Mom Guilt

Motherhood comes with a lot of guilt. My kids don’t eat enough vegetables. I don’t do enough crafts with them. I don’t have them make their beds daily. Well, ever. I don’t greet them fully dressed and with act together in the mornings. I don’t give satisfactory answers to my six-yr-old’s why-does-God-allow-pain questions. I can’t take organic cupcakes secretly laced with nutritional hummus to every church and school occasion. Sometimes I’m too exhausted to make the

Children who appear happy although they do not eat enough vegetables.

most of a golden parenting opportunity. I just watch as my heavy sigh blows it right on by. I could go on. And on. Do you have mom guilt? Beware: It is not of God, and it can take you down. I want to free you from some of it. I hope you are sitting down, sweet mama.

I once heard a wise woman in my Bible study say, “You are not your husband’s Holy Spirit.” I knew as I digested her words I had just heard a great truth. I’ll let you catch your breath. Now, get a cup of coffee, and let’s take it in and apply it to our children. What does it even mean?

You are so many things. You are a trainer, teacher, and guide. But you are not your child’s Holy Spirit. You’ll never do God’s inner work on their sweet little spirits. You will never do it. And you will be exasperated if you try. In fact, you may be interfering in holy work. Did you just gasp? Are you feeling liberated yet?

So, with great sobriety, let’s discover a boundary where our work ends…and God’s begins. Nope, I can’t tell you where it will be. I’m just telling you it exists. You’ll have to wrestle that out yourself.  It’s hard work. Your boundary will fall differently than mine. And it may lie in a different place for each child. It means accepting you can’t control another’s heart. It means giving something up. It means a healthy emotional distance. It means you are allowed to say “I don’t know” to your children’s questions. It means you can pray and then get out of the way. It means recognizing which battles you don’t need to fight. It means you don’t have to apologize for your children. It means you don’t need to constantly explain yourself. It means you can truly rest. It means you don’t have to second-guess your decisions. Maybe it means although it is your job to put the vegetables on the plate, you accept that you can’t make them eat them. It means you don’t have to micro-manage every thought and behavior. It means you don’t have to be God. Whew. Because I tried it once. Or hundreds of times. I looked ridiculous. And it just humbled me down to an exhausted little pile of guilt.

My mothering is more effective and guilt-free when I’m not encroaching on God’s turf. His territory includes the mysterious wild hearts of my children. He has access to places in them I’ll never know. I am His servant as I watch Him do the sacred and mysterious work of maturing the hearts He created.

So, as we gratefully devour pizza for supper tonight, I’m counting the tomato sauce as a veggie…and moving on.

  • Jean Yih Kingston

    My nine year old fixed himself a bagel and butter for dinner and played Cash Cow on my iPhone instead of “reading time” tonight. Holy Spirit…please take it from here because otherwise, my son is doomed.

  • Nancy French

    I appreciate this so much — I love the “you are not your husband’s Holy Spirit” quote. Thanks for sharing.

  • annaquinn

    I love this! Thanks for your insight, Andrea. There are so many ways in which we have no control over our children . . . and that is so much better for us all than we suppose! Much better that God is at work at them than that I am at work in them! Thanks for the reminder.

  • John Humphries

    Tomato sauce is a fruit.

  • Alison

    Oh bless you! I needed that!

  • Meg

    It almost feels like God sent me to your blog this morning, I needed to hear this that much. Thank you.

  • Robin H

    I trust that God is putting good people in my kids lives, from the Sunday School teachers they’ve had over the years, pastors, teachers, other parents and coaches.

    And the vegetables, they’ll take care of themselves. My 17 year old son now thinks hummus is the greatst thing ever. And it wasn’t me that ever introduced it to him, it was at summer camp. Personally, I can’t stand it!

  • Diane

    Thanks for your eloquent expression recognizing the reality of the limit of human power. All you write about that limit with respect to our children is true of our power on others. For those of us who struggle with the impulse to be an Action Figure for all those around us, it’s a necessary reminder that by and large the Holy Spirit will do a much better job than I will in most situations. Thank you.

  • Missy June

    Yay – such freedom comes from knowing I can’t ‘parent-away’ my child’s need for a savior. Thank you, thank you! This recovering perfectionist is trying so hard to learn that the control I thought I had was always just an illusion, anyway.

  • Cottage By The Sea

    Wow. I needed that. I’ve always considered it my sacred duty and responsibility to get my kids to heaven. I don’t remember who told me that but, the last 35 years would have been a lot easier on me if I’d read your post sooner. With a bit of wisdom on me now, I can say it’s true. You are not your childs Holy Spirit and the sooner you let God answer your fervent prayers by getting the heck out of His way, the sooner He can do His work. I love your humor and insight and tonight I am also counting tomato sauce as a vegetable! Blessings.

  • Allison

    Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!!!! I needed to hear this SO much!!

  • Jennifer

    This is SO good!

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  • Issy

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart….

  • Jana

    Awesome, awesome, all kind of awesome. I love this post. I identify with it so much…made me cry. Thank you.

  • LloydRMc

    The way I heard it explained was “God doesn’t have any grandchildren”.