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

Trust Your Gut Because Mama Knows Best!

The other day I had an amazing experience. Exhausted and tired in the ER for the second time that week, I had the opportunity to thank the doctor who admitted my daughter just a few short years ago. She saw my sick daughter and the fear all over my face three years ago and she admitted her. She admitted her even though the doctors the night before had dismissed my concerns and sent her home. I had a chance to thank that sweet doctor and tell her what happened after she made the decision that saved my daughters life. Twelve days of spiralling diagnosis’s, a night in ICU, and then two weeks of outpatient antibiotics. Truth be told, it was a terrifying ordeal, one where the doctors almost discharged my daughter more than once because they couldn’t see what I sensed, that my daughter was extremely ill.

So the other night, as I sat there watching my daughter, I got a chance to thank that amazing doctor for not just seeing the symptoms in front of her, but trusting my instincts as a mom.

There I was with the same child that she had treated and had a role in saving years ago, when she said something that meant more than she could ever know. “I always tell the other doctors”, she said, “Mom knows best! If what she’s saying isn’t making sense then dig deeper, because mom knows best!”

I’ve experienced some wonderful moments with doctors in the emergency room, in fact I once had a doctor who held me while I cried, but this meant so much. Her words will reverberate in my mind for years to come. See each time my kids get sick, I worry and I watch them closely. I have to. With four kids I have no choice but to pay attention and advocate for them, but boy can that be hard! I often question myself, and nearly every time I rush my kids into the ER I worry that I’m being irrational and the staff will think I’m burdening the system. It’s hard not to question yourself when your kids have to go the ER so much. At least it is for me.

My kids have severe food allergies which makes me the annoying mom always asking people to wash their hands. Each time I hover and give my awkward explanation it makes me cringe, it feels un-natural and overbearing, but I’ve got to do it. It turns out being the annoying mom helps keep my kids alive.

Then there’s the asthma, every cold and flu season we frequent the ER, often with symptoms that go undetected by most. In fact the other day I waited six hours in the ER because my son was having an episode. Triage didn’t detect the severity of his situation and I questioned my judgement with each passing hour, but with each breath his throat tugged deeper and I knew in my gut he needed to be seen. By the time my son finally made it to a room at 3 am, he needed oxygen.

I say all of this to say, sure we don’t always get it right. We all have days when our mom radar is faulty. Sometimes we’re just so tired from all the sleepless nights and being overcome with worry that we’re just plain paranoid, but most of the time we see what others can’t. Most days we see the beginnings and know what’s coming. We wait for six hours even after a good triage because we can sense that our kids need to be there, even if nobody else knows it yet.

Sure it’s hard! Our instincts keep us up at night as we watch them breathe and mull over what to do next. Sometimes we rush them into the ER, only to discover that we were better off at home, but for most of us, those moments of paranoia are few and far between. Most of the time our gut is spot on!

So Mama, keep up the good work! You know what to look for. Your instincts can sense something is wrong even when nobody else can see it, and thats just what your child needs. That nagging feeling that you can’t shake may be a pain in the butt, but it’s a gift that saves lives. So I’ll echo the words of that lovely doctor and say trust your gut, do what you’ve got to do for your babies, because “Mamma knows best”!

Drowning in Defeat

I can’t tell if I’m the only one, or if everyone else is just better at covering it up, but sometimes I feel like I’m drowning in responsibilities. A messy house, a growing to do list, forever forgetting just about everything. Throw in procrastination and a lack of motivation, and I feel just plain defeated.

Sometimes life feels like a hamster wheel. Like your running and running and running all day long. Laundry, meltdowns, dishes, repeat! Over and over and over again, and yet nothing ever seems to be done, or stay done. Yesterday, I was like the energizer bunny working away all day long, but do I have anything to show for it? NOPE! Even my most productive days don’t seem to cut it. It’s never enough!

It’s hard on days like this to crawl out of the deep pit of defeat. My mountain of laundry seems insurmountable and when the kids yell “Mom! Mom!! MOM!!!”, my patience is low. For someone who battles feelings of inadequacy and failure. I feel like I’ve lost.

I spoke to someone today about our mutual struggle with procrastination, and she mentioned how she stalls on the big tasks with mopping, doing dishes, and folding laundry. *Sigh* What I wouldn’t give to have her kind of procrastination “skills”. To be a productive procrastinator. Unfortunately I’m the, “Not today, I choose Netflix!”, procrastinator and that really puts a wrench in productivity of any sort.

I think a large part of my problem is that keeping up with everything seems like an impossible task. Maybe it is (mom of four here), but the more I think about it, the problem may be my expectations. I have this gold standard in my head of mothers who get the job done. You know Leave It to Beaver style, keeping a spotless home, greeting her kids after school with freshly baked low sugar organic cookies. The mom who always knows what to say, and never looses her cool. The mom who is always organized and put together and never ever late for the bus stop. In my head, thats the other moms on the block. They’ve got their act together. They’ve got, “A place for everything, and everything in it’s place”, and I’ve got piles of school papers and one too many junk drawers. I envision the other moms with pristine houses, organized toy bins, and Pinterest worthy meals on the table every night. I want so badly to be that mom thats got it all together, but sadly I’m not. Who knows, maybe the truth is that mom doesn’t exist.

My mother-in-law has a sign in her house that says, “This house is clean enough to be healthy, and dirty enough to be happy”. I’ve read it for years and just never let in sink in. I think a large part of why I am so overwhelmed is my expectations are so unattainable. Frankly, I’m not even sure they’re healthy. I tried to be the “that mom” once and I was exhausted. The floors were spotless, the laundry bins empty, and the food was always from scratch, but our family suffered for it. See though the house was immaculate, I was cranky, high strung, and barely spent any time with my kids. It wasn’t good for anyone!

Somewhere along the way,  we women have learned to determine our worth and how good of a mother we are, by the state of our homes. Don’t get me wrong, we have a responsibility to take care of our homes and kids, but we’re not measured by it. 

My kids aren’t going to grow up and reminisce about how mom was so tidy, and who cares if Karen down the street has a cleaner house than mine? Not me! Well, maybe a little bit, but I’m working on it.

So, maybe the new standard should go something like this. The mom whose house is lived in, but not too chaotic. The mom who always loves on her kids more than she yells at them, and the mom who has it mostly together, and is sometimes still late for the bus stop. I think that’s doable, and maybe just one more, the woman who isn’t too hard on herself and not only sees her losses, but celebrates her wins.

I Am the Girl Next Door

Most of my life I have felt pretty ordinary. Mostly for superficial reasons. I used to feel like my name was boring, and if you braid my hair I look like a shoo in for Anne of Green Gables. I’ve never been crazy about makeup and my curly hair often becomes so frizzy that I resemble Miss Frizzle from The Magic School Bus. Aside from all of that though, this feeling has filtered through my life on a deeper level. I’m a pastors wife, and the women I look up to in ministry and life in general are bold, trendy and look like they are ready for their book deal. I’m just the girl next door, plain and simple.

A few years ago I was going through a phase of deep insecurity. My husband and I had just moved and were about to plant a church. I’ve always been low maintenance, but I decided for the first time in my life I was going to be polished, I was going to be fashionable, I was going to be THAT woman! Everyday I straightened my hair, or brushed out my curls and put my hair into a neat and tidy bun. I wore jewelry, lots of jewelry, and makeup almost everyday. I Iooked GOOD, yet even the polished new me still felt unsatisfied and insecure. I didn’t know who I was!

My worth and identity were caught up in my appearance and what people thought of me. I wanted so badly to be admired, emulated, envied even. I’m ashamed to admit it, but it’s true. Thankfully, I had a powerful moment where God spoke to me reminding me of who I am and why I am. See I AM the girl next door. I’m a bit of a hot mess, I’m basic, but I am approachable. Those women that I admired are doing great things, thats true, but sometimes women like me can’t relate to them, in fact I’m often intimidated by them. On the other hand, I’ve only ever intimidated the big kids trying to butt in line at the school fair. I’m unassuming and approachable. Thats who God has made me to be. I can’t serve Him, all the while trying to be someone else. Honestly, at the root of it, I wasn’t even trying to serve Him in trying to be someone else. I was serving myself and my ego. I got side tracked. 

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the dangers of the mold. See in ministry and life in general, I believe we’ve created a mold of sorts. There is this underlying concept that every person must look a certain way, speak a certain way, and act a certain way to serve God. It appears there is this unspoken mold, and I was trying so desperately to fit into it, but I can’t and more importantly, I shouldn’t. God didn’t make me to fit in someone else’s mold. He made some people that way, and they’re having great success living out their God given purpose, but life is not one size fits all, and the only person we should be emulating is Christ.

God made me ordinary, but there is beauty in my ordinary. There is beauty in the fact that though I fall short and am insecure, God has given me the opportunity to encourage others. There is beauty in the way God made you! The lie from the enemy is that we are JUST ordinary, because God’s plan for us is unique, and the mistake is trying to be someone else instead of who God created us to be. 

So here I am basic, plain, ordinary. I’m not the model wife, mom, leader, and I’m definitely not an influencer, but I am me. I know I am fulfilling my purpose, and I feel confident in that knowing that God is using me in extraordinary ways, just as ordinary as I am.

It’s ok if your the girl next door too. God can shine brightly through you, all you have to do is embrace it, and let God do His thing. Who knows what doors God is waiting to open for a girl like you.

Photo Credit: Lindsay Berringer Photography

When It’s All Too Heavy

Lately  I’ve been thinking a lot about life and how overwhelming it can be for so many of us. How heavy life can feel with work, family, sickness, and sometimes even tragedy . Right now, my life is just a little crazy, but there have been seasons when I was in way over my head and just plain drained.

When my kids were very little I was living in a season of exhaustion. I remember feeling tapped out, like I had nothing more to give. Josh and I didn’t have the extra cash for any kind of a trip away, so there seemed to be little chance of a break. It felt hopeless, like I was doomed to a perpetual lack sleep and running on empty. In my desperation, I used to fantasize about being hospitalized for something minor like dehydration, just so I could have a good nights rest, and binge watch Netflix in peace. Crazy? Maybe, but it was my reality. I was burnt out with life!

Around that time when I was worn out and having a hard time coping, we were given the opportunity to go on a retreat in Quebec City at the luxurious Chateau Frontenac hotel. It was all expenses paid, no kids, and just what we needed. I remember at the end of it ugly crying into a mic in front of three hundred people about how much it meant to me. It was such a blessing, and was the rest I needed as a weary mom. A much needed refresh button when life felt too heavy.

Fast forward to today, life is pretty good. It’s hectic at times, but it’s slowed down a bit, and I’m finally getting some sleep. Would I love a vacation, sure, but I can manage okay without one. Over the past couple of weeks though, I’ve spoken to people who have a lot on their plates, and as I thought about them I was reminded of this verse in Matthew 11:28,  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” It made me think of that retreat. Or a couple of months ago when money was tight and I was working crazy hours tutoring English online. One day I logged on but my internet was faulty, so I had no choice but to rest and be encouraged by a good friend. It made me think about shortly after, when we didn’t know how we were going to pay our bills and someone gave us an extremely generous cheque, so we were finally able to breathe without the pressure of finances on our shoulders. 

That day when my internet went glitchy I was able to get together with my friend Lisa. It’s not often that we can get together and have a good chat, but I was so stressed and panicked, I couldn’t enjoy it. “I NEED to work!” I exclaimed, “I’ve got bills to pay!”. She looked at me as the tears fell down my cheeks and said, “Maybe this is God’s way of making you take a break, so you can rest and spend time with Him”. I never thought of the technical issues as a gift, I was too busy worrying, and yet it was just what I needed. A free day where I had no choice but to rest and to listen to God. Maybe thats your rest too. Maybe it’s not obvious, it could be a blessing in disguise, but when we go to God he refreshes us in unexpected ways. He knows exactly what we need, when we need it, and when we surrender to Him He provides. He takes the weight off our shoulders, even if it’s just for a few hours, and sometimes He even lightens our load.

I don’t know what your life looks like right now, but I do know what rest in Jesus looks like. It may not be a free retreat to a glitzy hotel or a generous cheque, it could as simple as peace, wisdom, and the support of friends and family. Whatever season you’re in, whether one of balance and simplicity or one of chaos, I encourage you to seek after God, and pay attention to what He’s doing. You might be surprised with the rest your given, and how it not only refreshes your body, but your soul. 

Even as I finish writing this I’m feeling tired and a little weary. I stayed up too late (yet again) milking every second of peace and quiet to watch tv. Just as I finally surrendered to my heavy eyes and snuggled into my pillow my daughter woke up crying in her bed, so up I went, to tuck her in and wipe her tears. Now it’s nearly midnight and I know I will trudge through the next day tired, but I will press on because I know tomorrow holds it’s own little blessing. Tomorrow I get together with Lisa for a mom’s night out and tacos. It’s only a little rest, but I’m gonna eat my fill and soak it all in!

Self Control for the Cranky Mom

This past Sunday was church AND our family photo shoot. Now maybe for you that would be fine, but for me it was a recipe for disaster. See we’ve got four kids and are church planters. That means every Sunday is crazy! Get up, get everyone somewhat presentable, try and maintain peace in the chaos, get out the door, set up, do church, manage a small child’s tantrum and/or tears, and finally tear everything down. Every Sunday it’s pretty much the same, and we handle it pretty well, but throw in family picture day, and for me, it was a lot!

I knew I would be a little stressed, but when I got up that morning I woke up cranky, and it was all downhill from there.

For starters I was awoken from my sweet slumber by my son losing his mind and yelling, “Mom! Mom! MOM!!!!”, all for me to get him his cereal. Ugh! Not the way I wanted to start my day. What followed was a series of whiny moments from my kids and and a general defiance to anything that required cooperation.

I would like to say that I was calm and composed, but you know by now that would be a lie. I was just plain cranky! My poor husband had to listen to me rant and freak out while I tried to wrangle our kids and get us ready for the day. Thankfully he was patient, kind, and self controlled, all things that I lacked.

I remember singing songs about the fruit of spirit as a kid. In Galatians 5:23 it says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.” I gotta say, sometimes I find it to be really challenging to have self control as a mom. See sometimes motherhood is great, the kids are listening, they’re getting along, and things are just peachy! Then there are those other days. The ones where it feels like your working a bad customer service job. Seriously! It’s tough and sometimes I can feel like I’m on the cusp of losing my sanity!

So what I’m wondering is, how do you as a mom or just a human being have self control? I’d be a hypocrite if I said I have it figured out. When it comes to self control (as with many things) I fall into the “work in progress” category. I see my freak outs and ongoing issues with patience and all that, I even have some ideas on how to deal with it, but I really have to lean on Jesus and others to hold me accountable and help me out.

That morning as I was prepping things ready for church, I felt Gods gentle whisper, “They’re just pictures Sarah. They’re just pictures”. It was kinda ironic really. Here I am writing week after week about accepting yourself and living in reality, and I was literally going nuts over everyone looking perfect for this staged shoot. Yikes!

I’m so grateful though for grace, and a God who loves me enough to gently remind me of what’s important and adjust my perspective. Throw in a little wisdom from my husband and it helped me to process everything that was going on and try not to lose my poop.

I can’t say it was an instant fix for my mood and snappy self, but it did help. Sometimes I just need a little perspective to get out of my head. Maybe you do too. When all else fails, I recommend an extended trip to the bathroom to calm down. Bonus points if you can be stealth and disappear unnoticed.

At the end of the day, I was able to settle down and mostly roll with the punches. The pictures turned out great, and all was well with the world. Hopefully these photos will stand as a reminder to myself to calm down, because everything’s gonna be okay, even when its all seems a little too crazy!

Photo Credit: Lindsay Berringer Photography