By: Jennifer Murray

Fighting the Mom-Guilt Battle

fighting mom guilt parenting

I am so so grateful to be able to stay home with our boys for this stage in life.  It’s a dream come true, it’s an enormous privilege, and something I don’t want to take for granted. It’s a sacrifice that has paid itself off in ways that I could never put a monetary value to… I know there are so many of you would LOVE the opportunity to stay home with your little ones. I love my life – this home, these boys, even the craziness.

BUT it’s not always rainbows, puppy dogs, and roses.

There are days when I’m just a plain ole mess.

Days when I’m buried in laundry, desperately need a shower, boys that need bathed as well, a dirty kitchen floor, a grocery list that needs made, a dishwasher that needs unloaded, and no plans for dinner.  I have an inbox full of messages that need a response, commitments that need fulfilled, and other business responsibilities that need my attention. There are more days than I’d like to admit that I’ve got very little to show for my day.

There are too many days that I don’t cherish the moment that surrounds me to love on my boys while they are little.  Instead I get lost in a list that’s not checked off, and overwhelmed with the chaos.

There are times that I find myself getting frustrated with them just being BOYS.  Boys are messy, loud, rowdy, and filled with energy.  Instead of embracing it and the way that God created them differently than girls, I too often get frustrated in their messes, their breaking of something of little value, or their crazy charades.

I’m ashamed to say it, but perhaps I’m not alone in this journey.

I go to bed with regrets, and asking forgiveness to a man I feel I so often let down.  He surrounds me with his embrace, and offers words of reassurance and encouragement.  He tells me what a great mom I am, and I shrug it off.

I can’t believe him, because my standard that I’ve put on myself hasn’t been met.  Instead I feel guilty and disappointed. Discouraged.

It’s an ugly thing, this mom-guilt.  It robs me of joy, it whispers non-truths, it steals my courage.

Maybe the mom-guilt that haunts you is different – maybe it’s that you wish you could be home but need to work, perhaps it’s that you can’t be the mom that you pictured yourself being, or you can’t provide the things that you feel would make your family happier.

So How Can We Navigate Through This Mom-Guilt Battle Together? 

1. We have to separate the non-truths from the truth. 

Philippians 4:8,9  “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

2. We have to embrace our situation with grace, gratitude, and joy.

Philippians 4: 4-6 “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

3. We have to turn to Christ and His Word in our weakness, rather than our own strength.

2 Corinthians 12:9,10 “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

4. We have to embrace the grace that Has been extended to us through His sacrifice.

Romans 8:1-3a “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.”

So here I am “boasting in my weakness”. I hope in my weakness I can somehow encourage a few of you.  You are not alone in this mom-guilt battle.  Keep fighting, keep hitting the restart button, keep asking for forgiveness, keep growing, keep preaching truth to yourself.

Let’s encourage one another in this battle today!

** Be sure to read my husband’s insightful and timely response to this mom-guilt battle. It’s a must-read for wives and mothers! **

{Photo Credit: clintjcl via Flickr}

49 Responses to “Fighting the Mom-Guilt Battle”

  1. Wiley
    December 9, 2011 at 9:09 am #

    I like recognizing the good that comes in the bad. Thanks, I needed to read that as we may be having more kids than we intended and while it’s still all unclear, I’ve been worrying.
    Wiley recently posted.. 12/8/2011

    • QuatroMama
      December 9, 2011 at 11:59 am #

      I hope that my honesty and weakness can be an encouragement to you…we’re in this together!

  2. Angie @ Just Like The Number
    December 9, 2011 at 9:22 am #

    Oh Jen, I’m right there with you in this struggle. Why do we put so many more demands and expectations on ourselves that no one else, especially God, would ever burden us with? I feel as if I can never find that perfect balance, if there even is such a thing. If I give myself completely to enjoying the fleeting moments we have with these little people, I end up feeling guilty and frustrated about the household and personal tasks left undone. If I tackle the never-ending lists and chores, I feel terrible about not spending enough time with the kids. Thanks for the encouragement and the reminder of where to turn when we feel as if we’re falling short.
    Angie @ Just Like The Number recently posted.. Home is Where These Hooligans Are

    • QuatroMama
      December 9, 2011 at 12:00 pm #

      I’m nodding my head reading your comment (cuz I’m a dork like that!). There is no balance, but I need to put this mom-guilt thing over the non-essentials to its death. Thanks for the encouragement, Sweet Friend.

  3. Sarah Partain
    December 9, 2011 at 9:51 am #

    Thank you for this. You are not alone–I pine for the days of going to work with latte in hand. We are in the thick of it now–this young children phase. Also, life is never perfect. If we are at a job, we are working hard, probably behind on things and are probably dealing with work drama. God’s help and peace are our only hope. He only will give us contentment. I’ll be praying for you today!! Hugs, s

    • QuatroMama
      December 9, 2011 at 12:01 pm #

      So true. Thank you Sarah…means so much. Praying for you as well today.

  4. Cherie from Queen of Free
    December 9, 2011 at 10:35 am #

    It is SO hard, sister. But mothering – no matter your mom guilt origin – is an endeavor of eternal significance. It matters. Those little people are not merely mess makers, hungry mouths, and needy souls, they are future doctors, lawyers, pastors, teachers, scientists, poets, non-profit founders, and best of all amazing dads and followers of Christ. Trust your husband, he knows what he’s talking about {even when you don’t “feel” it}. Grace, peace, and love from across the city. :)

    • QuatroMama
      December 9, 2011 at 12:02 pm #

      Oh how I needed to hear this, Cherie! I’m so grateful for you and the way you speak truth in my life. Thank you.

  5. Crystal
    December 9, 2011 at 11:04 am #

    I so hear you. I have several friends who are amazingly-talented crafters and very creative. They are constantly doing crafts with their kids or creative, unusual activities to teach spiritual or educational lessons, and their kids thrive because of it, their outfits are incredible and their houses look like something straight out of a Better Homes & Gardens feature. And guess what? I HATE CRAFTS! I appreciate them for sure when done by others, but I HATE doing them myself. It stresses me out, and I’m not good at it. And I feel loads of guilt over it, that I’m missing out on all these cool memory-making opportunities.

    • QuatroMama
      December 9, 2011 at 12:03 pm #

      Crystal, I’ve struggled with similar thoughts…God didn’t demand for us to be crafty for goodness sake! =) He asks us to be obedient, to teach, to love, to nourish…that’s where my focus needs to be/

      • Brittany C
        December 12, 2011 at 10:27 am #

        I have felt the same way Crystal. Although i am a creative – opposite of you – i usually end up avoiding these crafty moments out of frustration, or a lack of enthusiasm by the kid(s). And then i see other parents that do these memory makers, and feel like i should do more.

        • Crystal
          December 12, 2011 at 11:45 am #

          Thank you Brittany and Jen! It feels great knowing I’m not the only one.

  6. Teri Lynne Underwood
    December 9, 2011 at 11:26 am #

    Oh Jenn, yes, this … thank you. And thank you for pointing us back to the Word and the Word-Made-Flesh.

    • QuatroMama
      December 9, 2011 at 12:04 pm #

      Oh if I would only turn there FIRST instead of looking to my own strength…Thank you, Sweet Friend. Your encouragement means so much.

  7. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect
    December 9, 2011 at 11:51 am #

    I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this is the second post I read this morning about parenting from a place of grace instead of short tempers, frustration and guilt. Annnnd, not a coincidence it comes at the end of a week when I’ve struggled with this (and PMS, so we can certainly blame THAT!) so much. Thank you for not just being honest with us and empathizing with what so many of us feel, but going the extra, vital step and fighting the whole mess with The Truth.

    Love you!
    Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect recently posted.. Airing my dirty {and cold} laundry

    • QuatroMama
      December 9, 2011 at 12:05 pm #

      So thankful I’m not alone in this struggle, Mary. I love you dearly.

  8. We are THAT family
    December 9, 2011 at 11:57 am #

    I work from home, balancing writing, running a non-profit, being a good mom and I feel this every.day. Thanks for writing this post, Jen!

  9. Hayley @ The Tiny Twig
    December 9, 2011 at 12:29 pm #

    Friend. Boys. And you have one more than I. Practically a starting lineup for your own ball team. Grace for that. Grace for the mess and the loud. Grace for the breaking and crashing and the races that always need a momma’s attention. All grace. They see you. They know you are full of love for them. Is it guilt or shame? Guilt guides you to truth. Shame just guides you to more shame, more inadequacies. The vicious shame cycle.

    I can relate though–especially just feeling like you are full up on boy. But, boys are a joy bigger than their messy selves. And you, you have 4 messy full-of-joy, full-of-mess, full-of-loud boys. Well done, momma.

  10. The Diaper Diaries
    December 9, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

    It is such a struggle and throw in our need to compare ourselves to other moms and it is a losing battle. I am sure there are many women (me included) who think, “I don’t know how Jen does it, I am dying over here with just one and she juggles four!!” Or I wish I could be crafty like so and so, I wish my kids ate healthy food like so and so. The list goes on.

    That is why being real in our space is so important. We all need to know that we are not alone and that always putting our best face forward does no one any favors. Thank you for your honesty today Jen.

  11. Sarah L
    December 9, 2011 at 1:36 pm #

    I think all moms feel guilt. I work, but am lucky enough to have a day during the week at home. Still, it seems to me that SATMs feel guilty sometimes and working mom’s do to. We definitely need to support one another. Well written post!

  12. Sandy Snyder
    December 9, 2011 at 1:49 pm #

    Thanks for your transparency and encouragement. I know I struggle daily with mother guilt.

  13. Emily @ The Pilot's Wife
    December 9, 2011 at 4:13 pm #

    You know, I think EVERY mother feels this way. Thanks for sharing this today Jen. I know I feel “less than” all the time.

    Our kids don’t need perfection though. They just need US. You are there for your boys like no one else could be. I am in constant awe of you as a mother! XO Friend.
    Emily @ The Pilot’s Wife recently posted.. Under the Bed Train Table

  14. Heather (@hmacmomma)
    December 9, 2011 at 4:14 pm #

    oh sister! i will join in with the “Amen”! It was a heavy mommy guilt week for me. I had the surprise opportunity to go to lunch with my husband yesterday and he gave me such truth and encouragement. He told me that i’m a great wife, mom, friend. He felt bad for me that I was so hard on myself. I told him “no really I was yelling at them A LOT this week”. He said why did you yell? I said, “because they are just so evil”. He said, “They aren’t evil. They are just boys. I’ve known evil boys and ours are not them.” I’m thankful for his perspective.
    It’s hard as women to parent boys. The things they say and do just seem so wild and sometimes evil. Trying to remember they are still in process and so am I.

    Thank you for sharing your heart and for directing us all to the Truth of His Word. {{{hugs}}}} from one boy mom to another!
    Heather (@hmacmomma) recently posted.. Few Favorites Friday: December 9th

    • Suzy
      December 14, 2011 at 9:41 am #

      Just chiming in to say that if I didn’t have my husband encouraging me every step of the way, and helping to put things in perspective, I would be in complete despair as well! I thank God for giving our family a good husband and father.

      Keep up with me, Ted, and our Fab Four at http://four-by-two.blogspot.com.

  15. amanda @ A Few Short Cuts
    December 9, 2011 at 4:19 pm #

    Jen

    This is huge at my house. I am constantly battling the mom guilt. It is so hard when you wear so many hats to really get it all done well. Thanks for the inspiring post. :)

  16. Danielle Barton
    December 9, 2011 at 5:01 pm #

    I can SO relate. My biggest stubble with 4 kids ages 5 and under is impatience. I get so impatient and upon reflection it makes me sad. I don’t want my kids to remember memthat way. I want to be patient & kind & gracious. God help memo turn to YOU first every day!

  17. Carrie Williams
    December 9, 2011 at 11:46 pm #

    Hey Jen~
    I am feeling your pain! I stated my masters this summer and teaching each year gets more demanding. I feel that I am always working and not spending any time with my boys. When I do, I feel that I am so grouchy from lack of sleep or trying to get household chores done. It’s crazy! I keep telling myself this won’t last forever- but either will the boys being little. I just have to keep praying, stop comparing myself to other moms, and just find inspiration in amazing moms like you Jen!
    We need to get our crazy boys together soon! They can play in the basement and I will get out the wine! ;)

  18. Danielle
    December 10, 2011 at 2:14 am #

    Gosh, God totally blessed me with the ability to read this post tonight. Tonight as I drove to work, feeling as though I abandoned my kids and left them crying, I was feeling like the worst mom in the world. I so often feel that the devil attacks me by getting to my kids. Thank you for the reminder that God is in control and that in my weakness He is made strong. Thanks for your honesty. Your posts so often inspire me and encourage me. I struggle so often with where I am at right now, in my marriage, in my life as a mom, and everywhere in between. And I come to your blog, and it seems like you always are speaking right to where my heart is hurting. So thank you for allowing God to use you in ways taht you don’t even realize:-)
    Danielle recently posted.. Christmas Pajamas

  19. Myra @ My Blessed Life
    December 10, 2011 at 9:23 am #

    Thank you so much for this post, dear friend! I feel the mom guilt every day too…it makes me run to Jesus like never before in my life. I think more than mom guilt, I struggle with wife guilt…if that makes sense. :) xoxo
    Myra @ My Blessed Life recently posted.. 5 Frugal Christmas Decorating Tips

  20. Debbie in Grayson
    December 10, 2011 at 10:29 am #

    Thanks for this post. This time of year when even more is added to our already full plate this was a great post. I think all of us go through this “guilt” as moms. I would love to say that now my that my kids are grown and have given me grandchildren the guilt goes away. But no it still lingers with the “I wish I would have _________ (fill in the blank) when the kids were little. To the I need to __________for the grandchildren. But I do beleive this “guilt” does cause us to stop and see what the Lord really calls us to do and be. Thanks for the reminder.

  21. Betsy C.
    December 11, 2011 at 6:41 am #

    Reading this post was refreshing in that it reminds me I’m not alone in the mama guilt department. Though I must stand up for moms of little girls in saying that girls are also messy, loud, rowdy, and filled with energy. I’m expecting our first boy in a few weeks and I am so frustrated with the number of people who warn me about the perils of boyhood. My girls bring in dirt, bury Barbies outside, break things, have no volume control and come up with games I don’t even think are safe to play outside, let alone inside. Sure, they love girly things too, but kids are kids, regardless of gender.

  22. netty
    December 11, 2011 at 12:13 pm #

    Betsy,
    THANK YOU!!! I agree 100%. I have two toddler girls, and they have cousins that are boys and they are JUST AS MISCHIEVIOUS as them! Our girls have broken their cloest doors off the hinges so many times that we have decided to just take the doors off completely for their safety. My daughter gets called out for her behavior more at school because she is a girl doing “boy” things. She is a beautiful little girl, with an ENERGETIC, CURIOUS, and PHYSICAL spirit. God has given her physical strength that I believe will bless her in athletics one day (her father and I both played Division 1 NCAA Collegiate basketball). The girls also play with dolls and like “girl” things. But trust me, they put their male cousin counterparts to shame! LOL

    Boys or girls, mom guilt is abundant. And pointing us toward to the Lord and His Word is ALWAYS the answer. SO thank you Jen for your post :)

  23. Jan
    December 11, 2011 at 3:07 pm #

    Jen- thanks.

  24. janmary, N Ireland
    December 11, 2011 at 3:52 pm #

    Thanks so much for this – really encouraging!

    A few months after I stopped work to be home with my kids, my kids asked when I was going back to work as they missed going to their childminder (babysitter)! Fortnately 8 years on they no longer ask!!!
    janmary, N Ireland recently posted.. On the 11th of December – Christmas in our Church

  25. Emily
    December 12, 2011 at 7:01 am #

    Thank you Jen! I agree that no matter what our “mom” status is – stay at home, work from home, work out of the home, etc – that mom guilt abounds! Thank you for the encouragement that was greatly needed today!!!

    Em :)

  26. Alyssa
    December 12, 2011 at 10:25 am #

    I think I have more of ‘wife” guilt. I more often feel like I’m letting down my husband with the pile of dishes and dirty laundry than my kids.

  27. Meredith
    December 12, 2011 at 10:30 am #

    Oh my, I could have written that:)

  28. Angela England
    December 12, 2011 at 11:08 am #

    It was exactly this struggle and burden I had placed on myself – and then noticed someone else echoing back to me – that led me to create Untrained Housewife!

    If you read the about page – it’s pretty much a confessional about how NOT put together I am http://www.untrainedhousewife.com/about

    Lol! Nice to know we aren’t alone, isn’t it?
    Angela England recently posted.. Review of “Spontuneous” – A New and Fun Party Game!

  29. Stacey
    December 12, 2011 at 12:11 pm #

    Jen, from one quad momma to another, I totally get where you are coming from on this one. The guilt that I have felt almost since I found out I was preggo with them has been overwhelming at times, but one thought keeps me sane- as long as they know how much I love them, they will never know any differnent :) I always felt guilt that I didn’t get to love and snuggle each of them nearly enough because I needed to meet the needs of one of their siblings. That I was always focusing on doing laundry and cooking meals- instead of throwing it to the wind and playing cars or dolls every chance I got. That the house was always a mess when my husband came home, or that I wasn’t helping the family financially, or that I needed some “me time” in the forms of a daily shower, going to the store at 10pm, or sleeping in late.
    And now, it comes in the forms of: my kiddos now share my attention with their little (completely unplanned :) ) sister, that mommy now goes to work 4 days a week, or doesn’t always have everything together or forgets things- like library books to school, didn’t get the boy scout patches all sewn on, or forgetting to send lunch money. One of these days, I’ll have it all together :)
    I think as women, we have such high expectations of ourselves, and also have a ridiculous need for everything to seem perfect to everyone, even when we feel like we are falling apart inside. I know I really feel that way because the kiddos are multiples, and feel like everyone is watching what I am doing (probably because they are! ;) )
    I could ramble forever about this topic, but will end with a little bit of unsolicited advice I’ve learned in these past 7 years with my kiddos:
    1. Take a shower every day. Even if it is 2 minutes, it makes your life that much better.
    2. Hug and kiss them every chance you get. They know how much you love them, and even if you screw everything else up that day- they are very loved.
    3. The list, laundry, and dishes will be there tomorrow, and the next day, and the next…take some time to just spend with them- even if it is just one hour a day. And make sure you “punch off the mommy clock” at a certain time each night- it’s hard being a full time mommy, full time wife, full time everything else.
    4. Know you’re not the only one thinking this- you’re just the only one gutsy enough to admit it :)
    Hugs.

  30. Erica Mueller
    December 12, 2011 at 2:51 pm #

    Jen, I love that you shared this, and Brad’s response was also very encouraging.

    I think what helps me the most is to remember that God picked ME to be THEIR MOM. Me, with all my imperfections, my daily need of Grace and Mercy, my busy life… somewhere in time He looked down and said “I want THESE boys to have THAT mom.” We were chosen for each other.

    My husband and I see our boys as blessings God has placed in our lives; a huge responsibility to love, teach and nurture. They are not ours. They are HIS and we’ve been extremely blessed to have them in our lives for the time He sees fit. Knowing this, and that He chose us to raise them makes the whole ‘guilt thing’ a little easier – He knew all about our shortcomings and chose us anyways!

    Does that mean I never struggle with wondering if I could do better? No. But, it does help when I’m reminded that I’M the perfect mom for THESE boys!
    Erica Mueller recently posted.. Pandora Stations for Your New Year’s Party Entertainment

  31. Susan McCurdy
    December 12, 2011 at 6:06 pm #

    Jen, I had a melt-down the other day as I was feeling like a failure ….my almost 18 year old son told me to take a deep breath and think about what I was saying and how I was telling myself lies. I really didn’t want to hear that at the time so I went to my bedroom and cried instead. A few minutes later I heard him out in the hallway. He and the other kids had gone about doing their chores while I had my pity party in my room. My door was open and I heard him singing Stephen Curtis Chapman’s “You,… You are Changing the World ….” What a treasure to my heart. Sometimes it does work to sing songs to a heavy heart …as long as those songs are true. I prayed, wiped my tears, asked forgiveness and got back up. YOU are changing the world too. You’ve changed mine by your challenging example.
    Susan McCurdy recently posted.. Gratitude Journey …..all the way to 1000!

  32. Michelle
    December 12, 2011 at 7:06 pm #

    Wow. Thank you so much for this post. It could have been me writing it except for the fact that I work full time, have only two rowdy little boys (4.5 and almost 2), and am 8 months pregnant. It is a daily struggle to cook a nutritious dinner or referee the wrestling going on in the family room! Thank you for the fantastic works of scripture . . . the first is a favorite of mine and they really spoke to my heart today.

  33. Amy J.
    December 12, 2011 at 8:53 pm #

    Raising two kids on a shoestring meant staying home was a big sacrifice financially, but it was all I ever wanted to do. Little did I know it would be so hard at times. Some days I just wanted to lock them in the backyard! But other days there were sweet times that revealed to me that despite my many failures, God was graciously growing these little people into the creations HE intended them to be. It’s been a long and bumpy road, but I now have two amazing kids (16 and 19) whose company I really enjoy and who demonstrate that GOD is faithful, even when I am not. I am still at home and I still wonder how it is the laundry can pile up so high! Parenting is the hardest job you’ll ever do and the one which will most reveal to you how desperately you need the Lord. Blessings to all you young moms! Keep up the good work!

  34. Steph - Family Matters
    December 19, 2011 at 11:22 am #

    Did you write this post just for me??!!!

    What a much needed read this morning! Between working two part time jobs and being a full-time stay at home mom I’m exhausted by 9 am each morning!

    I’m totally going to revisit this post during nap time and pray through each of the points you mentioned.

    Thanks!

  35. Triplet Mom Plus One
    January 1, 2012 at 6:02 pm #

    I loved this post and the post that your husband wrote in response. Thank you for sharing and for putting into words how I feel so many times and for including scripture that I try to cling to in my life as well. It is nice to know that I’m not alone. I’m going to share your post on my blog in hopes that other parents will be encouraged, as I was by your post. Thank you!
    Triplet Mom Plus One recently posted.. Happy New Year!!

  36. Emily
    January 11, 2012 at 2:46 pm #

    Thanks for once again reminding us to find our sufficiency in Christ. Many blogs I read reference the destructiveness of guilt, but they don’t point us to the One who has taken our guilt upon Himself. Thanks for keeping us focused on how we can be parents who keep Christ and His priorities central in our lives.

  37. Diana Still
    February 12, 2012 at 4:05 pm #

    “We have to separate the non-truths from the truth.” That is definitely what I don’t do when I’m feeling sorry for myself. Thanks for the reminder to think on those things that are true!
    Diana Still recently posted.. DIY Nursing Cover

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