Is there a mother out there that doesn’t feel guilty about her mothering? Maybe most of it, maybe some of it—all of us are committing or omitting things that make us feel guilty. When you know that a dependent person whom you love is counting on you for pretty much everything (from food to medical care to memorable holidays), it brings the weight of responsibility and the burden of imperfect performance.
But I’m not sure that sin is the cause of most mommy guilt.
If we’re honest, it’s usually pride and/or fear of man. We want to be the best mom around and/or don’t want people to think that we’re not meeting our children’s needs. We want our kids and those around us to think that we’re fabulous mothers who meet every need. We want affirmation that we are great, or at least are doing great. Often, we feel more guilty about not doing enough crafts (reading, sports, _____) with our children than we do about shouting at them when we’re running late. Is that because omitting crafts is a sin? No: mercifully, Scripture says nothing about popsicle sticks and glue. We feel guilty because the other mom does crafts with her kids and we feel left behind. Shouting at our kids is less of a stress because the other moms don’t see us shouting at our kids or we wouldn’t do it.
That’s ugly spelled out in black and white, isn’t it? It’s making me cringe, because I see it in my own life. The guilt I often carry around is not guilt that I was inconsistent in discipline, but that some other mother is doing ____ for her kids and I’m not. My guilt comes not from a conscience tender towards God, but a heart that wants to be ahead of others.
But there certainly is mommy guilt that comes from a conscience that is doing its job, pointing out to us where we have failed to parent as God calls us to. Feeling guilty about forgetting to pray for our children, being lax in teaching, and our selfish actions or words bring on a guilt that can be healthy if it leads to repentance.
The cross is the answer to both kinds of mommy guilt. It makes us look at our Saviour instead of others, and especially instead ourselves. When we are focused on the cross, we are put in our proper place. Other people’s opinions won’t matter when we are aware that we are living before God’s face.
And when we have sinned in our mothering by transgressing God’s Word to us or by ignoring it, we can flee to the cross and find forgiveness through Jesus’ substitutionary atonement. Confessing our sin, we are forgiven—cleansed from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
God can forgive not only the times when we are impatient with our children, but the times when we feel guilty as we strive in our own strength to look better than other people, regardless of our real sins. Guilt is a God-given feeling that comes when we are doing something wrong. When our sense of what is wrong in mothering is dictated more and more by Scripture instead of Pinterest and facebook, we can use that mommy guilt to run to the cross and leave that burden there with our Saviour who died even for these sins. This frees us from bondage to others’ opinions of us and from real, deserved guilt of sin. It also enables us to mother in His strength, because without that, we’ll fail our kids every time.