There are two kinds of mommy guilt.

1) Guilt over not being Pinterest- perfect.

2) Guilt over things we really muck up.

There are lots of great pieces written about giving up the idea of perfect. Moms desperately need to let ourselves off the hook of perfection. You  end up dangling like a dead fish from that hook. Besides- the worm is plastic. There’s no reward, only pain and frustration. (Ask my kids about all my mommy-fails in attempting to force perfection…. they have most awesome stories to share…. let’s just say- they’re epic. Sorry for the fishing reference- we just got back from vacation;)  )

That type of mommy- guilt is not the point of today’s post. Others have already said it well. 

I’m talking about the other kind. 

Those times when you REALLY mess up. And feel, justifiably, guilty.

  • You totally blow your top and lose it with your kid. You say hurtful things you regret and can’t take back. (Been there, done that. Wore the invisible t-shirt of shame to prove it.)
  • You allow your own fears to dictate choices that impact your children negatively. (Let’s just say my phobia of dentists and shots have negatively affected my kids :( )
  • <Insert your failure (s) here>

Guilt. (Mommy or otherwise) Is it always bad?

guilt  (glt)


1.a. The fact of being responsible for the commission of an offense. See Synonyms at blame.

b. Law The fact of having been found to have violated a criminal law; legal culpability.
c. Responsibility for a mistake or error.
2.a. Remorseful awareness of having done something wrong.

b. Self-reproach for supposed inadequacy or wrongdoing.

Well- according to the dictionary— (see above) guilt is just a part of life. When we feel guilty for things we were wrong for doing (or not doing) that’s also called: conviction. Conviction, is a good thing.

  • Conviction can the door for reconciliation and change.
  • Conviction is evidence of a tender heart.

When I feel Mommy guilt… I have a choices, I can:

  • Deny it and try to pretend like I wasn’t wrong. (Hello, I;m the mom, I always THINK I’m right.. but honestly? Not so much.)
  • Blame someone else. (The Blame game can get pretty creative….justsayin- I’m good at it.)
  • Allow guilt to cause an over rotation and try to be perfect to “make up” for the screw up. (Doesn’t work. Not toys, Not special outings, Not nothing. Been there. tried it all. Total fail.)
  • Use guilt to beat ourselves into an emotional puddle that paralyzes us.

Or, I can:

  • Allow guilt to provoke a sense of conviction.
  • Admit I was wrong. (Painful, but survivable- and guess what? Kids already know it’s true anyway.)
  • Take ownership of my behavior and it’s impact on my kids. (I know that what I did, hurt you, I’m sorry. I was wrong.)
  • Allow my kid to tell me how they feel. (Listening to how they feel can hurt…. but it’s also an intimate time. it’s Okay to be hurt and angry at our parents. It’s part of all relationships.)
  • Make a plan for improvement. (What will I do next time?)
  • Make restitution (Change a decision, make things right) where necessary or possible. (Shots can be caught up, teeth can be fixed, words can’t be taken back- but healing life giving words can be a blessing of love that covers hurt with consistency- over time.)

How do you know the difference between false mommy-guilt and real guilt?

  • If you’re feeling “not good enough” because you’re comparing yourself to another parent- that’s a clue it could be false guilt.
  • If your measure of a good parent is more Pinterest than biblical…. It’s probably false guilt.
  • By asking for input from people who know and love you. I have people who know and love me and will tell me the truth. (Even if they have to run after they do it.) “Tracey- you’re being pretty harsh. Stop riding that kid.” Or “Tracey, is that really how you want to parent?” Are questions I’ve had to answer way more often than I’d care to admit. Giving people you trust permission to be honest, is a necessity to parenting well. I can’t see the back of my head- so I don’t cut my hair. I also can’t always see through my own emotion or experiences to make wise decisions- I need someone to tell me what they see and give me more perspective.

Mommy Guilt. It’s part of Mommy-life. I’m not sure we can every be free of it- because we’ll always make mistakes. It’s how we respond to it that makes the difference. We can beat ourselves up and give our kids parents who are even more hurt than we were- or we can allow guilt to become conviction that drives us to the Grace of God and seek to honor him and our kids.. even here- when we mess up. Big time.

Modeling for our kids how to handle bad choices and mistakes turns a failure into a gift.  (Nt one they’ll appreciate at the time- but later? When THEY mess up? They’ll have a model for how to respond. ;)

Dear Lord- I love you. I love the children you have blessed me with. And I hate that I screw up- all the time. In big ways and small ways. Help me to take responsibility for what’s mine, give me wisdom to know what;s not- and help e to deal with all of it in a way that honors you. I love you lord- thank you for a tender heart- help me never become hardened to hurting others. In Jesus name- amen. 

Here is a verse that I cling to when I make mistakes- I hope it brings you the same peace it does me…. because at the end of the day- I know that I know that God loves me- and I love my kids….and that makes a difference.

1 Peter 4:8

New International Version (NIV)

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

Christmas is a miraculous and joyful season..  It’s the season when I surrendered my way for His, some 25 years ago.  It’s the season my best friend became my fiance. (Kyle- my amazing husband- gave me my “real” engagement ring at the place we had our first date. Which happened to have been turned from Putt-putt to Christmas tree lot.) It’s the season in which we brought home our first born and (after literally fighting the instinct to run from the hospital in fear they would figure out I wasn’t fit and take him back) placed him immediately under the tree. (Even post-partum I’d never miss a photo-op.)

Last Christmas,  we anxiously awaited my husband’s cancer surgery. Honestly? We feared it may be our last. At least our last together. I felt guilty for my lack of faith.

It wasn’t. Just a few weeks ago we were told he is currently- cancer free.

We rejoiced. We wept tears of gratitude and joy. We still do.

But- I’ll be honest-it’s been a very- long year. A hard year. A year of multiple surgeries, (2 for me- one for Hubby.) treatments and months without working. It was thousands of dollars in copays. (So thankful we have good insurance. It would have been hundreds of thousands.) Fortunately- we also went into that year with a safety net. Savings. (Thank you Dave Ramsey- even if I still think you’re annoying.) But every safety net has it’s limits. Bills do not go down just because someone has cancer.  Life continues to cost. As I type this- I’m wondering if you’re sick of hearing me complain. Lord knows- I am.

We’re fine. My hubby has a great job. Our bills are paid.

But to be honest- I come into this holiday season feeling as depleted as my bank account. As I looked at my Christmas list- (Okay- I have a spread sheet.) I feel overwhelmed. Even a bit depressed. Maybe it’s the stress of the year catching up with me. Or maybe I’m a terribly selfish- spoiled brat. Or maybe, (most likely) it’s a combination of the two. Either way-Instead of being thankful for all God has brought us through this year- and celebrating- I feel grief- because I can’t DO everything I’d like to this holiday season.

  • I can’d do everything.
  • I can’t send all the flowers I’d like.
  • I can’t  buy and send gifts to everyone I’d like.
  • I can’t give to all the good causes I’d like to in the way I’d like to.
  • I can’t just bless everyone I’d like to-with things I know they’d love. I can’t buy over the top gifts for everyone or decorate and entertain-Pinterest style this year. (Well- I can with what I have…. but it’s funny how pinterest makes you think that’s not good enough… IMO- Pinterest can become lifestyle -Porn- with similar effect.)

I wish it didn’t bother me. But, it does.  Isn’t Christmas supposed to be all happy- joy joy? I HAVE SO MUCH TO BE THANKFUL FOR. And I am.

I feel bad and feel bad for feeling bad.

I feel like I should be happy and content this Christmas because of my husband’s new prognosis- But- I’m also disappointed that we lost so much this year. That makes me feel guilty.

Wouldn’t a”Good Christian” would be content with God’s help in surviving a year like this- not pouty that it came with a cost?

Or maybe, a  “Good Christian” feels all of these things and is honest about it. Maybe a good Christian celebrates a Bi-polar Christmas. One with both grief and joy.

This morning- I’m struggling through my feelings. I’m struggling with guilt. I’m struggling with disappointment.

I’m also in wonder of all God has done this year. If you’d have told me 18 months ago all that we’d go through- I’d have thought there was NO WAY we could survive without at least some time spent inpatient in a psych ward.

But, here we are.

This weekend we’re putting up the tree. Instead of beating myself up for how I’m feeling- I’m choosing to be honest- and allow myself to celebrate a Bi-polar Christmas.

I’m reading an advent devotional- and been thinking about Mary…..I wonder if Mary felt the same…..

Not sure what kind of year you’ve had- not sure how you feel going into this season- but if you’re like me- and struggling with joy and disappointment….I hope you’ll join me in setting aside the guilt- and embrace the whole of the season-both the joy and the sorrow.

Merry Bi-Polar Christmas. You’re not alone.

Dear Lord- Help me not lose sight of who you are and what you’e done this season and in my life- help me also not to beat myself up with guilt over feelings that are normal and to be expected. It’s been a hard year. And you’ve been faithful- even here. And Even when I am not. I love you Lord- thank you for your presence in our life and world- help me to focus on your blessings-help me to grieve what is lost and rejoice over what’s gained- I love you lord- amen.  PS- Lord? Help me stop with the whole Good Christian thing…. it’s so stupid. amen.

***I used the term bi-polar christmas- to describe my mood-swings and struggle between extreme joy and disappointment-not as a diagnosis…. Please know- it’s not to minimize that diagnosis- but to relate to it. (and yes- it’s an archaic word.. I know. Give a girl some slack:P)

We were running out of more than money. We were running out of time. It was just a few days before Christmas. If there would be a Christmas at all.. it would be now or never. So….we spent the day Christmas shopping.  To be honest- we spent our rent. Yup. On Christmas gifts. We also hit the lottery of “instant credit approval” at a department store.  Which, we immediately ran up to it’s limit on a special gift for ourselves….Merry Christmas to us! At least for the moment…

We were young. (very young) Every month when we made out our bills we robbed Peter to pay Paul… every month, some bill had to wait. To say we were struggling financially is an epic understatement. It’s like calling the sinking of the Titanic a fender-bender. I think spending our rent made us feel momentarily rich. Well…if not rich… we at least felt: not poor. The fear and guilt were barely covered by the excitement of giving. We were emotionally short-sheeting ourselves. It didn’t cover.

We figured we’d pay our rent in January. We thought for sure we could  catch up, eventually …We’d figure out how to pay for groceries, later. Maybe we could float a check for long enough to cover. There were only three of us… it wouldn’t take much. And it was Christmas, after-all. Each bag of gifts we stuffed into the trunk of our tiny old Toyota- held a mix of guilt, fear and excitement.

The truth is-we just didn’t know how to say “No.” We should have said: “No, we can’t buy gifts for everyone we’re related to.” No, we can’t donate to this cause and that….” Instead.. we played Santa. A game we would lose.

Only the real Santa has an unlimited budget. Only the real Santa can make Christmas dreams come true…but- we were having an identity crisis. Maybe it was that first grey hair, I’d noticed…. or the extra baby-weight I was carrying… whatever the reason- we sure THOUGHT we were Santa.

On the way home, the truth settled in like a blizzard of smothering snow….We were not Santa. We’d eventually have to pay for everything.

We arrived home, still full of guilt and fear and excitement. We carried our little one and all the Christmas gifts into our duplex. The gifts weren’t extravagant… we’re not talking Tiffany’s here.. just more than we could actually afford. The thought of returning them flew in and out of our heads like a hummingbird… one that migrated to a warmer place -instantly.

After the baby went to bed.. we wrapped everything, and prayed it would all work out.. eventually.

Instead of seeing that pile of gifts and feeling excitement and joy.. we felt mostly: nauseous.  Which is probably good, because the cupboards were pretty bare, and there wasn’t much to eat. It would be days before our next check. I hoped we’d get a bunch of holiday leftovers to help tide us over….which is when I realized I wasn’t sure I had enough money left to buy the ingredients for the “dish to pass” that we had to bring for the holiday meal.

I checked under the couch cushions for coin- Mostly, I found cheerios.

I turned down the heat. (A way too late effort to save a few bucks.) and turned off most of the lights so the extra from the tree wouldn’t cause our power to be shut off in January…It had happened before- and January is NOT a good time to have your power “limited.” Not in Michigan, anyway.

Sitting on the couch, we’d have prayed- if we didn’t feel so guity for making the mess we were in. We’d made our bed.. we’d lie in it.

Which is when there was a sudden and loud banging on our front door. (more…)

The washing machine’s barely out of balance “rumble, thunk, thunk” and the dishwasher’s not quite quiet hum, assuages my guilt.  In theory. I am multi tasking.  Housework while writing, or is it writing while house-working? I don’t know. I’m trying to do both while feeling guilty for doing neither, well.

As I type, I am  hoping my second grader is enjoying his mid-winter break sleepover. I am wearing noise-canceling headphones to drown out the sound of two boys throwing paper airplanes to soar across my foyer. It’s possible they are aiming for the cobwebs in the window to see if they will stick, like a fly. My guess is they will. The cobwebs are impressive, even to these- record-setting spiders.

The dogs are barking at each plane thrown. Or maybe at each boy, warning them not to run in the house.

I open this file and stare at the screen:

“Where was I?” ” Was I really drawing a parallel between shaving my legs and shoveling snow?  What does that have to do with being a Work at Home mom?””

I hear running on the steps.

“Boys, no running in the house.” I yell, half heartedly. I know they won’t stop. They are second grade boys with airplanes, it’s not genetically, possible.

I look back at the screen.  The cursor’s blinking mocks me.  It’s blinking line points to the place where I last typed. Unfortunately, it does point in the direction I was going with that thought. I am clueless, or maybe distracted.

The youngest comes back in to the living room. “Mom? When can we go sledding? You promised!”

Guilt grips my heart like a too-tight pair of jeans. It binds and constricts. My heart is divided. I want to take them sledding like I promised. But,  I have a (self-imposed) deadline on this book proposal. I want to have the house picked up before my husband arrives home from a business trip sometime this afternoon.   I need to go to the grocery store or we’ll e ordering pizza for dinner.

The clock ticks on… I am running out of time.

“We’ll go sledding when I’m finished working. The more you interrupt me, the longer it will take.” I snap.

I look back at the screen.  The cursor blinks on a half filled page.  I re-read what I’ve written.  DELETE. DELETE. DELETE.  I’ll have to come up with something else.

“Buzz.” I hear the dryer warn me of impending wrinkle doom.

“Noah?  Go upstairs and re-start the dryer.” I call.  I know the clothes are already dry, because this is the third dryer cycle of the day.  I wonder how much money and natural gas I’d save if I did this less often. “Not very green.” I chide myself. Guilt tries to settle on my shoulders. I shrug it off.

“A mom’s gotta do, what a mom’s gotta do.” I chant. It’s the mantra of a work at home mom.

The problem is, it isn’t always clear what the right answer to the  “What does a work at home mom  gotta do, NOW? question.

  • Should I blow off my writing goal and take the kids sledding?  It is their mid-winter break, after-all.
  • Should I send the college boy to pick up groceries?  Or should I plan on ordering pizza (yet again) for dinner?
  • Should I send the dogs to doggy daycare for a month, so I don’t have to type while holding them apart with my left foot? (The shorkie  puppy is in a “jump on the beagle’s back like you’re in a doggy circus” phase.  The beagle does not like this phase.  She makes this evident by barking, a lot.)  My dividing foot is is all that stands between the shorkie and being a beagle snack. Or, from banishing the beagle to a galaxy far, far away. (Probably cost inhibiting.. as I don’t yet have a contract for this book.  Well- probably cost inhibiting even if I did… Doggy daycare= pricey!)
  • Should I send the kids outside to play in the backyard so I can finish this piece, in peace? Could they sled down the backyard slope and call it vacation fun?  Probably not.

Guilt is something every mom faces.. (more…)

Items from actual grocery list in cart?  Check.

Decision made about brand of toilet paper?  Check.  (why is this so hard? side note- my guys have only one request— no recyled paper product TP… they KNOW it isn’t actually recycled Toilet Paper- but paper that’s been recycled and made into TP…  but they just can’t get over the hint of recycled-ness in this case Takes a LOT to gross out my guys— but this does it. ;)

Coupons remembered, and used? Check…. (Well ,I remembered I had a couple in the bottom of my purse- I get credit for those;)

Child not permanently harmed due to parental paranoia and desire to avoid purchasing 500 candy bars…(PUT THAT DOWN!) and same child still in possession?  Check.

Debit Card located, and ready to use?  Check.  (I can’t be the only one with a weekly panic attack because I can’t find my debit card… can I?)

Major impulse purchases avoided?  Check. (well… mostly.. I think I may have a problem with magazines….)

Just when I thought I’d safely navigated through a trip to the grocery store without incident…  it happened……..

 “Paper, or Plastic,  Ma’am?”  Asked the boy at the end of the lane…

We shall, for now, ignore the entire “Ma’am” portion of the statement.  (It deserves it’s own post) For now- let’s focus on the guilt inducing question:  “Paper, or Plastic?”  As in bags.  For what felt like forever- I stood, mouth agape and debit card in hand…. In shock and fear.  My mind went 1,000 directions at once. 

“Paper?  Is it recycled?  How many trees will I destroy?  Plastic?  Is it recycled? Is it recyclable?  From what source?  What chemicals were used in it’s making  ????   Is this a trick question?”  It feels like a set up.

The pressure and weight of the decision was crushing my brain.  I felt like a character in an old cartoon…. a giant vice squeezing my head— it’s handle being cranked by a teenaged grocery bagger— his cartoon voice echoing maniacally  as he asks over and over….”Paper or Plastic, MA’AM??????”

All I could think of was why didn’t I bring my big blue Ikea bags… perfect for toting so much…. or the cool handmade morsbag  I’d been gifted.  But, no, I was all worried about toilet paper grocery lists and coupons.  I was more concerned about keeping from killing my clepto-kid, (Hey- he doesn’t ASK me to buy things— he PUTS them in the cart… isn’t that stealing?) than the good of the Earth… “Can I  phone a friend? “ I wondered if 411 would have Al Gore’s number….

I must have mumbled plastic…Because that’s what I got.  But- even now….. I’m stressed over the results… it takes 1000 years for a plastic bag to break down??????? and 50 years for a tree to grow to harvest size????  Trees produce oxygen….. I like breathing…. Sheesh.  The guilt.  Either way.

Next time- I’m taking my own bags… (If,  I remember) I don’t need the stress;)

 So- how bout you?  Paper or plastic… or whatever they got?  What do you say????

I personally believe (now I sound like a beauty pagent contestant) we should be good stewards of the Earth- as God created it and has given it to our care… but what does that mean?  Does it mean Paper?  Or Plastic?  I couldn’t find either one mentioned in the bible.

Genesis 1:26-31 (NIV)

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

So God created man in his own image,
  in the image of God he created him;
  male and female he created them.

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

For now- for us…it means paperbags— or bring my own… I think.  Trees seem more renewable than plastic is degradable…

I also think it means I need some chocolate… recover. ;)  

PS—- The one thing I have no guilt over- is having used disposable diapers… I’m just that selfish! Besides- they probably saved my guys from watching their mother have a total breakdown over washing and soaking diapers… just sayin;)

Sheesh- can’t I just go to the grocery store without drama?  Apparently, not.