#MomGuilt

From the moment I saw the hash tag “mom guilt”, it bugged me. Another real, deep life issue had just been turned into a clever marketing scheme…and I didn’t like it! I still don’t like it. Businesses are doing it more and more often and it’s very clever indeed! Advertisements are playing on our emotions and they stay in our memories…but in the end they do absolutely nothing to address or help the deep ache inside that mothers really feel every single day: Guilt for doing their absolute best!

Telling a mom, “Just don’t feel guilty about it, you’ve done your best!” does absolutely nothing to heal the self-condemnation many woman feel day after day after day. Turning it into a light-hearted joke may temporarily ease the pain but in the end, mom-guilt is very, incredibly real and it comes from deep within causing restless nights and illegitimate worries. It causes outbursts from insecurities of our intentions and abilities. It brings many into depression. It causes some to give up and check out emotionally on their children.

Where we started motherhood gazing with wonder into the beautiful faces of our newborns, motherhood slowly turns into an endless checklist of chores, appointments, and things to remember.

It wasn’t meant to be this way. But it is.

There was such hope for SO MUCH MORE!! But that hope just seems to fade a bit more everyday, until we check ourselves out of the mothering day as soon as our little ones are in bed, exhausted from the pressure and stress we were never meant to feel in the first place.

Real Mom-guilt story: When I was 6 months pregnant with my third child, I went on a marriage retreat with my husband. It was winter and there was a hot tub at the event. Now, being very self-conscious about my body at that point in my life and during that stage of pregnancy, I really did not want to go in. First of all, because I knew I really shouldn’t for the baby’s sake but also because I was too embarrassed! It so happened that a nurse was along on the trip and she casually mentioned that as long as I was comfortable and stayed in a short time, it was totally ok. So one evening, I went out to the hot tub with my husband when no one else was around. It was really cold, so my plan of just putting in my feet a few minutes quickly changed to me plopping myself down fully emerged in the very hot water. After ten minutes, I started to feel uncomfortable so I stood to get out, but as I stood a huge group of people came out to join us and I awkwardly plopped back down because I was totally self-conscious in my swimsuit. I sat there for another painful twenty minutes until I realized I was feeling very sick and got out anyways. The next few days I was physically sick as a result of this and I kicked myself for it…for caring so much about my appearance that I would put my own health and my baby’s health in jeopardy…but that wasn’t the worst part of it: I felt like the dumbest, most selfish mother on the planet and I worried for the next three months constantly that I had done something that would cause permanent damage to my baby.

You know what’s the craziest part of this all? My son is now eight years old and that memory still haunts me. Because my boy has trouble making friends, he has difficulty controlling his emotions, he tiptoes when he walks and deep down, I blame MYSELF. Every. Single. Day. Is there something wrong with him? Are the issues in his life a result of that one poor choice? Probably not! But I don’t know for sure…I never will. And it haunts me. And this is just one example of the hundreds of ways we Mothers feel guilt!

When I hear my children yelling at each other… it must be my fault for once in a while yelling at them.

When I see my children use bad table manners…it’s probably my fault because I haven’t trained them properly.

When they get sick…I should’ve not let them go outside without their jacket!

If they say something awkward…my fault, I’m homeschooling, they probably don’t get out enough.

If they’re all over tired, fighting and throwing tantrums…my fault, we’re probably too busy and not at home enough.

When we leave them at childcare or crying with a sitter…I am a failure, I can’t even be there for them.

If my boy pees his pants and I forgot extra clothes…I’m such a horrible mom.

It goes on and on and on and ON!

I have personally talked with mothers of kids who have disabilities who blame THEMSELVES!! It’s not their fault! It’s obviously not! But still the nagging, taunting dark questions plague their minds: Maybe I have bad genes, I shouldn’t have had children…Maybe I ate something wrong…Maybe the immunizations did it. Maybe I wasn’t there for them enough…maybe….

REALLY?!?

As if our children were just these flawless, perfect little angels sent straight from heaven, with only the purest of nature, and holiest of thoughts and somehow we RUINED them.

But this is REAL, and it’s deep. And it’s a lie that needs to be addressed head on! I’m sorry to say that there’s no quick solution to this. I can’t just go and tell all the mom’s in the world, “Oh it’s not your fault” and end all the guilt…because sometimes it IS our faults. And as grown ups we need to be responsible and admit when it is. Yet as mothers we can’t separate our failures from what’s actually just our children’s human nature.

But here’s the best steps I could come up with to help heal and move past the guilt that plagues us mothers:

  1. You will make mistakes. Big ones! Don’t waste ONE minute wallowing in “what if’s”…instead use that time to make positive changes. Change your habits. Get help. Ask for forgiveness! You can not change the past, but you can learn from it and change the future.
  2. Your child WILL make mistakes…even if you’ve trained them the right way… because they’re HUMAN. Their choices are NOT your fault.
  3. Be careful of the influences in your child’s life. Friends, caregivers, and media will play the biggest role in their values and who they become. Chose caregivers wisely, allow only good media in your home and encourage positive friendships. If you find out that you’ve made a mistake in one of these areas, do your best to make changes…but remember the first “rule”!
  4. Spend your time wisely and find a balance. Your messy house isn’t a big deal…your kids will NOT remember it. But use your time wisely – if it’s really messy because of hours spent on social media, or Netflix bingeing, take time to develop a balanced schedule of “me” time, “together” time, and “clean” time. Just don’t be so “responsible” that you forget to enjoy life. You will NEVER regret the time you spend just enjoying your children.
  5. DON’T worry about the small things…feeding your children McDonald’s won’t kill them, letting them watch an extra hour of T.V. will not ruin their lives, taking a year off from extra curricular activities will not ruin their chances of playing sports or learning an instrument someday, throwing a simple family birthday party will not damage their future. Life is so much bigger than the type of lotions you buy for your kids or the clothes they wear. Please just don’t go down this trail!! Use your best judgement and respectfully block out unwanted advice!

But above all, learn to accept GRACE. God has unending grace for our shortcomings. Receive this grace. Let it pour into your heart and mind until you can not help but have grace for yourself, your kids, and everyone else around you. God’s grace heals, restores and brings hope to EVERY hopeless situation.

The guilt…it doesn’t go away over night…but it does get better. And when you live your life out of a standpoint of grace, you will begin to see the truth: Mother’s are the first and best gift that any child ever recieves… and to your children there is only one YOU!

YOU are the PERFECT mother for your child! Embrace this and you will find much freedom from that dreaded, ugly #Momguilt.

Finding Hope in Loss through Suicide

First of all if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you or someone you know has lost a loved one through suicide.

And I want you to know that I’m so so sorry.

I’ve also experienced loss through suicide, although never someone who was really close to me like a sister, or a parent, a friend or a child. And the pain of knowing them hurt enough. I can not imagine your pain or the hopelessness you’ve experienced.

I actually don’t often write about such hard topics because honestly, I don’t feel qualified. I’m not a bible scholar, I’m not highly educated. I’m not a councillor and I haven’t even lost a close loved one to suicide myself. But the other day I read something that bothered me so much, that I felt the need to share.

Now, there’s a reason I blog instead of getting involved in Facebook arguments and comment wars. It’s because I hope, that by not making it personal and by not verbally debating with someone who’s already in defence mode, I can maybe reach a greater audience with the truth, with hope, with healing.

The debate topic was this: Can a person who commits suicide go to heaven? The cold, uncompassionate responses by a few fellow Christians were alarming to me. First of all because they used scripture to back up their points and the scriptures they used actually weren’t about suicide at all, and secondly because I wondered: don’t they realize that of all the people reading what they’ve written, the chances are that at least ONE of them has lost a very dear loved one to suicide and that their comments would cause TERRIBLE pain?

Then finally, it bothered me because it’s not a debate topic!!! IT’s not!! We can not use such painful topics as topics of debate! This doesn’t HELP anyone, it just causes pain, and quite possibly it forces those who are seeking healing within the church, to turn elsewhere for help. And I want you to know that it is not only possible to find healing through Christ, it is the best way to find true healing. So I decided to write about something that happened in my own life that may help to bring healing to those who’ve been walking through this dark road of unending grief.

Almost two years ago, I was going through a very dark time in my life. I was battling with depression, loneliness, and helplessness. God was doing something very special in my heart, a work that only happens through life’s greatest pain…he was teaching me to take off the masks I had been wearing for years. The “I have it all together” mask. The “I can do it myself” mask. The “I don’t need anyone” mask. I had worn these masks for far too long, because in my early years of mothering I always felt the need to prove to the world that I had it all together, that I could do this. I was so determined to prove that I wasn’t the teenage-mom burden on the world that they expected me to be. So what God was doing in my heart was actually a beautiful thing: He was teaching me humility, openness and honesty. He was teaching me how to ask for help. He was teaching me that I am weak and that his strength is made PERFECT in weakness. He was teaching me to share my struggles, instead of hiding them away in my heart.

But there were certain people who saw this struggle and what it looked like to them was that the once “happy” girl they had known was now sad. From what they could see it looked like bitterness, unthankfulness and self-pity. So because of what they saw in me, they tried to “help me” in a way that actually was harming me. They encouraged me to pull myself together and to not turn to people for help, but to heal from these terrible things in my life that were obviously not from God. This taught me something about life that I will never forget: When God is working on someone in a deep way, it can sometimes appear to us from the outside completely OPPOSITE of what is actually happening on the inside.

Think of the story of the sinful woman found in Luke 7:36-50. On the outside, the Pharisees saw this sinful woman inappropriately kneeling and perhaps from his point of view, she was even seducing Jesus and touching his feet. What she did was certainly culturally unacceptable. But Jesus saw her HEART and what he saw was faith, love and repentance.

We can not see people’s hearts. Period. Now before you think I’m saying that everyone is going to heaven, which is not at ALL what I’m saying, I want to share something that I have not shared with many people because it is extremely close to my heart. I also knew that many people would doubt its actual occurance, so I never bothered to share it. After reading the ongoing debates about other people’s salvation I felt I NEEDED to share this, as personal as it is.

About the same time this dark struggle had been going on in my life, I was weeping and praying. I asked God where he had been the past years when I felt so alone. I reminded him of the promises in his word that he would never leave me and I asked him why he had left me.

Then God gave me a vision. Now I don’t get visions often, only a couple of times in my life have I even got a small picture, but this one was as real as a dream except that I was awake and it helped me to see God in a very real and dear way. As I was praying, scenes from my life flashed before me eyes and each scene was very familiar. I saw horrible times, lonely nights of holding screaming babies, moments I had been in all alone without anyone to help, and I saw something so beautiful that I never doubted God’s presence again. In every picture of my life what I hadn’t seen at the time, but I could see clearly in my vision was Jesus. He wasn’t just standing and watching me as I went through my trials. EVERY SINGLE SCENE he was right there, cradling me in his arms, holding me, crying with me. And in that moment I truly understood the meaning of his name Emmanuel: God with Us.

Now this was life changing for me, but the last picture God showed me was completely different from the rest because it had nothing to do with me. I saw a man I knew hanging. He was in his final moments, struggling and fighting for his life and for a moment I was horrified because I had no idea what this had to do with the rest of my vision. But as I watched the scence unfold I saw something amazing. Jesus was standing right in front of him reaching out his hand. At first the man couldn’t see him because he was overcome by his struggles but in the final moments he saw Jesus and he grasped his hand. Jesus held him close in his death.

And from that moment I KNEW that the young man was in heaven with Jesus.

We have no way of knowing what is going on in other people’s hearts. But God does. And he is present in every moment of every single person’s life. All they have to do is reach out and grasp his hand. He’s waiting.

Ask if I’m Okay

For all my friends and loved ones out there who have dealt with depression or who are still dealing with it, I wrote this for you. I’m here for you if you need to talk, or even if you can’t talk, but just need someone to know that you’re struggling. You are NOT alone.

 

Dear Friend,

I know you’re there. You’ve always been. I know that if I have a baby you’ll bring me a meal. I know that if I’m faced with a loved ones death, you’ll hold me when I cry. I know that you’ll smile and congratulate me about any new and exciting event in my life. I know that you’ll do that. It’s what friends do.

I know that you’ll listen with excitement as I tell you all about my vacation and if I tell you about my problems, you’ll give your best advice. I know that you’ll laugh at my jokes even if they’re lame, or tell me a story about your rough day to make my day feel better. And if one day I’ve just HAD ENOUGH, and my washing machine has broken down while my kids have the flu, I know that if I call you…you’ll be there. You’ve always been. It’s what friends do.

But there’s one thing you never do, and it’s ok because until now I’ve never done it for you… It’s never probably crossed your mind, because it never crossed mine either.

Please, dear friend, just once in a while: ask if I’m ok.

And most likely you’ll hear me say: “Yeah, I’m good! Why? What’s up?”

And you can say, “Oh nothing, I’m just checking because I want to know if you’re not”…because a lot of the time I am okay.

But once in a while I’m not.

And then on those days, when I feel so alone, like nobody cares,  I can think back to the time you asked me if I was okay and remember that if I’m not okay, you’d want to hear about it.

And I’m sorry. Sorry for not doing that for you, because I understand now that some pain is just too hard to bring up on it’s own. Some pains are so deep that they need a friend to come and say, “Are you okay? I want to know if you’re not, because I care.”

I understand now that it’s awkward to bring up some types of pain, because you don’t know what to say…often you don’t even know what’s really wrong…but the pain is very real and it is crushing you. I understand that now. I understand why you pulled back and withdrew, why you avoided family and friends, not because you didn’t want to talk…but because you didn’t know how to. I now understand why you seemed to want to be alone, not because you didn’t want me around…but because you didn’t think I would be able to process feelings that even you couldn’t seem to work through.

And I want to tell you today that it’s ok. It’s ok to call me to cry, even if you don’t have the words to speak to me. It’s ok to tell me that you’re not ok and it’s ok if you don’t explain any further. It’s ok if you let me know those ugly feelings and thoughts, those ones that you want to run from. It’s also ok if you don’t. I just want to let you know that I’m here. It’s what friends do.

It’s also ok if you have nothing to offer me other than your tears. So if you ever feel completely alone, or that no one actually wants to hear the true response when they ask you a casual, “How are you?” Please know that you can be honest with me. I’m not afraid of your feelings, even your darkest ones. I want to know that you’re okay. You don’t need to feel like you owe me anything for listening. I’m not a therapist. I’m just a friend who may have little to offer you other than a shoulder to cry on and my prayers. I probably won’t have the answers to your problems. But you don’t have to apologize for the way you feel, or for “being a downer”, because I want to be able to walk this road with you. I want to be there! My dear friend, you are not alone! You are loved. You are deeply cared for!

Are you okay?

I’m here to listen. It’s what friends do.