Posted by: angelnorman | September 20, 2007

Guilty Mother, be free.

“True guilt is specific. You know why you’re feeling guilty and what you’re supposed to do about it. False guilt is a vague cloudy feeling, one that’s tough to nail down. It says, “I’m not right. I’m not what I should be.” -Mary Whelchel

Why is it that, for me, motherhood is synonymous with guilt? I have been struggling a lot lately to NOT beat myself up for a multitude of things that I either cannot control or things that are so pointless to worry about because what’s done is done. Every potty accident makes me think, “Well he wasn’t ready. I pushed him before he was ready.” And every time he clams up in front of others, I think, “I’ve contributed to my child being antisocial because I so frequently tend to behave the same way.”

Everytime he misbehaves, I feel the slight pang of judgment from others- I’m sure they’re thinking I’m too lenient, or too tough, but never do I think that they’re thinking I’m handling it properly. And the truth is, it’s not THEM thinking these things (or perhaps it is, but who really cares what others think?). It’s me. It’s me thinking I’m too lenient or too tough and it’s me who doesn’t stop to tell myself that I am handling it properly. It’s me thinking I didn’t potty-train at the right time or that I’ve made my child antisocial even though I’ve really done a much better job in the last year in getting him out there, making friends and such. It’s me who doesn’t let myself bask in the congratulations, the compliments, the smiles from others when I DO do something right because I’m so focused on all the stuff I didn’t do yet or still need to do or did improperly.

I’ve definitely got a case of Guilty Mom Syndrome.

So instead of mental exercises to rid me of my guilt or meditations to help me focus only on the necessity in each situation, I’ve turned to prayer and devotionals. I’ve found my biggest help to come from this article, Motherhood Guilt at Focus on the Family’s website. If and when you check it out, be sure to check out all the articles in the series, for the one titled “In the Shadow of Guilt” was the one that helped the most for me. It’s a really good series, and I was glad to know I wasn’t alone. Plus, working through my guilt has so far been a little easier because of it all.

In the first article, we are asked to list things we DO NOT feel guilty for when it comes to raising our children. In the next article, we are made to list our what we DO feel guilty for. By the end of the series, we have been instructed to analyze these things, break them down by false guilt and true, and then admit the true guilt to God in prayer and simply ask for His guidance and His forgiveness. Afterwards we can never let them affect us so deeply again because we have been forgiven for them and we’re allowed freedom from it.

While I don’t really care to share everything I feel guilty about, I will share a couple of things from my list.

1. I feel guilty that Nicholas was exposed to bleach, and that once he even broke into the bathroom cabinets, where I never stored cleaning supplies, to obtain my spray bottle of bleach. I had to call Poison Control and everything. I had no idea how much he had drank, if any. I was scared to death.

2. I feel guilty that I wasn’t able to handle the time when Nick drove off that 5-step-high porch on a tricycle once in a better way. I wasn’t fast enough to stop it from happening. Then I barely had any idea how to handle it, even when he started getting lethargic and throwing up. I felt like the worst mother in the world by the time I got to the hospital and the head CT scans were ordered.

But… no, not anymore. I am letting these things go. They have held power over me long enough. I have admitted my faults in these situations and now I’m getting rid of the negative thoughts that are always there, reminding me of how I failed in a real way when something else that maybe isn’t real, like how I feel judged by others, seems to weigh down on me. (For instance, when I feel judged I think to myself, “Well why shouldn’t they judge you? You obviously have no clue what you’re doing… remember when you forgot to put the bleach up in the proper place and Nick sprayed it all over himself?”) I cannot allow this sort of behavior, me beating myself up over things I cannot change now and have no bearing on how I parent at all, to keep happening. So let me rephrase this.

1. I FELT guilty for the bleach incident.
2. I FELT guilty for the great porch jump of ’06.

Now I am free. God has forgiven me, and I have forgiven me too!

Because really, I’m not a bad mother. I’m great. And fun, with a great appreciation of wonder and learning (and life and love and happiness!) And I don’t feel guilty about a ton of things, like how incredibly creative my child is. I helped him become this way; I cultivated that creativity with our daily art time, which I make sure to get in on most days. He loves to paint and sculpt and make something from nothing (in a positive way, with artistic materials, I mean- ha!) I don’t feel guilty for potty training because of how well he HAS done with potty-training, all accidents aside. He’s not even three! There’s a lot of kids his age still in diapers, and he’s getting better every day. I don’t feel guilty one bit for giving him birthday cake (even several pieces of it) when we go to birthday parties or encouraging him to be a kid who runs and plays and finds wonder in everything. I don’t feel guilty for sometimes allowing him to sip my soda. I don’t give him soda all the time, so why should it make me feel below awful? I don’t feel guilty for not teaching Nick about Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny because I still give him gifts and teach him the true meaning behind the holidays anyways…. So see. I do indeed have way more positive things to focus on than not.

While I have not yet arrived at a place where I am guilt-free, where I will not be bound by guilt any longer, I know deep down that I’m a good mother, and no one should make me feel otherwise, especially not myself. I’m working on it and focusing on the good that I do…. like how Nicholas is never deprived of love or any necessity, how we always laugh together, how I am always very encouraging of the little person he’s becoming. I’m praying for healing in this area though nonetheless, for assurance of the highest type, that from God Himself. Since reading these articles and making these lists and asking for help, I can feel Him with me at the end of the day, hugging me and saying, “If I didn’t think you were worthy enough to be a parent, I wouldn’t have allowed it to happen. Be free knowing this.” And it’s a great feeling to know I’m loved despite my imperfections and failures, no matter how much of the imperfection is in my head.



  1. i am glad to know i am not the only one who suffers from mommy guilt….i constantly wonder if i am effin him up by doing this or not doing that…you are a wonderful mother, one of the best i know and if you weren’t nic wouldn’t be as great as he is….he is loving and curious and a quiet watcher just like you…there is nothing wrong with that… you.

  2. i too, suffer from mommy guit.
    it is so hard to not fall into that trap. i am a pro at beating myself up over the tiniest things.

    For me, sometimes its reminding myself not to compare my kids or my life or the way i do things to what others are doing.

    Nick is such a smart and wonderful kid and you are a great mom. On top of that you are a fantastic friend, now thats pretty impressive… you too!!!!

  3. Ooooh, this is a great idea for an anonymous poll.
    My guess is that most of us feel at least moderate mommy guilt.
    I know I do.
    Hugs, Julie

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