never could. Things like grace for our mistakes and the areas that we fall short.

Mom guilt isn’t healthy. It’s heavy and burdens us with feelings of failure and regret, but what is healthy is being accountable for our actions. Yes, we will mess up. Lack of sleep, meltdowns, and messes are a recipe for disaster. We try our best, but the truth is sometimes our frustrations pile up, anger takes over and we lose it. All is not lost though, we have an opportunity in these moments. We can teach our kids how to deal with conflict as we own up to our behaviours and apologize. We can model good behaviour for them as we choose to acknowledge our weaknesses and make changes. I think thats a very healthy way to raise our kids. Acknowledging that sometimes we as people make mistakes. Sometimes we don’t cope well, but we don’t deny it. In our family we will recognize our issues, be accountable, and most of all, we WILL change!

We’re not perfect, but perfect isn’t what our kids need. They need to see parents who stumble and yet get back up again. Donald Miller writes a whole chapter about this in his book Scary Close (I highly recommend it). In it he says, “If you think about it, parents who are open and honest with their kids create an environment in which children are allowed to be human.” See our kids need to see us struggle and then grow. Make mistakes and then make changes. The beauty in this is it creates a safe place for them. A place where it is clear that they don’t have to hide from their mistakes either, but know they will be accepted and loved through them.

Our guilt is a heavy burden, but we can channel it into healthy growth that’s a model for our kids. With God’s strength and grace, our kids can watch us work through our weaknesses, and learn by our example. Not only will they know that they are safe to make mistakes, they will know that they can talk them through with us and we can grow together.

The moral of the story you ask?

Mom guilt has no place here! Instead we need to replace it with a healthy dose of self awareness, accountability, change, and most importantly rely on God for His strength and grace. Worrying never achieved anything. Chances are our kids aren’t holding every mess up against us anyway, so it’s time to let go and move on. There is lots of growing ahead, for all of us. Progress isn’t made dwelling in our past, but in the steps we make toward changing our future. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to do a lot less looking back and a lot more moving forward, and it starts with letting go of all the mom guilt!

Scary Close, Donald Miller p.158

Show Compassion For What You Cannot See

Cold and flu season has hit my house in full force and it means that I’ve had sick kids for a week with little end in sight. I’m exhausted, but not just physically, the worries of this week have me feeling emotionally drained.

Yesterday I took my daughter to the ER. It was the busiest I’d ever seen it, filled with sleep deprived parents and crying babies and poor little worn out kids. You could feel the anxiety in the air, as each parent stared nervously at their child. It was heavy.

As I waited for my daughter to be triaged, I felt her forehead hot with fever. I watched her nose appear to flare slightly with each breath. I gazed at her eyes, so heavy after days without a good nights rest. I wanted somebody to make my baby better and take away her pain.

As the waiting area filled a nurse began to take down our information and symptoms. One look at her and it was obvious that she was not only overwhelmed, but annoyed. “What are their symptoms?”, she would ask as parents would relay their concerns. I felt her frustration grow as parents would give their list of symptoms. Then she came to me. “Why are you here?”, she asked with a sharp tone. I hurriedly tried to plead my daughters case. I was worried, I’ve seen my babies go downhill before so fast, but as I shared my daughters symptoms I could sense the attitude, I think I even caught an eye roll. 

After triage it became clear, my daughter was sick, but probably not as sick as I thought. Her fever was high and her heart rate was elevated, but despite my fears, her breathing was okay. Our nurse was kind and told me to come back in an hour to have her fever checked again. She sensed my concern and she trusted it. I appreciated her kindness.

As the minutes dragged on it became clear that our wait would be long. My daughter was becoming increasingly irritated as she kept trying to get comfortable with no success. I decided to have her temperature checked one more time, and make a choice from there whether to stay or go home. 

Unfortunately we ended up with the cranky nurse.

She gave me attitude in droves and became snappy as I asked her if she thought I could treat my daughter at home. I politely told her we would go home, and left.

I was NOT impressed. In fact I was angry. Not just for me, but for all the other parents who were trying to take care of their kids, but were met with a sharp tone and not so subtle eye rolls.

When I got in the car, I began venting to my husband. “So it turns out I was being a little paranoid!”, I said, “She doesn’t understand. She doesn’t know what I’ve been through! She doesn’t know that so many times a simple cold turned into an ambulance call, or being admitted for days! I worry every time they get sick! I worry because I’ve seen what can happen.” At first he sided with me, but then he said, “She doesn’t know what you’ve been through, but you don’t know what kind of a day she’s had.”

I’m not gonna lie, even as I type this I’m still a little frustrated, but he made me think.

She didn’t know. She didn’t know that last year my sons low grade fever turned into a full blown seizure that seemed to go on forever in slow motion. She didn’t know that the year before that my sons fever triggered a rare anaphylactic reaction to his virus. She couldn’t possibly know that years before, I rushed my daughter into the ER with a high fever and fast breathing and she spent the next 12 days fighting for her life.

Yesterday I was being a little paranoid, its true, but it’s because I’ve had to be, but she didn’t know that.

Truth be told, I don’t know either. 

I don’t know why that nurse had an attitude. I don’t know her story. Maybe she’d dealt with one too many rude parents or coworkers. Maybe she wasn’t feeling so good herself or she was going through some stuff at home. 

I don’t know and I never will, but it made me think about compassion and how much we all need it. 

I know I needed it yesterday, I know I need it most days, but that nurse probably needed it too. Especially on a tough day with a packed emergency room. 

It’s not easy. I still want to be annoyed with her for how she treated us, but the truth is, I need to learn to show more compassion in situations like this. To let things slide instead of getting angry and choose to give people the benefit of the doubt.  

I know I’ve had days when I’ve been snappy and rude, and I’m grateful that people haven’t written me off for it. We all have our moments where its all too much and we don’t cope well. 

Society teaches us to confront attitude, to stand up for our rights, to speak to a manager and say our piece, and sometimes it may be needed, but more often than not, we need to let it go. We need to recognize that there is often so much more going on below the surface. We need to make a choice to greet attitude with compassion, because we all have our moments, and sometimes we just need a little grace for all the things you cannot possibly know or see.

When Jealousy Comes Easier Than Joy

Lately I’ve been noticing a growing unrest in myself. A longing for something more and it’s taking it’s toll on me. See I’m not talking about ambition, I’m talking about jealousy.

This year has been tough! Despite our budgeting and saving, finances are tight. We’re emotionally and physically exhausted, and twenty nineteen has been filled with injuries and multiple frantic trips to the ER because one my kids couldn’t breathe. It has been hard and at times I find myself jealous and resentful even at others seemingly simple lives. I find myself questioning when our hardships will end. Overall I find myself growing in frustration as life seems to throw hurdle after hurdle at us.

Lately though, God has been speaking to me in the gentle way He often does, and it all boils down to one word. Grateful. Confusing I know. Twenty nineteen has been one for the books, BUT there has been so much good! Things that up until now, I have chosen to ignore in favour of self pity. 

My marriage is probably the best it’s been in 11 years, we’ve finally got our budgeting and savings on track, and I have four healthy children. Really that last one is huge for me. My kids have asthma, severe food allergies, and my daughter had sepsis when she was one. Each of them have nearly died, BUT they are here, and for the most part, they’re healthy. I have been fortunate enough to always leave the hospital with my child. God has blessed me beyond measure.

This week I have been reminded of the commandment to “not covet” and how important it is. When I was a kid we were often taught about the Ten Commandments and I remember thinking that one was weird. I mean the others make sense. Don’t kill, don’t worship other Gods, don’t cheat, those are givens, but coveting? What’s that and what’s the big deal with it anyway? 

As a little kid coveting was explained to me as the desire to have what someone else has. I can’t say I really understood the significance when I was little, but as I got older coveting has become a really big struggle. 

See at the surface this commandment seems really insignificant, but I think it may actually be at the root of a lot of our troubles. I think that most of us struggle with coveting on a daily basis, because what coveting truly is, is jealousy and dissatisfaction. It’s a dangerous blend of envy and ungratefulness. Often it’s what causes people to lie, cheat, and steal. You may be thinking “Phewf, not me! I’m in the clear on this one”, but if your like me, coveting is a daily issue, just in a more subtle way.

Now, coveting isn’t a commandment because God is gonna smite us for being jealous of our neighbour and wanting what others have. No! This commandment is for our own good. Jealousy has a sneaky way of stealing our joy. It makes us resentful and angry at God and man, instead of being grateful for all that we have been given. It paints our worldview with sadness, frustration and anger and causes us to be dissatisfied with life. It seems minor, but coveting has a domino effect. 

Truthfully I think I struggle with it almost every day. I covet my friends homes. I covet all the pretty things I see on Instagram. I even covet the success of others. This seemingly innocent act ends up having a big impact on my life. The more I covet, the less satisfied I am with life, and the more frustrated I become with God. I begin to feel like I’ve been gipped.

One of the things I really struggle with coveting is talent. Over the years I’ve questioned on more than one occasion why I couldn’t be talented like __________. I would talk to God and say, “Why didn’t you give me that? Why couldn’t I have that talent? How come they get to have all the gifts, and I have none.” In His gentle way, He would reply, “But I gave you talents Sarah. I just gave you different ones”.

He’s right. He has given me talents. He’s given me a voice to sing and words to write, and yet I have been so ungrateful. I have been greedy for more, I have been jealous of others blessings, and sometimes I’ve even resented them for it.

 I don’t want to live that way anymore, so I’m choosing to be grateful and ask God to give me contentment in all seasons. Some days it won’t be easy, but I think that even in the worst of times, we can all find something to be grateful for. To start, I’m thankful for a God who changes my perspective.

So though coveting seems like such a minor thing, I encourage you to look for it. Search your heart, because though it starts small and seems innocent, coveting is huge. It steals your joy, it distracts you, and it can make you greedy for things that were never intended to be yours. Coveting is a trap you can’t see until your already stuck in its clutches. God wants more for us. He wants us to live in gratitude and contentment. He wants us to see our lives as abundantly blessed and to use what He has given us instead of longing for what He has given to others. So, may we learn to claim our joy, instead of trading it for jealousy.

Grace in Progress

This past week I was preparing to run kids church, and I was mulling over ideas for Thanksgiving when an illustration came to mind. Picture life as a pair of glasses. Glasses that are shiny and new, but eventually get dirty and scratched. Before you know it, it’s hard to see. That’s what life is like. Life gets tough, and sometimes bitterness becomes our lens, but when we choose to be thankful to God through the pain, our vision becomes clearer, and we begin to see. Our perspective becomes positive because we choose to focus on the good.

As I was going to bed I was thinking about my lens. With some people, my glasses are filthy. I’ve been hurt, and I find it hard to forgive. I would say I’ve tried, but the truth is I really haven’t. If I had, I wouldn’t filter through my pain. If I had, I wouldn’t choose bitterness instead of hope and joy. As I rested my head on my pillow, God said, “That’s you.” I’m Sarah with the dirty glasses. Sarah who refuses to be thankful and see the good, because bitterness and anger is familiar. The scratches and the dirt on my glasses are easy to see through. Or so it seems.

God wants me – He wants us, to let go. To choose to be thankful in the little things and have hope. He wants us to give over our dirty lenses and let God wipe them clean. It’s not easy, that dirt feels safe to me, a cautionary tale to keep certain people at bay. “They haven’t changed”, I say, “They never will.” I convince myself that my filter is necessary, that it protects me, but if I believe in a God who loves me despite my dirt and sees the best in me in my worst of times, I must be willing to let God clear my vision for others. I must surrender my pain in return for joy, and I think He’s trying to tell me that as I do, I’ll have so much more to be thankful for.

I can’t do this in my own strength, grace doesn’t always feel natural to me, but as I surrender myself to God, He will show me how to love unconditionally. His grace will help me see the good in people and have compassion for them on their darkest days. Through Him I can overcome my pain and choose to love. That means the people who have hurt me and haven’t even noticed. It means extending grace to those who haven’t apologized or don’t feel the need to.

As comfortable as I have become in my bitterness, I want to surrender my pain to Christ. I don’t like who I am when I filter through my pain. I am cold and distant. I am closed off to progress and growth, because I am stuck clinging to the dirt in the past. What a horrible way to live. I know that God has called me to more, and if you can relate He wants so much more for you too. A life of unconditional love and hope for change. A new lens and a joyful outlook on life. I know it will take time for me, but as the Bible says in Luke, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, so I’ve got some work to do. I’m so glad that I serve a God who calls me to a higher standard, not just for the sake of it, but because it’s whats best for me. He knows my bitterness is like a weed that comes in and chokes out love and peace, and He loves me enough to call me out of that. So, here I am surrendering myself, and asking for a new lens, strength to see past my pain, and grace to extend when it hurts.

Rose Coloured Glasses

The other day as the kids were winding down before bed, one of them (who shall remain nameless) got angry and started melting down. I did everything I could to try and diffuse the situation, but in the end I had no choice but to put them to bed early. When we got upstairs they were distraught and still cranky, which any parent knows, does not make for an easy bedtime.

I laid down next to them and started to calm them down. After they settled I began to share all of the words that described them. Not the words that described them in that moment, but all the words that declared who they are, and who they are becoming. “You are kind, funny, smart”, I whispered. “You are compassionate, patient …”. As I continued to speak these words, God reminded me that this is what He does with us. When we are feeling the weight of our actions and emotions, when we are feeling frustrated, ashamed, and unworthy He says, “Sarah, she’s my kid. She’s amazing! She’s so sweet, and selfless. She is patient and wise.”

Even on my darkest days, my God, my Father whispers these words over me. He sees every part of me, and yet He defines me by my good parts. Some days He speaks words over me that don’t even describe me yet, but He knows that deep down they are there, so He tells me who I am. He sees me like a proud parent with rose coloured glasses. A parent who loves unconditionally and sees so much hope for a bright future. We all know that parent, the one whose endlessly bragging about their kid, even when it doesn’t make sense. That’s Him! He’s our number one fan, our advocate.

Parenting has been my most challenging adventure yet, but it has also been such a blessing. Over the years as a young mom, God has taught me so much about His character, grace and His unconditional love. I’m so grateful for these moments when He reveals Himself to me and I pray that each day I can hear His words over me. I hope that I can hear the voice of my proud Father louder than my own insecurity and shame and grow into who He tells me I am. I’m pretty certain that if you’ll listen, you’ll hear His words for you too.