I never will forget the day I had to call Poison Control on behalf of my oldest daughter. I was cleaning out a cabinet when Peanut found a Benedryl bottle and opened it. Talk about mommy guilt. How that 14-month old baby opened that medicine bottle I’ll never know, but it must have been possible because it happened.
The good news? She didn’t have any reactions to her possible intake. However, that didn’t stop this momma from going into a tizzy. I could hear the words in my head,
A good mom wouldn’t let her daughter near a medicine bottle.
The Invasion of Mommy Guilt
My mommy guilt didn’t end there. Two days later this same 14-month girl tripped over the office chair splitting her forehead on the edge of the file cabinet. I will never forget the sound that file cabinet made nor the screams that followed as I swept my baby up to console her and frantically searched for something to stop the blood. Again I heard that voice in my head say,
A good mom would have had her constant eye on her baby and foam borders on all sharp edges.
Those painful self-critical comments continued to run through my mind as I held my panic-stricken screaming baby down on the doctor’s table while the PA could put in seven terrible stitches. Just thinking about it still breaks my heart.
Becoming a Recovering Perfectionist
As a recovering perfectionist, self-criticism has plagued me for much of my life. Becoming a mother brought those thoughts to a new level. I wanted to be the best mom possible and do all those things ultimate moms do: breastfeed, make homemade food, use cloth diapers, and clean the house every week. You name it.
While aiming to be “ultimate mom” may have been a noble task, the perfectionism of it all set some pretty unrealistic expectations both on myself and my little girl. Quite frankly, it only led to exhaustion, low self-esteem, and withdrawal. There’s just something about the responsibility of raising little ones that adds a whole new perspective to self-criticism as kids bring to the forefront just how much we really are NOT in control.There are NO perfect kids, and there are NO perfect moms. Click To Tweet
If you are a mom, you get it. We all want to be the best moms we can be. We all want to love our children, keep them safe, and provide the best environment possible. Why do we think no other moms go through what we do? Why do we think everyone is judging our every move? Why do we think we have to be perfect with NO ONE is perfect? Did it ever occur to us that those other moms we compare ourselves too may just have enough to worry about themselves? There are NO perfect kids, and there are NO perfect moms. Only God is perfect so let those self-condemning thoughts go!
Several years ago I read an article in a Home Life Magazine called Get Over Your Guilt (March 2010) which helped me to start letting go of some of those perfectionist traits as a mom.
Blame the shoulds: We carry a mental list of all the things a good mom should do and be. We judge ourselves based on the list and our verdict is always the same: guilty! Our “should” list is far longer and harsher than anything God expects of us. Tear up the list.
Blame the experts: Moms today are bombarded with advice from experts, which we add to our “should” list. When it comes to expert advice, take what’s useful and what works for your family. Ignore the rest.
Talk to God: In the morning, before you start meeting the day’s demands pause for a moment. (And don’t feel guilty that it’s only a moment.) Offer your list to God. Ask Him for the wisdom to choose what matters most and the strength to get it done…for confidence and peace…to grow your children into the people He wants them to be, despite the mistakes you’ll make. And you will make mistakes. We all do.
We all want to be great moms and often wonder if what we are doing is the “right” thing, but stressing over these thoughts are NOT helpful. They do NOT bring the peace God desires for us! Wanting to be the best mom you can be is a great goal to have…as long as the expectations that come with that goal are REALISTIC.
The familiar saying, “Do your best and let God do the rest” holds true even as a mother. If you do that, then it’s not worth stressing over the times you mess up because you ARE going to mess up. As Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, “Surely there is no one righteous on the earth who continually does good and never sins.”'Do your best and let God do the rest' holds true even as a mother. Click To Tweet
What to Do WHEN You Mess Up
Admit it, ask for forgiveness, if needed, and move on. As Paul says, “Not that I have already received this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on if indeed I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ. Brothers, I do not consider myself to have laid hold of it. But I do one thing, forgetting the things behind and straining toward the things ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12–14)
So how am I handling this perfectionist mom thing today? I by no means have it all figured out, but, to the shock of my college roommates, my house, more often than not, has dusty furniture and toys on the floor, my daily to-do list is rarely completed, and some days we don’t even finish those lesson plans.
I am also learning to celebrate the failures of my daughters or rather, how my daughters handle their failures. Already I can see signs of perfectionism in each of them, and I want them to learn NOW that it’s OK that they don’t always succeed because no one does, except God. When they get this then they will be free to see that in their weakness God can make them strong. And the same goes for us. No mom is perfect. No, not one! But in our weakness, God can make us strong!
You ever been challenged by mommy guilt? What did you find inspirational in overcoming those feelings of inadequacy?