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 four, homemaker, and writer. 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. Amanda February 11, 2012 at 7:06 am #

    Amen!! Thanks for sharing:)

  2. bobcat February 10, 2012 at 4:31 pm #

    Good post. One of the best things anyone has ever said to me is, “You carry the weight of the world on your shoulders.” It was a wake-up call for me, because hearing it sounds so silly and impossible. What makes me think *I* could carry *the world*???? Best to leave that to the Lord!

  3. Kate February 10, 2012 at 3:45 pm #

    Thank you so much for sharing this today. This is something I struggle with so much, and it was such a blessing to be reminded that we have freedom and release from guilt because of Christ’s sacrifice. May God bless you and your family.

  4. Courtney February 10, 2012 at 2:12 pm #

    You can’t even imagine how much I needed to hear this today! I have been struggling so badly with these same feelings lately. Just recently I was blown away when God showed me that I really have not fully accepted His forgiveness and grace…I accepted it when I accepted Him as my Savior as a child; I have accepted it for salvation, but I have not been living in it. When I heap on the guilt and hide in the shame, I am not living in His forgiveness and grace. Thank you so much for putting into words what He has been revealing to me!! The joy is snuffed out when I am hiding in shame and guilt, and that is not glorifying to Him at all!!

  5. Cora February 10, 2012 at 11:48 am #

    Thank you for sharing the insights that the Holy Spirit placed on your heart. Since the birth of my son 9 months ago I have been shocked by how intense “mom guilt” can be compared to any other guilt I have felt in my life. There are many things that you shared that I will take with me into my days ahead to break free from the selfishness and give my self to Him who longs for me.

  6. rachel g February 10, 2012 at 11:26 am #

    Great post, L! I love moments like this when it dawns on you (or me, or any blogger) to BLOG the truth of our lives and to minister to other women through those truths. You are SOOO right. Moms feel guilty ALL the time, but we don’t have to! Jesus has got us covered!

  7. Jenni / Life from the Roof February 10, 2012 at 11:24 am #

    Beautiful post – I think sometimes it’s too easy to just say, “Jesus died for my sins,” and not really dwell on the truth that in this present moment, when we feel like utter failures, he looks at us and sees nothing but perfection.

    I love the sayings by Tullian as well – “Because He was extraordinary, I am free to be ordinary . . .” Sometimes I feel like there’s such a pressure to be special/extraordinary, and it can feel so exhausting! I worked overseas for five years for a very extraordinary couple, but what I always remind myself is that one of them (the husband) came from a very “ordinary” home with a mother who did nothing more than strive to love her children and raise them well. We don’t have to be superheroes.

  8. Kelly W. February 10, 2012 at 10:43 am #

    Wow…thank you for this. How refreshing to read through these scriptures and fall into the arms of our heavenly Father. Our guilt is put on us by ourselves! And it is an inward-focus issue.
    Honestly, I stumbled on your blog about a year ago and loved it. Yet, I found myself avoiding it. I kept thinking, “How do these women manage to keep their house, cook healthy meals, make their own everything, homeschool, take care of little ones, provide hospitality, decorate, do fun projects, and then still have time to blog about it?!?!” Each time I would read a post about some fun project, I would immediately start to feel depressed. “Why can’t I do all that?”
    In the last few months, the Lord has really been working in my heart and drawing me to Him in a deeper way than I’ve ever been since becoming a mother. It has changed me fully and been such a blessing. I don’t need to look at what anyone else does and feel guilty. I only need to look to the Father and ask Him what I should be doing! And, you know what? I’m getting a lot more done as a result! Even some of those “fun” things :)
    Thank you for your honesty, Lindsay. Bless you!

  9. Rachael February 10, 2012 at 8:14 am #

    Thank you. Today was “one of those days.” And this post was so encouraging and right on time. It’s so good to know that we are not alone in this mommy-hood endeavor. I think another one of the biggest reasons we (at least I) start to feel so guilty, too, is when we isolate ourselves and start to compare ourselves with false notions that we are the only one having these problems and with these short-comings, and that other mommies “have it all together.” So, again, I really appreciate you sharing the reality. Praise God for the abundant life we have in Him, and that His mercies are NEW EVERY MORNING!

  10. Bethanie February 10, 2012 at 7:55 am #

    How amazing that we serve a God who works through our weakness and wants us to be weak so that His strength can shine. This is something I struggle with as well and go to bed thinking I was the worst mother and am ruining our children. But God provides grace for every moment and every situation. May my children see my weakness and know that I need Christ just as much as they do!

  11. Jennifer February 10, 2012 at 7:16 am #

    I needed this, this morning. wow…, why do we always feel so guilty as mothers?
    thanks for the reminder. i can not do anything alone and i am free of guilt. Jesus paid the price for me. Isn’t He awesome!

  12. Amy February 10, 2012 at 6:30 am #

    This is a very applicable subject that most people don’t want to talk about. I think we mothers ARE too hard on ourselves sometimes which makes us frustrated because we can’t meet our own expectations. Over the years I’ve implemented a priority list of rooms that are clean. Starting with the living room (where the front door opens to the world). Dont fold your laundry here or let the kids leave their toys here. Then the kitchen and bathroom. So even during those trying times of sickness, or sleepless nights we can still have some dignity if someone should stop by and some peace during dinner (our livingroom os open to our dining room ) without having it all done! It’s really ok!! Our children won’t remember how messy our homes are but the atmosphere in it.
    Thank u for this post!!

  13. Adrienne @ Whole New Mom February 10, 2012 at 5:13 am #

    Amen and Amen. Failing here minute by minute and needing His grace all the time.

    I assume that there are moms who don’t deal with this so much, but I am not one of them. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Lovin' Life February 10, 2012 at 4:33 am #

    Your posts have been such an encouragement to me lately. It is so refreshing to see that other mothers have the same struggles and the same challenges. Thank you for sharing!

  15. Juliet February 10, 2012 at 3:37 am #

    Yesterday I committed myself to Jesus, our Lord and Saviour. Many things led me to that point. Your witness was one of them. Thank you.

    • Bethanie February 10, 2012 at 7:53 am #

      WOW! Praise God! This is awesome! I’m so glad you shared this! This is such an encouragement to me and other believers when another saint is added! I will pray for you today that your faith grows and your relationship with Christ deeps daily! God bless you!

    • Lindsay February 10, 2012 at 3:59 pm #

      Praise the Lord! Welcome to the family Juliet! I am so blessed to hear that you have chosen to follow Jesus. It is such a blessing to hear.

  16. Kelly February 9, 2012 at 10:18 pm #

    Mommy guilt is tough, but universal. I blow it repeatedly, but I know that both God and my family forgive me. I’ve been writing a series on my blog called the “Motherhood Manual” and in it I talk very honestly about my failures and try to find the funny in them. This next post on Monday, though, will talk about why I still believe I’m a good mom in spite of myself. If you’re interested, the link is http://twyste.com/category/life/the-motherhood-manual/

  17. Jen February 9, 2012 at 8:22 pm #

    Yes!!!! I actaully started a blog about this. I am finally worn out after 7 years of mothering and trying so hard. I am tired of feeling guilty all the time because I am not the “perfect” Christian wife and mother. Jesus has majorly set me free in this area all it all comes back to the gospel. I am perfectly accecpted through Jesus! I am so much happier now and able to love my children better!

    I really want to read that book!

  18. Karen Gillmore February 9, 2012 at 8:03 pm #

    It took me a long time to realize that I do not have to do it all, all the time. It is just not possible. Jesus knows that there are days when the best I can do is get out of bed and breathe in and out. Other days I make progess toward my goals. He doesn’t just make up the short-fall at the end of my life, He makes up for my short-fall every minute, everyday. He has a stake in our success and He wants us to succeed. This knowlege helps to move forward everyday.

  19. Blessed Mama February 9, 2012 at 6:51 pm #

    Wow, this was good and real! Thanks for your transparency. I think we, as mothers, are prone to guilt. Satan knows this and will add temptation to our sinful nature. A verse in additional to the ones you have here that gives encouragement to me is 2 Corinthians 7:10 “For godly grief produces repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death.” Thanks again for sharing!

  20. Mary February 9, 2012 at 6:41 pm #

    AMEN!!!! Thank You for the encouragment! We do get so wrapped up in ourselves & forget that everything we are & have is because of him.

  21. Geneva February 9, 2012 at 5:37 pm #

    Thank you Jesus!

  22. Rebecca February 9, 2012 at 5:27 pm #

    Thanks for this! Like so many of the others who have commented I too often feel like I’m failing, failing, failing. Never doing what I should, when I should, or the way I should…Thanks for this reminder that Jesus took it all! If I can only remember it each day and hour…

  23. mamac February 9, 2012 at 5:15 pm #

    Honestly, I think every mother at some point in motherhood deals with these feelings. My hubby is a wonderful man, and he often needs to remind me that “right now, in THIS moment, the mountain of must do’s seems insurmountable, but turn around and look behind you and see EVERYTHING that you HAVE done, yesterday, a week ago, a month ago, then turn around with that vision and find a way to climb that mountain somehow someway, and get to the other side, the sun is shining over there”. Stop, Breathe, Take a moment alone, and Pull yourself together:). ((hugs))

  24. Lisa February 9, 2012 at 5:12 pm #

    I always catch myself thinking I must do certain things for my children to want to be a Christ follower but it doesnt!! My parents aren’t Christians, but I am. It is still good to do all these things with our children but the condemnation can get out of here!! It plagues me all the time. It is also so nice to know I’m not the only one who always feels like a failure.

  25. ADunagan February 9, 2012 at 3:55 pm #

    Precious Lindsay,

    This is so beautiful!!!!
    Thank you for sharing your heart and the redemptive LOVE of Jesus.

    He is SOOOO good, even when we’re not.

    Bless you today.
    Ann

  26. Rachel M February 9, 2012 at 2:29 pm #

    I have just started reading your blog over the last few weeks. Thank you so much for today’s post. This week has been a pretty rough one for me physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I have been feeling like there are giant printed ‘FAIL’ signs over every area of my life and I very much needed to be reminded that Jesus covers all the FAILs. I wrote down the quote at the end to read to myself before I go to bed and when I wake up. Thank you again.

  27. Jenny February 9, 2012 at 1:58 pm #

    Amen and amen! I felt like raising my hands in the air as I read this post.

  28. Apryl February 9, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

    Thank you for this brave post. It is so hard to admit we can’t do it all, and do it perfectly, and so easy to feel guilty and inadequate. I really, really needed to hear this message today (and every day). I had tears welling up as I read. Thank you for the reminder that all we need is Christ.

  29. Kelly February 9, 2012 at 1:02 pm #

    “My outbursts of anger were nailed to the cross before I even walked this earth.” I had tears as I read this and my heart absorbed every word. I literally felt a weight lift off of my shoulders. Thank you.

  30. Lacey Wilcox February 9, 2012 at 12:24 pm #

    Rejoicing with you at the sheer, perfect beauty of the Gospel, and so thankful for your reminder to preach it to ourselves–not just daily but moment by moment.
    My husband is always so quick to remind me that living in guilt is actually a complete disregard for the Cross. While we are called to recognize our sin and grieve over it, we are also called to rejoice in it.

  31. Jen February 9, 2012 at 12:23 pm #

    wonderfully said and a good reminder for me today too ;-)

  32. Amanda February 9, 2012 at 12:13 pm #

    Yes, thank you. As a stomach virus runs its course through my family, I’m clinging to Jesus. What an important reminder to never stop clinging to Him. I also feel so much guilt in my mothering, such a temptation to compare myself to other moms. I love the quote you posted at the end – what freedom we have! Amazing.

  33. Jessica February 9, 2012 at 12:04 pm #

    THANK YOU! Needed to be reminded to preach the gospel to myself today!

  34. Danielle February 9, 2012 at 11:19 am #

    Lindsay,

    Thank you so much for sharing these truths. I’ve struggled with guilt post my daughter’s birth more than I remember struggling with this before. Yet God has revealed these truths and His abundant grace in deeper ways than I have known before. How quickly I forget and how quickly He reminds.

    Thanks for preaching the gospel :)

  35. Melissa February 9, 2012 at 10:40 am #

    “It’s not by behaving that makes me a better mom, it’s by believing- believing more deeply in what He has accomplished.” Yes!!!!!! Thank you for reminding me of that- I appreciate your words today so much.

  36. Karla February 9, 2012 at 10:09 am #

    This is me to a T, and it helps to know that I’m not the only one who feels this way.

  37. Sara February 9, 2012 at 9:40 am #

    Thank you! I needed this today!

  38. Lanai February 9, 2012 at 9:07 am #

    Always an encouragement to read your blog! Ive found myself setting up camp in this “pit of guilt” time & time again. Thank you for directing me to the word and shedding light on the truth of the gospel! God be glorified!

  39. becca g February 9, 2012 at 8:41 am #

    Praise the Lord for your faithfulness and your ministry to mothers. Thank you Lindsay for sharing these encouraging words.

    • becca g January 28, 2013 at 11:03 am #

      I just read this post again, with fresh eyes and a life that has bathed in Jesus’ righteousness. The past year I’ve sown these seeds of truth in my heart and have set my mind on things above. I read this post with new understanding and with new confidence in Jesus, and your words rang truer than they did a year ago. (Truthfully, I didn’t even realize that I had already read it before). I am not defined by my sin. My sin was nailed to the Cross and I am able to live in freedom! Thanks Lindsay.

  40. LaShanna February 9, 2012 at 8:32 am #

    My goodness Lindsay!! I needed to hear this today! So many times I go through this very same thing. Thanks for reminding us to preach the gospel to ourselves, daily. No, we are not perfect…but we serve a perfect God.

  41. Mali Korsten (The Korsten Chronicle) February 9, 2012 at 8:04 am #

    As soon as I started reading this, Romans 8:1 came to mind. I was going to post it here, but then I scrolled down and there it was in your post :) Definitely one of the hardest truths to keep sight of – thanks for reminding us of it.

  42. Heidi February 9, 2012 at 8:01 am #

    Yes, thank God our children’s salvation does not depend on us! Thank you for this encouragement!

  43. simplychelel February 9, 2012 at 7:37 am #

    Even with older teenage children I fall into the same areas of condemnation and struggle to make my way out. I needed to read this today; to be reminded of His grace and provision. Thank you.

  44. Rachel B February 9, 2012 at 7:32 am #

    Excellent! SO true, and something I have to remind myself of daily. Praise God for His perfect sacrifice!

  45. Renee February 9, 2012 at 7:18 am #

    What a beautiful post, I really enjoyed reading this right now. Thank you for being a encouragement for me today

    Blessing
    Renee

  46. nicole February 9, 2012 at 7:13 am #

    Please, don’t be so hard on yourself!
    be kind to yourself.

    • Shannon February 10, 2012 at 7:19 am #

      I agree with Nicole!

  47. Corrine February 9, 2012 at 7:12 am #

    Wow…”someone” knew exactly what I needed to be reminded of today. Thanks for your encouragement and honesty Lindsay…it is always appreciated, but never more than today. :)

  48. Carrie February 9, 2012 at 7:09 am #

    Thank you so much for sharing this! It is precisely what I needed to hear. I’ve also realized recently that I tend to give into the feelings of guilt more frequently when I only focus on the negative…the things that don’t go right. And, of course, every day has those moments!! But when I’m thankful to God for His blessings…when I take joy in the little things…when my heart and mind are focused on Him there is no room left for guilt.

  49. Rachel O'Neill February 9, 2012 at 7:09 am #

    A powerful reminder, I think we’ve all been here. We want to be perfect for our children, yet they have a perfect Heavenly Father, and that is much better! Thanks be to God for His indescribable grace in Christ.