I met up with a friend, Sarah, a few months back. She’s one of those lifetime friends… You don’t talk but maybe once or twice a year, but when you do, you haven’t missed a beat. Let me just say, I am so thankful for those kinds of friends. I met her my 9th grade year of high school and we quickly became friends. She has always had such a sweet spirit and love for Jesus, and that’s the kind of person I wanted to be friends with.
We both recently had our second child; my second being born in October and hers in December, so we got together to meet each other’s newest little one. We naturally got on the topic of parenting…and out of the many topics we talked about, we had a deep discussion on Mom guilt. If you are a mom, you know this feeling…It’s the idea or feeling, that as a mother you are being selfish by doing something for yourself. Somehow we discount all the other things we do for our family and only focus on the one thing we aren’t doing for our family and feel bad about it.
This is not okay. This is not from God.
Sarah has such a passion to see other mothers set free from mom guilt. I asked her if she would be okay to share her story.
“This is such a real thing that every mom deals with at some point in their parenting journey. My mom guilt is often centered around my decision to be a working mom. It has been heavy on my heart for a while now to share my journey. My desire and hope is that as you read my story it will help you navigate all the intricate emotions involved with this.
Deciding to go back to work as a mother, was huge for me. I have been a working mom for about two years now, and the guilt comes and goes even years later, but when it does I remind myself that this is where God has me and I am right where I need to be.
I’ll never forget this one particular day mom guilt was weighing on me so heavy; I stopped and asked myself, “Why am I feeling such guilt?”. Was it because my three year old ever made comments about missing me? No. She loves going to “school” (daycare) and playing with her friends. She is thriving there and learning so much. Okay, so that’s not it.
Was it because I felt like I didn’t have enough time with my kids? Sure, some days I wish I had more hours in the day. However, I also really cherish the time I DO have with them. I have become more intentional about making fun memories/ experiences with them any time I can. I am a firm believer in quality over quantity.
Was it God placing this on my heart? No! God is not a God who condemns. Yes, He does convict us in our wrongdoing, but He never condemns us.
So, where was this guilt coming from?
Let me go back a step. Before I began my journey back into the workplace, I prayed and asked God if it was right for me and my family, He would make it known, and He did. This job has been a blessing to my family and absolutely came from Him. So I can cross that off my list, because I can confidently say, God blessed me with this job.
On a side note, I consistently keep my decision to work before the Lord. I have promised myself that if I feel God urging me to walk away from work for a season or all together, then I’m out the door in an instant.
So, where was this guilt coming from? Well, quite frankly, other people and their expectations/ preconceived ideas of what a family should look like. People are very quick to make comments and express their opinions on this. One of the worst comments I’ve heard is, “You’re letting someone else raise your children.” Ouch. That one stings really bad.
Let’s dive into this. Why do people feel the need to say these comments, and where does this all originate from?
I truly believe these comments stem from our ideology that started during the days of farming and pioneering. While the men were out managing the fields and hunting for food, the women stayed behind and tended to the children. There really wasn’t any other way. Women didn’t have a voice or place in the “workforce,” and this was the structure that worked for everyone. Things don’t quite look like that anymore. Many women are now obviously active in the workplace and most moms have to work to financially support their families.
Now, let’s also look at the transformation that not only parents have undergone, but what it looks like for kids in modern day times now. Kids no longer go to school to learn the basics to then turn around to manage their family’s farms. The opportunities for kids now are endless, and many of them require extra education, which costs money. So, many families are working to support their kid’s future dreams and careers. Things have certainly changed from the Little Prairie days. How can we expect just a father to support a family on their own if they make about $50K/annually, yet they have 3 kids going to college in the next few years? That’s a lot of money and pressure. This then shows why there’s an increase in student debt as the younger generations are mostly responsible now for paying their own way through school.
Also, let’s talk about the importance of mental health. This is personally why I chose to work. I honestly love working and it helped me come out of the postpartum depression I went through with my first child. A mother cannot support her family well, and be expected to take care of others well, if she is not first taking care of her own mental and emotional health. I feel that I am a better mother all around now that I am working. This is what works best for my family, and I am thankful that I have my husband’s support on this.
How do we deal with this mom guilt?
- Let’s support our fellow mothers in their decisions, whether it’s working, staying at home or even just taking time out for themselves. It is solely up to them and their family to decide what is best for them. Pray for each other! It’s not always sunshine and rainbows. Haha.
- We need to help others readjust their view of a modern day family unit in 2019. Things are obviously different from 1989, and we need to help them understand that. We now even have stay-at-home fathers that are breaking the whole mold of how “a family should look” (kuddos to them!).
Some scriptures that really encouraged me while I was beginning this new journey of being a working mom are Philippians 1:9-11 and Romans 12:1-3. I would read them and pray them continually.
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. 3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.
I’d like to end with a quote from a wise, dear friend of mine, Angie Hanlon: ‘There’s no one way to be a woman or a mother, and you have to find that right balance for you before you can give to anyone else.’ “
There are so many good nuggets in Sarah’s story.
I love her advice on how to deal with mom guilt. The only thing I would add to that is to “Cast your cares on the Lord, for He cares for you,” (1 Peter 5:7). Every time guilt comes go back to the Father. We can only be of help to other mothers if we are being sustained by Christ’s love ourselves. Tell Him what is weighing on you, why it hurts and ask Him what He wants you to do about it.
One of the points I probably love the most is how she offered up to God the idea of the job in the first place. That right there is so killer! If you know that God is causing you to walk a certain path, it is so much easier to alleviate guilt, shame and condemnation from others…because ultimately you are walking in obedience to the Father… AND she continually offers the job back to God!
This! This! This! All. Day!
We never want to be in a place He doesn’t want us, and we never want to be in any place longer than we should be.
It is so important to stop and have a think like she did, and ask yourself “where is this guilt coming from?” For her, it was not meeting a cultural expectation. Let me just set you free…you are not purposed to meet any expectations, for anything or anyone, especially ungodly expectations, over yourself. You just walk with Christ in mind of everything you do, and you will live free! Your guilt may be real, but that doesn’t make it right/true.
Another point she made was, “A mother cannot support her family well, and be expected to take care of others well, if she is not first taking care of her own mental and emotional health.“ Ummm..Hello. Sooo Good! I remember last March I was absolutely worn out. Isaac was 5 months old. Uriah was bearing down on turning 3. Uriah had also been sick on and off for monthsssss…. There would be weeks I didn’t even leave the house until the weekend when John was home. Mentally, I was struggling. I had the opportunity to go to a Women’s Retreat our church had, but the date of the trip also coincided with John’s parents being out of town. Ok, why does that matter you ask? Because it’s a family run business and his mom’s work and my husband’s work coincide. If she were out of town, that meant extra work for him, on top of taking care of two little ones while I was gone, on top of also caring for our dogs…on top of caring for his parent’s dogs, as one has diabetes and needs shots at specific times, on top of that he wouldn’t have tons of help, again, because they were out of town.
Ok, ya’ll the retreat was like 2 days. haha. But the guilt! I wasn’t even sure if I was going to go because I hated leaving all of that on his plate. I did work through it, and John basically told me to stop worrying and go. I’m so glad he did, because I had a radical encounter with God that shifted several things in my life, (blogging and having a FB Page, being one of them. 🙂 ). Taking that time out was so refreshing and so needed.
It’s hard to give to your family when you are running mentally, emotionally and physically on empty. It’s okay AND right to take time out for you. We have to take this ungodly expectation off of ourselves as mothers, that we are literally super heros. Let’s take off the expectation that we can DO. IT. ALL and GIVE. IT. ALL to our families, meanwhile we are dying inside. This is not okay, this is not in the Bible.
Guilt can come in all different ways. There is never a one size fits all when it comes to guilt. Different mothers deal with different forms of guilt. What bothers one mother may not bother the next, and vise versa. Give your fellow mothers some grace when they share about feelings of guilt, even and especially when you may not fully understand why a certain scenario is bothering them.
Sarah’s mom guilt was because of her decision to be a working mother. When I first stopped working, (I was 9 months pregnant) people wanted to know if I would ever work again. They weren’t being ugly, just curious as to my plans. And I’ll be honest, I often felt the opposite from Sarah. I felt they must be asking that because staying home and not helping financially was the lazy way out. I’d usually answer with, “Well I’m going to enjoy being a mom right now since we are able to and maybe in a few years when they are in school I’ll go back to work”. I mean God forbid that I enjoy a season with my babies…because after all, all I do as a mom is sleep in, eat cake and have parties all the time. HAHA.
Even recently these feelings arose and I asked John if I should get some part time work because I feel so bad for not contributing. He said, “Caitlin, you are contributing…it just looks different, you do so much for this family. The kids are looked after, there’s always food in pantry and on our plates, you keep up with the errands and the house keeping…you do so much for our family.”
Beyond what people think, I know that God is allowing me a season at home. I don’t always like it. I, like Sarah, love working. I love having adult conversations and using the gifts and talents that God has given me, outside the home. I was talking to the Father about this one day…and He simply said, “Caitlin, enjoy this…there will come a day when you will long for these uneventful days with your children…and you can’t turn back time”.
Here’s what it boils down to:
Whether you make a check or don’t make a check isn’t the important thing, it’s what is God calling you to do? And then, go and do that.