When I remember my true identity, stop listening to motherhood myths—including those perpetuated by Christian culture—and realize my limitations, there’s not much room for “mom guilt.”
I did it again. I lost my temper and yelled at the kids. I ended up throwing a temper tantrum, not unlike the ones I’ve tried to teach my kids not to throw. How ironic is that? I should be more mature by now; I mentally chide myself.
“Will you forgive me?” I ask my kids after I’ve calmed down. And even though they say they will, I still feel guilty. It seems like I should be past losing my temper by now and be the calm, patient mother I want to be.
Nothing can cause more guilt than parenting. As moms, we want the best for our children. We want them to have good educations, enrichment opportunities, and to spend quality time with them. We also have to juggle jobs within and outside of the home, make doctor appointments, and spend quality time with our spouses. For those who are also single parents, there is even more stress and responsibility. And after a year marked by COVID-19 the chaos of at-home working and learning has only added to the guilt. In our desire to become better parents, sometimes parenting books can have the opposite effect that we want: they can make us feel more guilty.
That’s where the following books come in. They are guaranteed to encourage, not condemn. They meet us right where we are and we won’t have to pretend to have all the answers to this mothering thing—and these authors won’t try to give us all the answers, either. What they will do is remind us of our true identity, bust up some motherhood myths, and help see how limitations can be a thing to be embraced.
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Jacoblund
Remembering Our Identity
As Christian moms it’s good to get back to the basics with Christ in the Chaos: How the Gospel Changes Motherhood by Kimm Crandall. Crandall reminds us where our identity lies, and it’s not in being a mom: it’s in Christ. We know that in our heads, but do we know it in our hearts? Do we know it when we see the mom on Instagram who seems to perfectly juggle motherhood while growing her online business? Do we know it when our friend tells us she has her devotions at 5 a.m.?
Crandall recognizes that “Completely apart from my standing before God, I can find myself wanting to measure up to the elusive mom standard—not because I think God actually requires it but so before others, I can appear to be worthy of this great calling of motherhood. Meeting God’s standard through Christ is wonderful . . . but I can still desperately want to be admired, or at least not seen as falling short.” Crandall is great at applying the gospel to motherhood and help us stop the try-harder, do-better mentality. We can actually rest in Christ, not just for salvation but everything else.
Busting Motherhood Myths
In her book Parenting Is Your Highest Calling And 8 Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt, Leslie Leyland Fields confronts the myths of Christian parenting head-on. From the idea that successful parents produce godly children to having children makes you happy and fulfilled, Fields goes back to Scripture to head off many of these preconceived notions head-on. So many of these ideas come from Christian ministries or culture, not the Bible. By dispelling these myths Fields helps us break free from so many of the things that cause guilt as moms.
In an age when we often feel the pressure to conform to “biblical family values” we forget the actual biblical record. As Fields notes, “it’s ironic that we often call our secular culture back to biblical family values when most families in the Bible looked nothing like our ideal of a family.” This isn’t an excuse for sinful behavior, but more of a reality check. If you come from a dysfunctional family or currently have one, it’s not where our identity lies. Once again we’re reminded our identity is in Christ, not in how our children turn out or our parenting performance. It’s not that those things don’t matter, but that God is way bigger than any dysfunctional circumstance.
Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe by Sarah Mae & Sally Clarkson is a breath of fresh air. Desperate is written by a young mom (Sarah Mae) and a mom with grown-up children (Clarkson). Each chapter is constructed as a give and take between the two women, one from the point of view of being in the thick of child-raising and the other looking back with grace and wisdom to offer. Primarily, this book is written for women with young children, but there is a lot of wisdom within its pages for all mothers.
One of the biggest takeaways for me has been realizing my limitations, and the fact that those limitations will change and morph over the years. As a perfectionist who wants to do everything, realizing my limitations has been very freeing. Today's cultural message—especially to women—is to be everything to everyone. Work successfully, have time for yourself, raise children, volunteer, have a hobby, exercise every day, the list goes on. But the fact is there is only so much time in one day. We can not do it all.
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/tatyana_tomsickova
Instead of seeing limitations in a negative, Clarkson sees them in a positive light: "You have your personality for a reason—probably for the special work He has for you to do in this world. We have great freedom to live within the confines of our own personalities. The more we learn to accept our own limitations, and the limitation and vulnerabilities of our children, the more able we will be to give to our children from our strengths, rather than our weaknesses. Our happiness spills over into our parenting and creates children who feel loved and accepted." Different people have different capacities for the amount they do and the level of stress they can operate effectively under. And once we embrace our life stage we can be content mothers who do what we’re called to do, not what others think we should.
Grace Not Guilt
When I remember my true identity, stop listening to motherhood myths—including those perpetuated by Christian culture—and realize my limitations, there’s not much room for “mom guilt.” I can look at my failures squarely in the face and realize they don’t define me. I can choose to not believe the myths of the perfect Christian family. I can realize my limitations and be freed to focus on the areas God has for me at this present time.
If anyone should feel the release of “mom guilt” it should be those of us who believe in Christ. As Clarkson puts it in Desperate, “Isn’t it freeing to know that you’re going to mess up? I mean, you’re certainly not going to get it all right! We will fail. We will have regrets. We will have grace.” These three books help me tap into that grace and out of performance mode.
I’ll remember that the next time I lose my temper with my kids. Because as much as I don’t want there to be a next time, there probably will. And there will be grace.
Photo Credit: © Mikael Vaisanen
Danielle Ayers Jones has been a contributing writer for the online magazine, Ungrind, and has written for Thriving Family, Clubhouse, Jr., Radiant, and Relevant. She also combines her love of writing and photography on her blog, www.danielleayersjones.com. It’s a space where she seeks to find beauty in everyday places, joy in hardship, and encouragement in unexpected places. Danielle currently lives in Maryland with her husband and three children. You can follow her on Twitter @daniajones.
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