As a mom, it comes with the territory that mistakes will be made. And with my mistakes, I felt an over abundant amount of guilt.
What I wish I had was a quick reference guide for things to not feel guilty for – for example: “child who will not eat what is put on their plate” and the quick reference says that’s a 1 on the 5 point guilt scale. Phew. I don’t need to feel that guilty.
Guilt is a huge and ugly force we wrestle as moms. It doesn’t help us function for the future because we’re constantly checking back to see if we’ve “made up” for what we did wrong yesterday. Feeling guilty promotes the lie that if I feel bad enough, then I will change. If I view myself as a “bad mom” then I will want to strive for “good mom” tomorrow.
The endless struggle between “good mom” and “bad mom.”
Every morning when I wake up, I review either what I’ve done or what I need to do and I motivate myself somehow. Generally reaching out to my goal of being “good mom” with guilt from being “bad mom” as my faulty motivation.
When my oldest was a toddler and my middle was just a baby, I desperately wanted to be “good mom,” but my good was never good enough. My kids cried, fought, went on strike against nap time (which felt like a personal attack on my sanity), and I didn’t have any help. Day after day, my desire to try to be “good mom” faded into a jaded reality.
My strength, confidence, and resolve dwindled to next to nothing. Worse, my identity was under attack, and I thought more and more that I would be destined to remain “bad mom” permanently.
As my kids grew, my goal changed from reaching for “good mom” to trying to just stay neutral. I viewed my motherhood as a scale to balance. Good actions, words, attitudes on one side – bad ones on the other.
I drove myself crazy trying to simply keep track of the weights on the scale. I burdened myself to breaking by the end of each day. I never felt worthy of my rest because there was always more to do.
Life wasn’t a gift. My children weren’t my joys. I had made them my judges.
I thought I had to make them like me and be happy with me (all the time) in order to earn the “good mom” merit badge.
But that’s all behind me, and you can put it behind you too.
This is what changed it all for me: I asked myself the question “How will my kids remember me?” Who am I to them every single day? What am I good at? What makes me, me and therefore their mom? Not somebody else, not their best friend’s mom. My kids just have me, and they will remember the things that made us, us.
Thinking from this point of view – casting a long view of my mothering – I realized that I was okay that my “good” was not going to look like baking cookies every day or creating crafts every day.
Identifying these as unmet expectations of myself allowed me to realize that my kids never asked me to do this anyway! Sure they want to make cookies sometimes, and yes they ask to make crafts occasionally, but I couldn’t appreciate the sometimes and occasionally. In my mind, I was deceived into thinking that every day and always were the standard, and that just wasn’t possible.
I wasn’t appreciating the person I was designed to be because the scale said I wasn’t “good” enough.
False burdens started falling of the scale that I had heaped up in an effort to motivate myself to be better. With my new view for motherhood – embracing who I am, and setting my sights on how I want my kids to remember me – I had a starting point for true inspiration. I could see the moment in front of me as an opportunity, not a test. I saw my kids as future adults – with their personalities still in tact – and I engaged with them in fun and free ways.
I was able to feel again, and with that I could direct my feelings into further motivation for change.
Just don’t be “bad mom” motivated me a little bit before, now I had a vision for what good I could contribute, and that motivation was much more empowering. I focus on one “bad mom” habit at a time, and when I see small incremental growth it provides even more motivation.
The encouragement is inside, and it isn’t based on a winning scale.
I discern the voice of conviction from the voice of condemnation. Did you know that Satan burdens in generalities, but the Spirit convicts in specifics?
So I hope you can receive this for what I intend it to be: encouragement to be the person you were created to be and to set aside the scales and the guilt. Maybe you’ll use a different question to cast vision for your future, but face your identity – start small, and end the struggle.
Sometimes my deepest need is for another adult to know that I’m alive and trying, to relate to me.
For someone courageous to come and take a burden of false guilt off my scale.
I have been helped so much by Crystal Paine in her course: Make Over Your Mornings. She has been like a mentor to me, giving me permission to take off the guilt and put on purpose. Click here to learn more about her course.
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