May is the month for Mother’s Day. A day to celebrate the hard work of motherhood and show our appreciation to mothers everywhere.
Or, it’s a day to feel guilty.
I’ve known women who’d rather skip celebrating Mother’s Day due to babies that have died, strained relationships with their own mothers, or because they suffer from an acute feeling of failure in their own mothering.
Mother-guilt can come in many forms. Do I breast feed or bottle feed? Continue to work my full-time job or stay home? Parenting choices and options are endless. Add to that the constant stream of social media that can lead me to compare my lifestyle choices to those of others and I can soon be questioning if my choices are the “right” ones.
Thankfully, there’s a way to be set free from guilt-induced motherhood.
If I’m experiencing feelings of guilt, I need to discover if those feelings are conviction from the Holy Spirit or from comparing myself to others or some mythic image of motherhood I have in my mind. If I’m experiencing conviction from the Holy Spirit then repentance is needed. Have I belittled or shamed my children in anger? Have I mishandled disciple?
There is no need to wallow in guilt or feel helpless. I experience freedom from guilt when I take my sin to Jesus. He died on the cross to save me from all of my sin, not just at the moment of salvation but everyday afterwards. I can ask forgiveness from those I’ve wronged and seek change by God’s grace, reminding myself of what Psalm 103:12 says, “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”
In her book, Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe, Sally Clarkson reminds me that I will fail again and again, but that through this very work of mothering God “shapes us into His own image along the way.” She shares that she learned to “live in the reality of Romans 8:1-2: ‘There is therefore 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.’ ”
Other times I may have no legitimate reason to feel guilty, I may simply be struggling with comparison. Although I enjoy social media, it can sometimes tempt me to feeling like I don’t measure up. If I constantly look at what others are doing through the lens of comparison I may feel like a “bad mom” for silly reasons like not making cookies from scratch.
But the only one I need to be following is Jesus.
By focusing on my relationship with Jesus I can be confident in what He has called me to. God loves my children wants their good even more than I do! He will give me wisdom in decision-making and insight into their unique personalities. As Clarkson writes, “We can only please God if we listen to His call on our lives. Each of us has a different personality, different strengths and limitations, and different passions and stewardships. God gives us great freedom to exercise wisdom and authority in order to rule over our lives and make it productive for our own families.”
In my relationships with my children there will be times I get it right, times I get it wrong, and times it won’t matter. But as a Jesus-follower I can experience guilt-free motherhood regardless.