A Guest Post by Lisa Braziel
I remember hearing the phrase, “Motherhood is just one long guilt trip”.
I did not yet know how true that would be for me as I embarked on the first years of parenting as a working mom.
While I felt a sense of peace when I made the decision to return to work, I didn’t expect to wrestle with the weight of my decision daily.
All it would take is one rough daycare drop-off to produce a wave of second-guessing that followed me into work and weighed me down with heaviness.
Questions like, “Am I making the right choice for my family?”, or “Am I returning to work because of God’s leading or because I can’t cut it as a stay-at-home mom?” plagued my thoughts.Shame, guilt and criticism whispered accusations to my heart as I analyzed whether or not I was measuring up to the standard I had made of what a godly working mom should look like.
A simple trip through the Chic-fil-a drive thru for dinner would provide an opportunity for guilt to whisper accusations like, “See! You can’t even get dinner on the table”.
While some of these questions could be seen as “normal”, many of them were laced with guilt, shame, and criticism—mostly from myself as I analyzed whether or not I was measuring up to the standard I had made of what a godly working mom should look like.
The common denominator behind this guilt was my central fear that I was somehow not following God’s will for my life.
Each day was yet another attempt to develop a better formula for my life that produced less guilt.
If I could control the variables of my work and family life “just so”, I could ensure the accusatory voice wouldn’t find me.
Driven by Mom Guilt and Comparison
Whether I realized it or not, a lot of my life in these years was driven by incredible amounts of what I considered, “healthy guilt”.
Healthy guilt told me that I should strive to be the best mom, co-worker, friend, wife, follower of God, Bible study leader, and volunteer that I could be (for the glory of God, of course).
Perhaps the only way to judge my success or failure was to compare myself to others (myself included).
Looking around at moms I admired at church, I’d feel a wave of shame greet me when I realized many of these women followed the call to stay at home or find a flexible working solution that allowed them to spend more time at home than at work.
“Obviously she’s following God’s will”, I would think as my own self-doubt would creep back in.The deception of guilt is subtle and gradual, but its message that you are not enough is constant.
The Deception of Mom Guilt
The deception of mom guilt is subtle and gradual, but its message is constant: “You are not enough”.
I began to see that regardless of what I did (or didn’t do), it always felt as if there was a hidden equation that I somehow wasn’t measuring up to.
For instance, leading up to my firstborn starting kindergarten, I had made a few adjustments to my schedule to be able to pick him up a little earlier and get dinner on the table.
Unlike at the beginning of my career, I was no longer the first to arrive or last to leave at work.
Yet, even with a carefully crafted schedule, my son would sulk when I picked him up early and whine, “Can you pick me up later, mom?”.
I was so busy trying to live up to the image of the working mother I thought God must want me to be that it never occurred to me that my definition of success was continually adjusting.
And my perceived success or failure was often defined by other people’s feelings about how I was doing, including my children’s.
Finding Freedom and Grace in the Promises of God
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1
Like a scratched pair of cheap sunglasses, guilt had become the distorted lens I viewed my world and worthiness through.
It had cast a dim shadow over the blessings of my career and family.
Instead of viewing these as callings in which God had entrusted me to, I was exhausted from continually managing and controlling them.
Weighed down by the pattern guilt had formed, I cried out to God in desperation.
I couldn’t continue on the path I was on. I knew I needed His intervention in this area of my life.
As I cried out, He began to reveal to me the freedom I could find in His grace—offered to me in my role as a mother AND in my role in the workplace.Instead of viewing the callings in which God had entrusted me to, I was exhausted from continually managing and controlling them.
If you find yourself struggling in this same area, here are three truths to help you overcome “mom guilt” with God’s grace.
1. God Has Purpose and Design for Your Work
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. – Jeremiah 29:11
Throughout the Bible, we see example after example of God involving prostitutes, rich businessmen and women, shepherds, kings and queens, political rulers, tent-makers, women and mothers (the list could go on) as part of the story of His redemption.
Many of these people couldn’t always see the larger story they were part of.
Many of them felt as if they were wandering in the wilderness, continually “getting it wrong”, and very unsure of what they were supposed to do next.
Even still, God was able to use their exact area of influence to carry out His plans.
Key Takeaway: Don’t discount where God has placed you, and don’t overthink it. Find joy in discovering how He will be able to use the exact place you are for His glory.Instead of discounting where God has placed you, find joy in discovering how He will be able to use the exact place you are for His glory.
2. Occupational Status Doesn’t Define Our Status With God
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.- John 1:12
It’s tempting as Christians to elevate particular decisions for our work over others—building the subtle lie that following God with our occupations has to look the same for all, as if God is more pleased with certain occupational decisions over others.
Regardless of whether you are a SAHM, WM, or somewhere in between—the status of “daughter of God” should be the status that you’re most concerned with living by.
By finding our identity more in this status, our occupational status fades into the backdrop as we see how God really can transform our workplaces, homes, and hearts.
Key Takeaway: Put comparisons with other moms to rest, finding your complete identity in the status that God has given us all.By finding our identity in being a child of God, our occupational status fades into the backdrop.
3. You Can’t Mess It Up Too Badly Because It’s Already Finished
For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus – Romans 3:22-24
As a new mom, I didn’t realize just how many decisions I made out of fear of messing something up.
What if I mess my kids up because I work too much?
What if I mess up something at work because I’m having to stay at home too much with sick kids?
What if I mess my marriage up because I don’t pay it enough attention?
Rather than living in continual fear of “messing it up”, take hold of the message of the gospel that says “even if you fail miserably, you still can’t mess it up too badly”.
The words, “It is finished” and the work of Jesus on the cross reminds us of the chilling but comforting reality that we all mess up.
Even what appeared to be the holiest of people nailed Jesus to the cross, and I bet many of them thought that God would be pleased.
Key Takeaway: Read through some of the crazy, messed up stories of holy people in the Bible that messed up royally like David, Paul or Solomon, that God still used for His glory. Be reminded of this same grace God offers you each and every day.The process of replacing guilt with Grace begins with rooting your life in the Word of God.
You are Not Alone
If you are feeling weighed down by mom guilt, I encourage you to begin the process of replacing it with the message of the gospel.
To start, share this article with other moms you know and begin discussing the different ways that guilt may show up, regardless of your occupational status.
This practice will remind you that you aren’t alone, while at the same time exposing the lies that mom guilt may be spreading.
Finally, remember that the process of replacing mom guilt with grace begins with rooting your life more in God’s Word.
If you need a simple (and free) place to start, check out our free Bible study, Worthy of the Calling.
– Lisa Braziel
Lisa Braziel is a working mom with 2 kids who is in constant need of more coffee and even more of God’s grace.