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”!

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.

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.