My firstborn son resisted coming into the world. Two weeks after his due date, I had re-fluffed the nursery, formatted the announcements, and attempted to distract myself with all sorts of trivial tasks to keep my mind off the wait.
We arrived at the hospital to have labor induced at 6:30 pm on a Wednesday night. We were taken off guard when hours continued to pass with very little progress. When 24 hours had been spent in hard labor, they broke my water. His birthing process lasted another full day, which culminated in a sudden rush. Whereas the previous hours had been long and arduous, now we were quickly wheeling into surgery to undergo an emergency C-Section.
i am smitten
I couldn’t believe when I heard his first cry. I was smitten. The delivery room bustled with nurses cleaning and measuring him while the doctors tried to put Humpty Dumpty (me) back together again. I couldn’t contain my joy. From across the room, I shouted, “I love you!”
He has had my heart ever since. This boy full of spirit and strength, focus and grit, has taken me on the roller coaster ride of motherhood. Having my Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy didn’t equip me an iota for the reality of toddler tantrums, sleepless nights, or days spent craving a shower more than I ever yearned for chocolate. Like you, I had to come to my mothering skills the hard way. Practice, failure, and growth all fueled by love and determination have made me the mom I am today.
no two the same …
Each child we birth and raise has such a unique personality. Just when you think you’ve got this parenting gig down pat, they either surge into a new stage of development or they do something you haven’t ever dealt with before.
My second born son might be one of the most reasonable people I’ve met. He seems to have been born with an innate capacity to make a good choice. When he was almost three, I remember him throwing a tantrum. I looked him in the eyes as he flailed around on the ground and said, calmly, “Sweetheart, that tantrum won’t work.” He stopped abruptly, looked at me and asked, “What will?” I was as stunned as he was. Here’s why. My oldest child’s response to that same sort of parenting was something like, “oh, yeah, that tantrum won’t work, how about we try on this tantrum for size?” He just wasn’t going down without a fight.
out of control …
We simply don’t get to select the personalities of our children, what kinds of wills they have, whether they follow hard after God, what friends they ultimately choose, or many, many other things. While we do have great influence and we need to steward that well, we can’t control all the variables, and we certainly don’t dictate the outcomes.
I don’t know about you, but that gives me some form of hives. I mean, I have never ever cared for another human being in the way I adore and cherish my boys. I love my husband in the best of ways. He’s my other half. We are connected for life. Still, the love I experience as a mom comes from a different place in my heart. It’s protective, tender, mama-bear, and inescapable.
who’s to blame? …
As my son has become a teen, I have had the blessing of seeing glimpses of the man he is becoming. I’ve also experienced some of the most gut-wrenching pain as I watch him wrestle with choices, make poor calls, and flounder. As a younger mom, I would observe other mothers sometimes. When their child acted up, I would naively think they had something to do with it. I held the false belief that we moms mold our children into what they become.
As mothers, we can end up feeling so guilty over the behavior and choices our children make. If we believe we are responsible for the outcomes in their lives, we take on a heavy burden. Our hearts can errantly trace lines backwards to days when we were impatient or irritable. Perhaps if we had been nicer, more serene, given more consequences, given fewer consequences, (something … anything …) our child would be different. Maybe if we were perfect, they would be perfect too. We might not verbalize these thoughts, but we sure live from the foundation of fear and guilt they produce.
a mixed bag …
I have contributed amazing blessings into my son’s life. He has been well loved. We also have fought and said hurtful things. I have messed up and missed opportunities. The truth is all good families are a mix of wonderful and difficult.
I have started taking these accusing thoughts to God. When I sense a condemnation floating around, I go to my heavenly Father. I approach Him and share the thought. I confess the part that is true and ask Him to forgive me for that piece. I own it. Then I release it. From there, He ushers me to the throne room of grace where He is at the mercy seat. I sit with Him there, receiving something in exchange for what I had been holding. I trade the lie of guilt for the truth rooted in love. I can move forward in constructive action in my motherhood.
hope for you …
If you struggle with mom guilt, this process isn’t simply an imaginary exercise. God will meet you and remind you there is no condemnation for you in Jesus. He may help you see where you are falling down, but He only does that to help you move into greater grace, freedom, and love.
Guilt is a useless experience. Instead of guilt, God gives us conviction – a loving nudge about where we flub up and the encouragement to move in a more healthy direction. Beyond conviction, He gives us grace to move out of condemnation and into His love. I’m growing into guilt-free motherhood. I hope you will join me.
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Christine Wildman says
As usual, Patty, you speak right to my heart! Why am I still struggling with Mommy guilt when my baby is 30 years old and I know that the choices they make are theirs alone! Why am I struggling with Mommy guilt when my son is going through issues because of choices he made that are affecting his children? Of course if I look at it from the other side, these children are individuals, that recognize their mistakes, take responsibility for them, and move forward! Most of them go to God through Jesus Christ 4 answers oh, and call their dad and I to help pray for situations with which they’re struggling. If another mom told me that this was the situation they had with their adult children, I would praise her and tell her to be grateful for the relationship she has with them, their own autonomy, and their willingness to ask for help and recognize their own mistakes. The ones with children love their children with their whole hearts! All of them love to help other people. So where is the guilt? It’s the LIE of the enemy that comes in and tries to convince me that any problem is my fault. Oh Patty, I needed this blog today! I’m going to go spend some time in My Father’s House with myself station right at his feet basking in his grace and love!
I’m so grateful you shared here, Christy. I know how that lie creeps in. Satan also takes truth – a portion of it – and uses it as an ingredient in his lies. That means when we have failed or contributed to a problem, Satan takes that and tells us, “See that – see how you did that – that is why your child is like this. You have ruined him (or her). If only you had been better. If only you had done well. Your child would be better and well. Because of you, your child is doomed.” We feel wrecked. We want to crawl under a rock. You know what else he does? Of course you do. He says, “You are the worst mom for this. Don’t let anyone know you have failed. They will judge you. You can’t share these failings.” Why does he do that? Because he knows if we come together and talk to one another, we will shed light and love where he is sowing seeds of deceit, doubt, and discouragement. God knows all we have done – the good and the not so lovely. He chose us to mother these children – all the way into and through their 30s! He is in this with us. He loves us despite our frailty, and He provides the difference between what we did and what will be done for our children. Step back (as you said), abide in His love and grace. Then go out and let that love fall all over your children and grandchildren.