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

Cast Your Parenting Anxiety On Him

My son is nine today! He’s my firstborn, so his birthday always makes me extra sentimental. His birth signifies the beginning of parenthood for me. This means nine years of laughter and joy, but in my case it also means nine years of worrying.

I’ll never forget the intense anxiety I experienced as a new mom. My sons life seemed so fragile and I was worried about everything from SIDS and choking to random disasters. I remember constantly sticking my finger under his nose to make sure that he was breathing okay. I was so afraid all the time and emotionally I was feeling the weight of it all.

When I became a new mom I realized just how much of a control freak I am. Not with everyday things, I’m not one to try and micromanage, but with life. Trusting God was easier when it was just me. I could resign to His plans pretty easily, but when I became a mom trusting God felt a million times harder. Trusting God required me to let go of control of my baby and say, “I trust you with him God. I trust you no matter what happens. Good or bad.” It required surrender and I wasn’t ready to do that. I wasn’t ready to surrender. I wanted to control everything and naively thought that I could shield my son from pain.

It’s funny, because we never really have control, and yet we believe we do and try desperately to keep it. The truth is though, life was going to play out whether or not I liked it, I just had to choose who would walk us through it. Would I be driven by fear and constant worry, or trust in the God who would lead me through?

After months of worry and wrestling with God, I finally surrendered. Little did I know just how much I would need God to guide me through. The following years brought us three more babies, health scares and troubling diagnoses. In fact on more than one occasion I wondered if I would lose the precious babies that God had given me. Did surrendering my babies to God make me stop worrying? Nope! But it gave me hope.

When my daughter was in the hospital, tubes everywhere and progressively getting worse, I would sing and cry out to God. I was terrified, but I knew we were not alone. What a comfort that was. What a comfort that is to this day.

The truth is being a parent is scary. Kids are accidents waiting to happen and that can increase any parents anxiety tenfold, but we serve a God who is with us through it all, and He wants to lighten our load. 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” What a comfort this is! I don’t know about you, but I’ve been worried lately. I’ve been reading one too many news articles and the world seems overwhelmed with fear over another possible pandemic. I can’t help but worry about all the implications it could have on us, but I’m reminded that God can handle my worries and fears. I know that whatever comes, we will not walk it alone.

I have experienced God’s comfort and peace my whole life, but never more than in the past nine years of becoming a parent. So today, on my oldest son’s birthday, I will not only celebrate him, but all that God has done, and how I found comfort in the surrender.

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.

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

Overated Adulting

As a child I was so eager to grow up. Adults had it made in my eyes. They could watch MTV, eat a whole pack of raw cookie dough, stay up late, and buy whatever they wanted. It was obviously totally awesome. Or so I thought, but here I am “adulting” as they say, and it’s tough. If I had to choose one word to describe life as an adult, it would probably be overwhelming. Now I realize that sounds pretty intense, and its not all bad, I can eat a whole pack of cookie dough without getting in trouble with my mom, but I tried it once, and I didn’t feel so good. Seriously though, life can be overwhelming. There’s always something, to stress over.

Four kids, one husband, two jobs, volunteer work at church, bills, dishes, and oh so much laundry, always with the laundry *sigh*. Somedays its all a little much, and when it’s all a little much, I usually do one of two things. One, I panic and two, I procrastinate. It’s a skill really. I can procrastinate like the best, and my panic and worry fuels it, because I put off doing things so I can worry about not getting it all done instead. Crazy, I know! In the midst of all the craziness I seem to forget about God. I don’t forget that He’s here, just that He’s at work in my life. I try and take control of my chaotic life, instead of handing it to God. 

One example of this is with money. Recently we have been following the Dave Ramsey (aka money guru) method. This means budgeting, saving for everything, and side hustles (thus my second job). Its been great for us, and I’m so proud of the hard work we have been doing. We have been working hard and its been paying off, but instead of celebrating this victory and thanking God for how He has provided, I’ve spent countless hours panicking over how we will pay for the next thing. Dental bills, clothes, Christmas, next summers expenses even. This fear is so irrational. Josh and I have had seasons of our life where we have had loaves and fishes type moments, and way more money has been in our bank account than should have been. Right now though, life feels overwhelming. My to do list seems huge, our bills seem too high, our schedule is insane, and I’m exhausted. 

Life is hard, but I’m grateful that as I sat here panicking God reminded me that He is here, and He’s got it covered. It says in Matthew 6:25-27, 

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”

My constant panic and planning doesn’t achieve anything, in fact it cripples me and slows me down. In verse 31 to 34 it goes on to say, 

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Isn’t that the truth! Each day has its own struggles to deal with, and yet here I am worrying about next year! God has always provided for me, He has done miraculous things in my life, and yet I seem to forget so quickly, so as I was sitting and spiralling in my thoughts God reminded me of what I needed to do with one simple word, SURRENDER. It’s a tough one for me. I’m not a productive control freak, but I am a control freak. I so desperately want to have all my ducks in a row, I want to know that everything is going to be ok. As an adult there are many things to worry about, so much pressure, but thankfully  I am not on my own. When I seek after God, when I trust Him, He will provide. Not just money (I’m not preaching the prosperity gospel here), but strength, encouragement, guidance, wisdom,  and energy for the daily grind. God is faithful, and He loves me, and I’m learning to surrender control to Him. It’s scary at times I’ll admit. Surrender takes trust, even when life seems to be a out of control, but I know I can’t do this adulting thing on my own, and I’m glad that today I was reminded I don’t have to. Now, if you have any ideas for my laundry, I’m taking suggestions, cause were drowning in it over here.

Inadequacy in the Box

Inadequate. A word that has hung heavily over my head for most of my life. A word that has kept me away from my potential. See my whole life I have felt inadequate for just about everything. Afraid of trying, because trying risks failure. Every job I consider, every new venture, parenthood, serving, and leading at church… inadequate. 

This very blog, almost didn’t happen because, as you can guess, I felt inadequate. In fact I’ve mulled over all the reasons not too. What if it’s all to depressing? What if I run out of things to say? What if no one wants to listen? What if I let them see the real me, and it’s all just too much? Risk is scary, and so I often compromise my dreams and settle for comfort.

In comfort, I wonder how much I’ve missed out on. Sometimes I even stop dreaming, because the dreams are to big for a person like me. Inadequate. Unqualified. Afraid. These feelings and fears are so real to me, constantly in the back of my head. The little voice that says, “Don’t do it, you’ll just fail, why bother.” Those words echo through my mind, but if there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that those words are from the enemy, and the enemy is a liar!

God has a plan for me. He has a plan for each of us, but the enemy wants to keep us in a box. On the outside this box looks like a box of comfort and safety, but it’s deceiving, because the box is a cage––the box is fear. When I wallow in my fear, God likes to remind me of my favourite passage in the Bible. In Jeremiah 1:5,

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, 
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
“Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”
But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.
Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”

Jeremiah knew exactly what I feel. He too felt inadequate and unqualified, but he trusted in God despite his fears of falling short, and God used him. God has called me, and you, to so much more than our boxes. He has called us to a full life of serving him– to a purpose and a plan. He has big things in store for all of us, and because of Him we are qualified. He gives us the words to say and the courage to speak, but only when we lean on Him. 

I find that sometimes when I believe the lies of the enemy, I keep God at bay, because I know He’s calling me to more, challenging me to obey Him and see what happens, but I just can’t bring myself to listen. I put my faith in my fear, instead of God.

Today, I’m taking a step out of my box with this blog. I am choosing to let God use me and speak through me. Trusting that he will give me the words. Here I will share with boldness, and trust that God will use my pain and struggles, joys and triumphs for His glory. It’s scary and daunting, but I know that God has strengthened me, and I’m excited. If you understand what it feels like to feel inadequate, I hope you’ll join me on this journey in trusting God, as we step out of the box.