I love taking pictures of my kids on Instagram. When we go somewhere or make something that I think is really cool, I snap a picture of them smiling and happy, edit it, and post it, sometimes forwarding it on to Facebook. I think it’s a good way for family and friends who don’t live close by to keep up with the kids, and I also really enjoy the creative aspect of taking a great picture.
I don’t take pictures with the intention of getting compliments, but people sometimes comment with things like “Your kids are so lucky” or “You’re such a good mom.” You would think this would make me feel good, but when people make comments like this, I have a pretty standard stream of negative thoughts that run through my mind: Why would they say that? or Boy, have I got them fooled! or No, I’m not. I just don’t photograph and publish the bad moments.
While some of these things are correct (I don’t usually photograph and publish the meltdowns and fights and messes), God spoke to me the other day regarding the other negative thoughts that I have concerning myself and motherhood. A friend from church commented under a picture that I had put of the kids on Facebook, “You are such a good mom.” I immediately started with the negative self-talk. She just doesn’t know. I’m really not. Why would she say that? God spoke to me immediately. Laresa, why wouldn’t she say that? You are a good mother. Why don’t you believe it?
This was a powerful moment for me. What if what everyone says about me is true? What if I AM a good mother? What if my kids ARE going to be ok?! Why should I not believe that? I realized that it is time to stop carrying around this mother’s guilt that has been plaguing me, and rest in the knowledge that I am good enough. A weight was lifted from my shoulders immediately.
Mother’s guilt is the worst type of guilt. It begins the day you bring your baby home from the hospital. We feel guilt over how we feed them, where the baby sleeps, and what type of diaper we are using. Then the baby gets a little older, and the guilt changes a little. Working moms feel guilt over working and stay-at-home moms feel guilt over staying at home. We feel guilty about the choices we are making about our children’s education, where we shop for their clothes, what food they are eating, how many cartoons they are watching every day, and how many stories we are reading to them at nighttime. We even feel guilty about the number of children we have! I am sure that as my kids get older, different things will spring up for me to feel guilty about.
I know that I am not alone in this. I hear my friends lamenting over their guilty consciences and the decisions they are making for their families. Even women who I know to be very confident and self-assured feel mother’s guilt. I once overheard a woman warning a mother-to-be about mother’s guilt at her baby shower! All of the women standing around the unsuspecting woman were nodding their heads in understanding.
There is nothing wrong with the feeling of guilt in itself: it can be an important warning when there is a problem. In Romans 2:14-15, Paul tells us, “Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right.” God gave human beings the feeling of guilt to alert us when we are on the wrong path, so it is an important thing to pay attention to.
The mother’s guilt that I am referring to, however, is not God-given. It is a self-imposed feeling of not being enough, a form of self-condemnation that comes from the devil himself. According to Revelation 12:10, Satan is our accuser. 1 Peter 5:8 explains that he is our enemy and that “he prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” The devil is using our feelings of mother’s guilt to hold us back and to keep us from being the women that God intends us to be!
Mother’s guilt can have a negative impact on our entire family. We can over-compensate with our children by spoiling them or not disciplining them when we should. We can depend on our husbands to make us feel better about ourselves, something that is not their duty, and then get angry when they can’t. This isn’t what God wants for us, for our children, or for our husbands. In John 14:27, Jesus says, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” He sacrificed himself for us and sent the Holy Spirit to indwell his believers so that we could live a life of peace, not full of worry.
How do we let go of our mother’s guilt? Let’s look to Philippians 4:6-9 for a solution:
6Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
8And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
First of all, we need to take this issue to God in prayer. He is waiting to hear from us and wants to help. He will give us peace to guard us as we go about the difficult task of being mamas.
Then, we need to change our thought process. When our minds start going in the direction of self-condemnation and negative self-talk, we need to stop ourselves. Think about good things we have done today (I know there are tons), and tell ourselves we are good enough…because we are…because Jesus made us good enough. We need to remember that Jesus freed us from the burden of having to be good enough when He died on the cross for us.
If you have experienced some sort of trauma in your life that has caused you to suffer from serious self-condemnation, I urge you to find someone to talk to. It could be a trusted friend, your pastor, or a counselor. Sometimes we have to allow God to work through other people.
My prayer for you all, fellow mamas, is that you find yourself free of mommy-guilt, that you break free of the stronghold that the devil has on you, and that you allow God to fill your heart and mind and home with peace that only He can give.