Mommy Guilt

by Julie Coleman

When you are a mother, guilt is a state of being. I personally am plagued with guilt every time I stop and think about my effectiveness as a mother. There are a thousand things I would do differently if I were to relive the years of raising my children. I would pray for them more often. Spend more one-on-one time with them. Make them do more chores. The list goes on forever.

A working mother has an extra portion of guilt.  Trying to maintain a teaching career while raising a family was definitely a challenge. Sometimes my children got the short end of the stick.

I taught at the Christian school where my children attended. One day my daughter’s fourth grade teacher came into the faculty lounge at lunchtime. She sat down next to me and said, “Julie, you have to hear what Melanie gave as a prayer request this morning.” This couldn’t be good. I braced myself. Doris continued, “She said: ‘Would you please pray that my Mom would cook us a homemade meal? It’s been soooo long.’”

The entire table erupted into laughter. That particular week, my husband had been gone for business. Most nights we had stopped at McDonald’s on the way home, so that I didn’t have to face cooking and homework while solo parenting. I sat up straighter in my chair. “OK,” I promised. “Tonight, I am going to make meatloaf, potatoes, and green beans. Comfort food. My days of being a bad mother are over. At least for this week.”

That afternoon, we had a faculty meeting after school that went until 5 PM. I wearily gathered up the papers from my desk and headed down the hall toward the parking lot. On the way, I stuck my head in Doris’ room. “Keep praying,” I told her. “We are going to Wendy’s.”

Yes, guilt is a burden. Most women I know exist in a state of guilty feelings. We never can do enough or do it well enough.

What does the Bible have to say about guilt? You might be surprised.

Guilt is never referred to as a feeling. In Scripture, guilt is a condition. It is the condition into which we are born. We inherited it from our ancestor, Adam. Romans 5:18 tells us “through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men….” One bite of the forbidden fruit, and we were all doomed.

Of course, thankfully there is more: “… Even so, through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.” (NASB) When Jesus suffered and died on the cross, the Heavenly Judge banged the gavel, and those who believe are set free. One man’s act condemned us. The other One’s act paid our debt in full.

So technically, we are not guilty any more, at least in God’s sight. Yet we do sometimes feel the crushing weight of guilt upon us. When this happens, we need to discern the source of the thoughts that put it there.

One of the many benefits to our salvation is that the Holy Spirit resides within us as a guarantee of our salvation. He does more than inhabit us. He guides us and teaches us. This includes letting us know when we are in the wrong. His conviction for our sin is a healthy thing. It prompts us to repentance and to make peace with those we have wronged. But once we have confessed the sin, and, if necessary, have gone to those we have offended, it is over. Water under the bridge. Time to move on.

Yet still, we may hold tight to guilt, refusing to forgive ourselves. Satan loves this. The Bible calls him “The Accuser.” Guilt is an extremely effective tool of his. It makes us focus on ourselves and our frailties, instead of on Christ and His sufficiency. Guilt can be paralyzing. We are loathe to repeat the same mistake, so in our shame, we stop trying.

Recognize the difference between conviction and guilt. Conviction is redemptive in nature. But guilt: not from God. Let the forgiveness that has been so freely given wash over you. Bask in His grace. Because you are free. Even if you eat at Wendy’s.

“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.”                                                                                                                                                     Romans 8:1-2

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the author: Julie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Her award-winning book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Women, was published in 2013 by Thomas Nelson. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

Free Book Contest!  Arise Daily will use a random number generator to pick a winner Screen Shot 2017-12-22 at 2.39.03 PMfrom today’s comments. To enter our contest for Julie’s book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Women,  please comment below.  By posting in our comments, you are giving us permission to share your name if you win!  If you have an outside the US mailing address, your prize could be substituted with an e-book of our choice.

Join the conversation: What makes you feel guilty?

15 thoughts on “Mommy Guilt

  1. Mommy guilt, yes, guilty. 😀 Even now, as my children are young adults, I am reminded on situation that I wish had gone differently. Those times were difficult for them and us, their parents. I get caught up in the “what ifs” even in something that may be 10 years old. Those moments are wasted time. God has sculpted my cbildren, and my husband and I through those times. If those times had been different, there is a chance that my we would have missed a life lesson, even a painful one. But, we would not be the people we are today.

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    1. Yes. God uses even our mistakes for His glory! I have been surprised the times I have apologized to my kids for failing them for something that haunts me. And I discover they have no recollection of that incident. So why am I hanging on to it?

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  2. Oh, I can totally relate, Julie! Many days ended in drive-thru for us when my son was younger and my husband traveled with work. I had a habit of comparing myself to other working moms and wondering, “How does she do it all so well??” I am thankful for God’s truth, knowing He gives us freedom from guilt. Amen! Have a blessed day:)

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    1. I used to think that of many of my fellow teachers, that they were managing so much better than I! Then one day I met a colleague walking down the hall to her child’s classroom with a loaf of bread under one arm and jars of peanut butter and jelly in the other. She explained as I passed her: “Rough morning.” And I realized we were all in the same boat.

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  3. Mommy guilt is very real in my life. I work a job that made me miss things that my kids were a part of in school, even now with them grown, I feel the guilt of not being there if they need me. I have always turned those times over to God and realized that with the wonderful husband, that was given to me by God, I never really missed anything, he would tell me all that happened at those events (even the ones that he probably was not thrilled about being at).

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    1. I feel you, Pat! But when I look at my kids, and see how the Lord has grown them into healthy, wonderful people, I gratefully thank Him for filling in the gaps that my working caused. I think maybe we are on to something in this thread…that maybe gratitude is the remedy for residual guilt!

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    1. Or spending money on any pleasure! Sometimes I even feel guilty when I flush the toilet, that people across the world have no running, clean water! But the Bible teaches me “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” (James 1:17) Rather than allowing guilt to plague us as we receive gifts from God, shouldn’t we focus on gratitude? (Don’t let this response make you feel more guilty!!)

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  4. I once heard, or read, that if we were perfect parents, our children would not see their need for The Savior. My less-than-stellar parenting pointed them to Jesus. I encourage moms by reminding them that grace abounds. He will work all things for good. Trust. Obey. Take the high road. And love them like crazy!

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  5. Such important words, Julie. Thank you! Along the lines of Melynda’s words, I usually word it,, “Our children need to be needy so that they will need God.” Of course, none of us choose to wound our children but unfortunately, as much as we long to avoid it, it still occurs. I was the worst. I physically and verbally abused my daughter when she was a toddler. That was over 40 years ago and God healed our family and began my ministry from sharing my story. Our daughter loves God and calls me her best friend! Interestingly, I didn’t abuse our son but he is our Prodigal. Thank you Julie for giving us peace as imperfect parents.

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    1. How awesome God is for being able to take our mistakes and use them in a positive way in other’s lives. I’m so glad you were brave enough to “come clean” and now share your story. Your honesty will be a life preserver to someone drowning in their failure. As I’m sure it already has been. You give hope to anyone struggling in this, because of how God healed and redeemed your relationship with your daughter. So great, Kathy. <>

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  6. Julie – this is so good! That mommy guilt can be a load to bear for sure! Thank you for the reminder that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. I appreciate you and your words! Blessings to you!

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