by Jennifer Allen
“How did I get here?” I wondered to myself as I sat in the middle of Barnes and Noble, trying desperately not to slip into an ugly-cry meltdown. Barnes and Noble…my happy place! What could possibly cause a mostly stable, high-functioning adult to wind up cuddling a stuffed Pooh Bear in the B&N cafe to keep from crying like a two-year-old? (Where, by the way, not even a tall vanilla latte with a side of frilly chocolate mousse could entice me to cheer up.)
Mama-Guilt. That’s what.
I mean serious Mama-Guilt. I mean, mummy-meltdown-I- will-never-forgive-myself-for-being-such-an-awful-mother-kind of Mama-Guilt. It was Frozen Day at Barnes and Noble. Frozen Day. We’re talking little girls dressed up like tiny Anna and Elsas everywhere. A real life Prince Hans roamed the store. The children’s department was transformed into Arendelle. Story time and sing-alongs were repeating every hour. And I had no idea.
My sister, my girls and I thought we’d take a quick trip to our favorite bookstore. We thought it’d be a respite to get out of the house for a few minutes before it was time for my one-week-old baby to nurse again. My sister and I thought we’d let the girls play with the train set in the children’s section while we leisurely sipped fancy hot drinks and enjoyed some long awaited sister time.
But no. Frozen had thrown up in Barnes and Noble and I was caught holding the bucket.
It felt like the mummy equivalent of Pearl Harbor. I was taken by surprise and my sweet girls with their Anna and Elsa costumes at home in their closet were the casualties of war.
We couldn’t even stay for story time, the guilt I felt was suffocating. I couldn’t get over it. When I got home and relayed the story to my husband my ugly cry broke free.
Looking back, from a slightly more stable perspective, I know it was never just about missing out on Frozen Day.
• It’s the journal I never kept…or even started…or even bought…for baby number three.
• It’s the crocheted blanket I didn’t finish.
• It’s the intense anger I felt and showed against my girls when they woke me up from a much-needed nap.
• It’s the baby that doesn’t always nurse quite right.
• It’s the infant gas bubbles I can’t seem to fix.
• It’s the attempts at homeschooling that never seem up to par and all the “I’m sorry Mummy can’t (fill in the blank) right nows,” that seem to riddle our days.
It’s a long list of ways I’ve failed or feel like I’ve failed or seemingly keep failing these precious ones I love so much.
During a recent doctor visit I commented to my doctor about the difference between being a mama of one and being a mama of three. “When I think of all the things I did with my first that aren’t even on the radar with my third I feel so guilty.”
“Just stop right there,” my doctor said, “because that’s not what’s important. What matters are the kids, and you give them plenty of love in hundreds of ways every single day. Trust me. Listen to me. Believe me. You have nothing to feel guilty about.”
It’s the hardest thing to believe. I know it in my head but in my heart…
As I’ve tried to take my doctor’s words of wisdom to heart another voice, a still, small voice, keeps trying to teach me something new.
A truth that reveals the real truth about guilt.
The truth that teaches me that guilt is nothing more than the belief that God is not enough. For me. For them. For all my mistakes, my mean tos, my mishaps.
Whenever I allow my head, my heart, my feelings to bog down in guilt what I’m really depending on is myself, my own limitations, my own capabilities. I’m tricking myself into believing that it’s all up to me and that if I mess up or don’t come through the penalty will be more than I or my girls can bear.
Guilt leaves no room for grace.
Guilt leaves no room for God.
And this is precisely why it’s time to be done with the mama-guilt.
Because God is enough. He’s enough for me and enough for them
And there is grace. Grace that covers my shortcomings, my mean tos, my mistakes.
There’s the daily invitation to live close to Him, trusting Him to come through when I can’t. Trusting that He is capable when I’m not.
Trusting that He has entrusted me with these little lives for a reason, that He has already given or will give me everything I need to mother my children well.
So Mamas, (because I know I’m not alone), what if we decided to live mama-guilt free?
What if we chose to love ourselves the way we love our kids?
What if we chose to show ourselves the grace God shows us?
What if we stopped all the striving, performing, the high-pressure comparing, and simply sought the heart of God, and His heart for us, in all the mummy moments (good and bad) that fill our lives?
It’s time to be done with Mama-Guilt because even the most broken down, messy mama is a beloved child of God.
Jennifer Allen lives in the American mid-west, where she is a writer, wife, and homeschooling mama of three. In addition to writing articles and blog posts, Jennifer is currently working on her first novel for young readers. To read more please visit her at www.onceuponawriter.com