Digging Out of the Pit of Guilty Motherhood

I failed miserably in my mothering today. Everything from getting coats and shoes on, to going potty in underwear, to getting out of bed before the proper time. Each situation was responded to with an outburst of anger and frustration.

I experience guilt on many levels in my motherhood. I feel guilty when my house isn’t clean, organized, or I don’t have the energy to design all these glorious organizing tools (thanks Pinterest! ;) . I feel like a failure when I don’t spend enough quality time with my children or waste too much time on my phone or computer browsing this and that. I feel guilty when we don’t do family devotions as if my children’s salvation was all dependent upon me. I feel like a terrible homemaker when I don’t get anything done on my to-do list. So in response to my guilt, I get frustrated and the cycle continues. It’s a dangerous pit of self focus that destroys my joy.

The only means through which we can find deliverance out of this battlefield of guilt, condemnation, and anger is through the power of the gospel. The only lasting freedom can come through acknowledging what Christ has done on my behalf.

We have to steep ourselves in the power of the gospel. We have to soak it in.

I have to remind myself that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Yes, you and I will surely fail. But we have a glorious Savior who bore our condemnation. He bore our guilt. It was nailed to the cross. So in our failure, we can have hope. Christ Jesus has replaced our sinful record with His perfect righteous record.

As Elyse Fitzpatrick says, “When you are tempted to slide down into a miry pit of self-condemnation, you can remember Jesus’ sinless life and the perfect record that is now yours. Yes, it’s true that you sin heinously and consistently, but you have a perfect record before God, the only one who opinion really matters.”

“Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. (Romans 3:24)”

You have a perfect record.

Colossians 1:16-17 says,The Father…has qualified you [past tense; it's finished] to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us [past tense again; the deliverance is completed] from the domain of darkness and transferred us [past tense once more: the transferal is already concluded] to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have [present tense; this very moment we possess it] redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

My outbursts of anger were nailed to the cross before I even walked this earth. My fear of failure is a waste of my energy. He paid the greatest price for them. In order to experience true freedom from guilt, I must stop focusing on all that I need to do in order to become a better mother. I must first turn my gaze upon what He has already done for me.

The only way to become a better mom is to preach the gospel to myself every day. It’s not by behaving that makes me a better mom, it’s by believing- believing more deeply in what He has accomplished.

God doesn’t call me to be perfect. He calls me to embrace my standing before him, and to run in that freedom he has already granted to me! I am adored by Christ! I am redeemed! I am accepted!

Ultimately, when I enslave myself by guilt I am mocking what He did on the cross, I am disbelieving the grace and mercy purchased for me through his sinless life. This guilt is witness to the fact that I am depending upon my own strength. I am believing that my children will only grow, flourish, and follow Christ if I do this certain set of practices.

So when you are tempted to put another brick of guilt on yourself, may I encourage you to stop, and declare with me:

“Because Jesus was strong for me, I am free to be weak;
because Jesus won for me, I am free to lose;
because Jesus was someone, I am free to be no one;
because Jesus was extraordinary, I am free to be ordinary;
because Jesus succeeded for me, I am free to fail.” -Tullian Tchividjian

Praise God for the full and abundant life I have in Christ!

Jesus loves me just as much today as He did yesterday!

Many of these insights have been gleaned through Tullian’s powerful book, Jesus + Nothing = Everything.

{Photo Credit}

Originally published February 9, 2012. Original comments included below.

About Lindsay

Lindsay Edmonds is first a lover of Jesus, wife, mother of three, homemaker, and writer. She is the editor of Passionate Homemaking since its beginning five years ago. She loves inspiring women around the world toward simple, natural, and intentional living for the glory of God.

96 Responses to Digging Out of the Pit of Guilty Motherhood

  1. Jamie January 21, 2013 at 6:21 am #

    You are so right about knowing who we are in Christ! Many of us mommies are highly educated women that came from very challenging, rewarding, and high paying careers. It is hard adjust from that in many ways. I find that many daily tasks are extremely mundane and not stimulating in the least. But, the Lord did not call me personally to be stimulated intellectually, at least not through child bearing and rearing. However, when I see it as working for the Lord and not for my sweet children, who really could care a less if the house is clean or a gourmet meal is prepared, I know that I am blessed through it.

    Also, many of us are from the post modern feminist generation that says we aren’t “real” women if we don’t have a career that we get paid for. I felt badly [guilty] about this, and I had wasted my education and experience. But, in the workforce I am easily replaced, and not missed. I will be the only mother to my children, though. I am a servant of the Lord first and foremost, and that is more important than any other role I play in my daily life.

    I’m sure the working mommies feel guilty too. So, there’s really no escape from the guilt trap, except to know who we are in Christ!

    What a refreshing, important reminder.

  2. Lolli S January 20, 2013 at 12:13 am #

    There are so many days I feel like I failed as a mom, but if you love your child and are trying your best, that is what matters. It is so hard to not feel guilty for not being 100% perfect, but no one is perfect.

  3. Sarah January 17, 2013 at 6:55 pm #

    Lindsay, this was such an encouragement to me. I struggle with guilt and anger almost daily. I have had to ask forgiveness from my children (ages 3, 2, and 1) many times. My husband is constantly reminding me that I cannot “ruin” our children, and that even in my sin, I am modeling the gospel through my repentance and confession to them and the Lord. Those things give hope to me; but reading this, knowing there are other women out there that struggle as I do is so encouraging. I’m not alone in my struggle! And I will be praying for you, sister in the Lord. If you think of it, please pray for me, too.

    Blessings!

  4. Stephanie January 15, 2013 at 1:05 pm #

    Oh did I need to read this… It came to my inbox just when I needed it! I’ve been dealing with my human failings, and people pointing out those failings, but ya know what? God doesn’t care!

    Thank you for being the messenger for that important reminder to us all!!

  5. Jenn D January 15, 2013 at 12:32 pm #

    Lindsay, what a great post! Can totally identify with you on the feeling like a failure days; encouraging to know I’m not the only mom who struggles with all of this. Tullian Tchividjian’s quote was fantastic. I still carry around my notes from a sermon of his when he visited our church. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Marcia January 15, 2013 at 7:47 am #

    I am so grateful that I have found your blog (thanks Pinterest) and have had the ability to read this today…of all days! The “working Momma” guilt I felt last night was simply too much to bear. I will be looking to puchase your recommended book for my next Christian read!

  7. Catherine Edmonds January 15, 2013 at 7:03 am #

    Thank you for this wonderful reminder that it’s not my behavior but my belief in the Gospel that makes me a better mother. I struggle with that “mommy guilt” at night when I’m crawling into bed and all the times I lost my temper or spoke harshly or failed to serve my children cheerfully that day play across my mind. I’m going to add the book you recommended here to my 2013 reading list! So glad I came across your site!

  8. Lindsay January 15, 2013 at 3:15 am #

    simply beautiful… thank you ,sister.
    I am constantly challenged to put greater and greater faith in the Savior. perhaps thats why He allows us to fail so often.

    your website has been a blessing:)

  9. Angela January 14, 2013 at 6:41 pm #

    I didnt read this post until a few minutes ago this evening. I have been so sick with this stupid virus thats going around, and my hubby has been wonderful taking care of me and our toddler. But he had to go in to work for a few hours this evening and I decided to let my son curl up in bed with me and watch Max and Ruby–his fav. So one hour turned into two, and when I got him up to feed him dinner (btw he skipped his nap today and was very tired) he threw a fit and had a regular meltdown. And I discovered that I forgot to change his diaper and so there was our last set of clean sheets and his snuggle blanket, soaked. He wouldnt eat dinner and bawled his eyes out curled up in my lap and fell asleep. So I’ve been cleaning up the bed situation and feeling like a horrible Mom for all that.
    All that to say, thank you soooo much for this post, reminding me that I’m not perfect and will make mistakes. Jesus is my perfection!

  10. Sarah January 14, 2013 at 5:45 pm #

    Another spot-on post! Sometimes I think you must read my mind. Struggling daily with turning my heart towards my toddler boy. Thankful that we have the riches of Heaven and the power of the Spirit as resources!

    God bless you and your family!

  11. Catherine January 14, 2013 at 5:37 pm #

    Thank you for this encouraging word today. I so often am seeking to change myself when what I really need to do is realize that I am human, I will fail, I will make mistakes and I will be imperfect which is why I so desperately need to rely on my perfect Lord and Savior!

  12. Janelle December 18, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

    Thank you for the encouragement!

  13. Bri August 6, 2012 at 10:55 am #

    This was a great application to reiterate the message on “prideful greatness vs. humble greatness” at church yesterday. One of the ways I see to glorify/validate/value myself before others is by the pride I feed through mothering/parenting, instead of realizing that motherhood is an opportunity to serve my family/God. When I “fail” at this I let it communicate failure into every aspect of my life. But I don’t have to anymore!!

    Thank you for your honest, transparent post :)

  14. rae August 1, 2012 at 9:36 pm #

    The reference seems to be incorrect here…
    L
    Colossians 1:16-17 says, “The Father…has qualified you [past tense; it's finished] to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us [past tense again; the deliverance is completed] from the domain of darkness and transferred us [past tense once more: the tr ansferal is already concluded] to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have [present tense; this very moment we possess it] redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

    Do you have the correct chapter and verse? I can’t find it …

  15. rae August 1, 2012 at 9:35 pm #

    The reference seems to be incorrect here…

    Colossians 1:16-17 says, “The Father…has qualified you [past tense; it's finished] to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us [past tense again; the deliverance is completed] from the domain of darkness and transferred us [past tense once more: the transferal is already concluded] to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have [present tense; this very moment we possess it] redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

    Do you have the correct chapter and verse? I can’t find it …

  16. Emily April 26, 2012 at 12:08 pm #

    Found your blog today and I love it! Enjoyed this post. Thanks for reminding me of these important truths as I strive to be the best mommy I can be for my 2 boys! I feel I fail so often. But these Scriptures are so uplifting!

  17. Ruth April 5, 2012 at 6:46 am #

    Amazing how He directed me to your site as I was looking for Scripture to read during Holy Week, and I stubbled upon this entry, which I so sorely needed right now. Awesome! Thank you.

  18. Christene, WA April 4, 2012 at 9:17 pm #

    Thanks, Lindsey! This really ministered to me today:-) I just found your blog and it is such a blessing! Thank you for sharing your testimony – so wonderful to see how he is working in your life and using even the small details for His glory! Blessings you and your family!

  19. Melissa Rank March 28, 2012 at 11:04 pm #

    I needed this today. I’m a new mom so anxious to get everything right! Ugh. what a terrible trap! Thank you for sharing.

  20. Alia Joy February 17, 2012 at 3:54 pm #

    Much needed words for days like today…and everyday. Poignant and true words. I so appreciate your sharing your mommy guilt so that we can all remember that we don’t stand condemned and that we need to preach that gospel to ourselves constantly.

  21. Audra Marie February 17, 2012 at 9:12 am #

    Your post is so timely. It made me think of Matthew 6:33. If we seek Him first daily, all those other things will be added to you – including the things of motherhood. Thanks for a great post. :)

  22. Brittney Colyer February 15, 2012 at 4:56 pm #

    Rockin awesome :) Thanks for sharing truth to encourage us Mommas!

  23. elizabeth February 14, 2012 at 11:40 am #

    I really needed this today! Thank you!

  24. Jocelyn February 13, 2012 at 10:38 pm #

    Lindsay,
    Keep doing what you’re doing, girl. This post was beautifully written and is such a clear articulation of the Gospel. Powerful words. Your words have me thinking about some ways that the Lord wants me to alter my thinking. You talked about guilt being so self-focused that we lose our joy (maybe not those exact words). But, that pinpointed for me a joy-robber that I hadn’t been aware of. The Lord is using you!

  25. Wendy February 13, 2012 at 8:42 pm #

    Thank you. Your post today was just what I needed. Had a very guilt filled day.

  26. Naomi February 13, 2012 at 6:52 pm #

    Thanks for your honesty. Often in those moments of anger and guilt I think of specific Christian mums I know and think “they wouldn’t do/say this.” But this of course just makes me feel worse. Thank you for the reminder of the deep truth that is at the centre of being Christian – I AM a sinner and I AM forgiven in Jesus. Your blog is a great ministry.

  27. kristin February 13, 2012 at 5:32 pm #

    Sounds like I am not the only one who needed desperately to hear this today. Thank you so much for reminding me that I have nothing to fear, and everything to gain … just by accepting.

  28. Katie February 13, 2012 at 3:46 pm #

    Lindsay,
    I have so appreciated your blog and learn so much from you each time I read. I have a few questions regarding older postings from you. I’m on your path to going green…and I cannot figure a few things out…
    Can you tell me the difference between sucanat, rapdura, turbindao, organic cane sugar and organic brown sugar? What is better for us and why do you use what you use? Can you replace all sugars in any recipe with honey?
    Also, the more I’ve looked into this- there is a debate on dairy and grain (whether or not we should eat, if it’s good for us or not, ect.) Any thoughts here?
    Lastly, Where do you go for your bulk shopping trip at the beginning of the month? For example, do you go to a Wal-mart for toilet paper/staples…or do you go to a big natural food store for all those things. And if so, is it reasonable priced? Do you have a “staple and toiletries” grocery list that you use despite the season?
    Even if you can’t answer all these questions in detail- I’d love any thoughts and your wisdom on the sweetners soon because I need to do some baking! :)

    Thanks for you heart!
    Katie

    • Katie February 14, 2012 at 1:47 pm #

      Here is a link about Natural Sweetners: http://www.spain-in-iowa.com/2011/12/a-simple-introduction-to-natural-sweeteners-and-how-to-use-them/

    • Lindsay February 15, 2012 at 8:05 am #

      For sugars, we use sucanat, maple syrup and honey in our home. I use sucanat for my baking and use our honey raw in oatmeal and tea and such to protect the nutritional value. You can replace all sugars equally with sucanat/rapadura (As they are the same thing).
      As to dairy and grain, I believe in all things in moderation is key. I think our bodies could easily do without grains especially if they are not prepared properly…but that can also lead to an expensive diet. So you have to just pray and use discernment as to what would be best for your family.
      For bulk shopping, I buy most of these items through Amazon or Azure Standard. I only buy toilet paper, shampoo, conditioner, soap, dish & hand soap, dishwashing & laundry detergent, so I keep these purchases really minimal. I don’t really use any other paper products (except for large hospitality events), so as to cut down on waste.

      • Melony June 9, 2012 at 1:56 pm #

        Hey Lindsay!

        I just wanted to comment on your grain comment. I agree that there are many, many bad carbohydrate foods out there for you. But I wanted to share the blessing of milling your own wholesome grains as well. Though the first initial investment can be spendy, it has proven it value over the years in saving money and in our health. I have a Nutrimill and a Bosch mixer. When I purchased those, I purchased 50 lb. bags of Spelt, Kamut, Whole Wheat, Rye berries, and Oat Groats. All organic and/or chemical free from my grain lady. I purchased many other things like dried cranberries, dates, dried apricots, cashews, almonds, walnuts, coconut, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, vital wheat gluten, dough enhancer, yeast, honey, organic agave, unsweetened banana chips, chocolate chips, cocoa powder, beef, chicken, and vegetable broth, and probably a couple of other things. You don’t need all of these food items, but we came in to some extra money and I went for it. We stocked up and we ate off of all this (costing about $1200.00) for over a year. And at that time, there were still some things left. Things I made:

        Home made granola with 7 grain I rolled with my roller/flaker that hooks to my Bosch. You can flake any grain to make into a hot cereal or put into soups or master mixes. My kids love my homemade granola and it’s a healthy snack.

        Master mixes for pancakes, waffles, biscuits and desserts.
        A Five loaf recipe for bread that is delicious.
        Sprouted grains for salads toppers- nutritious and delicious!
        I make dessert breads with the dried fruits.
        I make a lot of homemade soups with the broths.
        I make homemade cakes, cereals, breads, muffins, master mixes and other things with the healthy freshly milled grains. I just wanted to share. This has saved us money in the long run and teaches the value of health in making your own foods from scratch and they are delicious and rewarding. And most of the recipes are simple enough to have the kids help make them. They are filling, so you don’t eat as much, because they are complete whole grains with nothing taken out of the grains like they are in the store to accommodate shelf life. You can even make sprouted bread which is a complete protein. Lots of adventures in the kitchen when you stock on grains and mill them yourself and just bake, bake, bake. Most quick and easy. Just wanted to share. God bless!

        Oh, and this post hit home to my heart as well, concerning the guilt of motherhood. Guilt is a joy robber and I believe it keeps you from seeing the things you are doing right to keep you under “it’s” thumb. Certainly a snare strait from the devil himself. We are conquerors through Christ and “Greater is He that is within me than he that is in the world”. I will try to get out of this “I’m inadequate” trap that I’m in. This was encouraging mostly for me also because I feel so alone. I tell myself “I wish I could be like that Christian mom, she’s so spiritual and loving” I feel so ashamed sometimes, that I don’t allow myself to open up. So thanks for the post, I really needed it. :)

  29. Lacey Wilcox February 13, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

    I keep coming back to these words. You have no idea how badly I needed them! Thank you again for writing them, and for being so willing to share the way the Lord is working in your heart and your life. I consider it a gift…one of my 1,000 :)

    • Lindsay February 15, 2012 at 8:06 am #

      Praise the Lord, Lacey!

  30. Ana February 13, 2012 at 12:18 pm #

    Hi Lindsay,
    How encouraging!
    I needed to read those words sooo badly!
    God bless you,
    Ana

  31. carrie February 13, 2012 at 11:05 am #

    Thankyou so much for this post. I think we all need to know that we are not the only ones who feel this way at times…..as women we are so hard on our selves but, Jesus’ is the only opinion that counts ( like you said). I shared this post at a baby shower this weekend with a devo that i did and it was very encouraging to a lot of women. thank you again and God bless your sweet family!!

  32. Mrs. Graham Gardens February 13, 2012 at 9:35 am #

    Beautiful, encouraging post, Lindsay. Thank you.

  33. Anne February 13, 2012 at 6:25 am #

    For some reason your updates go to my spam folder, so I just read this, this morning. The very morning I needed to hear it. Oh thank you for sharing. I woke up feeling very discouraged this morning, with a long lists of failures right before me. Thank you so much for the encouragement. In Christ-

  34. Valerie February 12, 2012 at 12:13 pm #

    Thank you for sharing so openly and honestly! Your words are encouragement to everyone (including me!) who has felt the guilt of falling short. We really do stand perfect before God through Jesus Christ! Praise God!

  35. Lindsey February 11, 2012 at 8:04 pm #

    Thank you so much for this post! I am a single mother and guilt is something I struggle with so often with raising my son. This was very inspirational for me and I am sure to come back to this post often!

  36. Kimm February 11, 2012 at 3:21 pm #

    Love it! Thanks!

  37. Susan February 11, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

    This reminds me so much of a talk that was part of our church conference a few months ago. The link is below. Just a reminder that God loves us all, and loves our efforts, even though they fall short of perfection. Thank you!

    http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2011/10/forget-me-not?lang=eng