Whole-hearted Motherhood {Minus the Guilt}

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Written by contributing writer, Trina Holden.

This spring, being the analytical person that I am, I discerned that the stress level I was enduring and the general behavior and attitude of my kids and myself was no longer tolerable.

In other words, I was fed up, and it was time for a change.

Ahh, but I had tried to change in the past, and I knew all my try-hard efforts would only get me so far. A different tactic would have to be employed.

A Problem of {My} Heart

Sally Clarkson clued me in to the true problem (and thus the solution) as I read the first chapters of her book The Mission of Motherhood. She wrote of “The Divided Heart”, and I fit her description to a ‘T’. She shared her own journey and the decision to pursue motherhood whole-heartedly:

“Instead of pursuing a career with mothering tucked in around the edges, I have chosen to focus first on the mission of motherhood. My reward for this decision has been both simple and profound. I have been able to know the joys of mothering without a divided heart.” –Sally Clarkson, The Mission of Motherhood

Her beautiful description of whole-hearted mothering–in contrast to my own messy attempts at being the mom I wished I could be while juggling so many other balls–prompted me to pray a dangerous prayer.

“Lord, change my heart toward my children.”

I wanted to view them not as distractions, mess makers, and cute-but-time-consuming barriers between me and my definitions of success, but as gifts that allowed me to be what I’d always wanted to be: a mother. I wanted them to become my highest priority, and I knew that required heart change, not another set of rules or a new schedule.

Let me testify: this is the kind of prayer the Lord loves to answer.

The Change

I began to feel a difference after only a few days. I was beginning to cherish and enjoy my children more! My passion was rekindled to be the kind of mom I had always planned on being–a mom who read and played and drew and sang and climbed trees with her kids. I began to notice the little moments in each day to create these memories with my children. It did involve sacrifice in other areas, but thanks to God’s work in my heart, I felt the grace to embrace the sacrifice.

As we leave summer behind and head into a busy fall season, I find my heart quaking at the challenge of maintaining my new rhythm. But I’m beginning to see grace and beauty in the process because my new motivation is coming from a place of joy instead of shame.

Minus the Guilt

Jerry Jenkins wrote about a choice he made at the beginning of his writing career–to only write after his children were asleep. He believed in quality time with his children, so after working his day job, he’d spend time with his kids and not write till after they were in bed. He feels God blessed this choice and that his success as an author is largely due to keeping his priorities straight. He said,

“The major benefit for me as a writer? No guilt…There are things more important than your writing career.” –Jerry Jenkens, Writing for the Soul

I want to be a mom without guilt–don’t you? And I believe that wherever we find ourselves, whatever other passions and callings and roles He has given us, God will equip and provide grace for us to fulfill our highest calling without guilt. We just have to be willing to let Him do heart surgery.

If you struggle, as I do, with keeping motherhood balanced with all the other passions and pulls of life, I want to challenge you–not to another list of resolutions, or a new schedule, but simply to pray one small prayer from the heart:

“Lord, change my heart.”

He tells us He can change the hearts of Kings. I think He can handle this mamma heart, don’t you?

About Trina Holden

Trina enjoys offering hospitality from their 1800’s farm house in Upstate New York. She loves to encourage women to nourish their families, celebrate the journey, and choose to thrive at TrinaHolden.com.

34 Responses to Whole-hearted Motherhood {Minus the Guilt}

  1. Theresa April 29, 2013 at 8:55 pm #

    Thank you for this post and for sharing that simple prayer that changed your heart. I just completed reading that chapter in Sally’s book earlier this evening and have been so convicted and saddened to realize that I have had a divided heart and that is why I have such little joy and patience and grace w/my two boys. My heart isn’t even divided over work and staying at home it is just me. Myself. My time. They always seem so needy and whiny when I had things that “needed” to be done or that I had planned on doing… it drives me bonkers even on a good day:). But, I am so encouraged to read about your prayer and heart change and look forward w/expectancy to see how the Lord will answer my own similar prayer.I love how timely He works as I goggled wholehearted mothering tonight in an effort to find out what was next for me in this journey & I came across this. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Susan October 15, 2012 at 8:00 pm #

    Thank you for this reminder. When I get weary with 3 little ones and home to take care of, etc etc, I often think of what I can “do” or my good-hearted husband trys to help me with a “fix” which just adds to the weariness. Thank you for this reminder to get to the heart of it: loving our kids. I’ve been reminding myself they will only Once be these ages, and I’m the one to love them like no one else can at these stages of their lives.

  3. Lori October 4, 2012 at 6:47 pm #

    Thank you. My almost 4 year old daughter is so sensitive, just like me and probably most females. I can easily trample her in my haste to get the next thing done, and often not even realize it. I have been praying, “God help me love her the way You love us and the way I need to.” I read today Dr. Dobson’s book Bringing Up Girls. In one of the first few chapters, he talks about the way the female brain is wired, with the thick corpus callosum and so it is set to be extra tuned to communication and emotion, to be sensitive. That, and now your post. Thank you. God, change my heart ;)

  4. Sally Clarkson October 4, 2012 at 6:02 am #

    What a lovely article. I am so very glad my book encouraged you. So many voices and choices fill our lives, but choosing to invest in our children is our eternal service of worship to Him. May He bless you and your precious ones.

  5. Sally Clarkson October 4, 2012 at 6:00 am #

    What a lovely post! I am praying blessing for you this morning, Trina, and so happy my book was of encouragement to you. So many voices and choices fill our days, and yet, motherhood is an eternal work that indeed shapes our hearts and becomes an eternal work. Love your writing. Thanks for this.

  6. Candice October 2, 2012 at 6:35 am #

    I get this. I used to struggle so much with guilt for so many reasons. Living with rheumatoid arthritis and chronic kidney problems made being a mom extra hard work and I never felt like I measured up. I was putting to much emphasis on the appearance of a happy life and not on the actual happiness that we have in our family relationships. I’m so grateful that the Lord helped me to have a change of perspective through my illness that led to a change of heart. My health problems really were the saving of me as they helped me to slow down and really love the people (my family) that I serve instead of focusing solely on the service that I give or can’t give. It’s about the people. Thanks for sharing this.

  7. Rebecca October 1, 2012 at 2:13 pm #

    Just what I needed today. Great post.

  8. Ashley September 30, 2012 at 6:27 pm #

    Thank you for the encouragement. I am going back to work full time this week and am struggling with the guilt of leaving my children. This was very encouraging and I know God is working on something great for our family through this time.

  9. Anna September 30, 2012 at 12:27 pm #

    Thank you for this post. I actually stumbled upon your website when doing a search for tomato soup (amazing how God works isn’t it?) I really needed to read this.
    I am going to be ordering the book and reading that for my personal devotions. Thanks again.

  10. Beth September 29, 2012 at 6:48 pm #

    Thank you.

  11. Amy Walker September 29, 2012 at 4:33 pm #

    Wow. I just bought Mission of Motherhood and I can’t wait to read it! I have definitely struggled with the “divided heart” but what the Lord is showing me is that I need to involve my children with my other passions …which are reaching out to the people the Lord puts in my life (primarily through bringing them into our home) but also sewing for wells in Africa simply because He told me to do it. I was waiting and waiting and waiting until they slept to do it, but I realized that it will never happen and was frustrated. I completely put it down but He has quickly and clearly convicted me that I am not to put it off but step forward in faith and see Him make the seemingly impossible possible, so ‘m praying about adjusting our schedule to have some time where I sew while they are awake. Very limited of course, but practice at playing independently too. I don’t know for sure. It’s all before the Lord,I want them to see me doing it and to know why and teach them by example to care for the poor in whatever way God tells us to. But I was also inspired (it would take a book to write out how) that what He has called me to do is worth staying up a little later at night after they go to sleep no matter hard that may be. Anyway, I didn’t have to lay it down long before He started to speak and inspire…I know He will make a way and me becoming more disciplined is a part of it too. But regardless of how and when I am going to do the sewing, He has made it clear and there is NO QUESTION that my family must be first in my heart (after God)…when that is my reality, everything else will fall into place. Anyway, regurgitating fresh thoughts and struggles here…Thank you so much for this encouraging and inspiring post!!!!!!!!!

    • TrinaHolden October 2, 2012 at 3:50 am #

      Amy, thank you for sharing your testimony of how God is providing inspiration for ministry even while mothering. I enjoyed your ‘regurgitation’ ;)

  12. Jacqueline September 29, 2012 at 8:15 am #

    Wow! Talk about God being timely. When my little one woke at 5am this morning I groaned to my husband “I want to quit.” What, he asked. “Motherhood” I replied. I’m ashamed to admit it but that’s the truth. I’m madly in love with my baby and don’t want a moment without her. But a moment without the tiredness, a moment without the fussing, a moment without my back aching from carrying her so much, a moment without the postpartum hormones and stress… yes that’s what I want to quit. This is hard. Its really hard and I never “get off the clock.” I get jealous whenever my single friends text me that they’re out to dinner or going on a trip out of town and I’m in the middle of trying to calm my high needs babe.
    Anyway, felt like I needed to confess all that horrible stuff I feel very guilty about. Thank you Trina for posting this. Please pray for me! I’m trying to focus on my baby and the gift and joy she is instead of focusing on what I’m missing out on. I just don’t feel like me.

    • TrinaHolden October 2, 2012 at 4:19 am #

      Oh, Jacqueline! If I could stand in the same room as you, I’d give you a long, understanding hug, and then look you straight in the eyes and tell you…
      you are not alone
      we’ve been there too
      these feelings don’t make you a bad mom
      it’s all very natural–the confusion, conflict, and emotional ups and downs of the first months.
      Keep asking God to give you His heart for your child, and seek some friendships with those who are in the same season. This is key–you shouldn’t feel alone, and you need to have people around you who understand what you’re going through.
      This season WON’T last forever, but His grace will.

  13. Nancy September 29, 2012 at 7:44 am #

    Thank you for that prayer that I needed. I feel so pulled and being pulled in all directions is all MY fault. There is so much I like to do that I get involved in too many things.

  14. Amanda September 29, 2012 at 12:55 am #

    Thank you for sharing! I work full time and long to be a stay at home mom. I feel like there are not enough hours in the day to get everything done and I can be so worried about completing tasks, that I forget what’s really important. Thank you for the reminder :)

  15. Sara September 28, 2012 at 10:45 pm #


    I have been a mother who put motherhood at the bottom and church and community commitments at the top. My oldest is in college now, and I feel the loss and regret. I deeply regret my skewed priorities. I have a second chance now with my youngest.

  16. RuthAnne September 28, 2012 at 8:33 pm #

    Thanks for the post! Very encouraging and timely!

  17. Stacie September 28, 2012 at 8:04 pm #

    Thank you so much for this reminder today. I’ve read Sally’s book, but it looks like I need to reread it!

    I don’t want to miss a moment, but sometimes with all the responsibilities of life, I know I do. But “I want to be a mom without guilt”!


  18. Felicia September 28, 2012 at 6:12 pm #

    I am starting to realize the same thing now that you realized this spring. I started a journey over a year ago to find out who I am. I thought that it needed or had to be someone outside of being a mother, I now know that that was a misguided thought and an outright lie.

    I am putting that book on my immediate read list.

    Thanks for posting this.

    • TrinaHolden October 2, 2012 at 4:20 am #

      Felicia, I’ve been caught in that lie myself–more than once! Praise God for the freedom in the truth!

  19. Deb Stevens September 28, 2012 at 5:36 pm #

    ohemgee girl .. talk about tearing open my heart and revealing the realness of my pride and controlling spirit. thank u so much for this. just a reminder for me that God doesnt forget what i try to avoid ..

    This is what I posted to my lady friends on my Facebook wall, and i mean EVERY word of it:

    sometimes i dont bother reading mommy blogs, testimonies, or posts or comments from my internet friends about what God is doin in their lives because well, im not a mommy (yet) and i dont feel it pertains to me. but this one blog has challenged me on a whole different level. not realizing it would actually speak to me, i decided to read because i need to learn the patience and process of enjoying God’s gifts the right way. so i read. and God spoke to me. and i shrink back in humbleness, thinking God didnt care about that part of my heart.

    ladies, dont determine how God will speak to us. we all have mommy and married friends that some of us, childless/unmarried women, sometimes feel like we cant relate to. ladies, our life’s situations doesnt determine how God can reach our hearts. be pliable to be able to learn from anyone. the stretching of our faith and hearts can come from THE unlikeliest of places, and yet so worth it, knowing God DOES care about those secret parts of our heart that we got good at tucking away. i hope u are blessed by this. luv u ladies :)

    • TrinaHolden October 2, 2012 at 4:26 am #

      Deb, sometimes it’s hard to express what God is teaching me, to put it in a post, to submit that post, knowing people will read it, and feeling vulnerable because even after He taught me this lesson, i still have days that I struggle. Yet your comment was such a blessing to me, knowing God will use my words even when I’m still in the learning process. Thank you for sharing your story, and praise God for His redeeming faithfulness to each of us!

  20. Bella Grace September 28, 2012 at 5:09 pm #

    Truthful. Transparent. Touching.

    Thank you for this, it will bless a lot of people feeling the same way, or have felt the same way once upon a time.

    Be encouraged. Be inspired. Be who He created you to be.

    Bella Grace

  21. April September 28, 2012 at 4:40 pm #

    Oh, what perfect timing! THANK YOU for this post, and thanks be to God for the blessing and encouragement it is to me today!

  22. Jen September 28, 2012 at 4:40 pm #

    Yes! I always have to remind myself that the Lord gave me these little people and that caring for them well will take my best energies. It is very hard to stay focused in a culture (even in the church) that mothering is someting I can squeeze in between more important things. The “divided heart” is such a good way to describe what happens in me when I am thinking I need to be doing more.

  23. Kristen September 28, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

    Thank you so much for this blessing of a post! I tend to be a “to-do-list perfectionist,” so sometimes I get very frustrated and lose sight of the beautiful calling of motherhood. Definitely praying for a renewed heart and perspective.

  24. Noel McNeil September 28, 2012 at 12:24 pm #

    I needed this today. I have been battling motherhood just like you and feeling the guilt and shame. I will start praying and waiting on the Lord. Thanks for your words and Lord bless!

  25. Melissa September 28, 2012 at 12:23 pm #

    A timely word. Thanks!

  26. Emily September 28, 2012 at 8:21 am #

    Thanks for this post!!!

  27. lauren September 28, 2012 at 8:13 am #

    Thank you for this. I needed to hear this today (and every day!).

  28. Kim September 28, 2012 at 6:04 am #

    I needed to hear this today. Thank you!

  29. VerityGrace September 28, 2012 at 5:58 am #

    I love this too. Beautiful thoughts and right where I am. The Sally Clarkson quote really resonated with me. Thank you. :)

  30. Jessica September 28, 2012 at 5:28 am #

    I love this! I’ve recently gone through the same thing with my family and kids. God has been teaching me a lot about motherhood and the priority of my kids and family. Thank you so much for sharing this.