I don’t know about you, but as a mom, one of my major aims in life is to provide for my kids.  I want them to be healthy, happy, and well educated.  I want to be able to help them pursue whatever extra-curriculum activities they would like to pursue.  I want them to be able to have their teeth straightened and any other medical care they might need.  I want them to be able to have good friendships, bikes to ride, family vacations, and trips to the park and the zoo.

Sometimes, however, what actually happens feels less than ideal.  Can you relate to any of these?

Unemployment.

Homeschooling the kids while working out of the house or caring for a newborn.

An infant with reflux who takes over everyone’s schedule.

Missed activities because of morning sickness.

Missed activities because of a lack of funds.

Mom or Dad lives with a chronic illness.

An elderly family member requires care.

We’re actually in one of these situations right now.  I’m not ready to blog all the details yet because this situation is still unfolding, but to make a long story short, baby Janie (3.5 months) was born with a lip tie and a posterior tongue tie and had difficulty nursing. In fact, she also had difficulty drinking out of a bottle.  She has had the tongue tie fixed and now does pretty well on the bottle, but she is still what I call an “extreme snacker” who prefers to eat small meals all day long.  She rarely sits down and takes a full feeding. I’m doing a combination of nursing and pumping for her, which is very time consuming.  Her schedule is all over the place, and it’s difficult to get out of the house.  She also is intolerant of dairy, soy, and nuts, so I’m on a special diet that requires more cooking from scratch.

Added to the backdrop of all of that is a lot of instability and uncertainty at my husband’s job as the company goes through major restructuring.

Letting go of mom guilt over difficult family circumstances

I had figured that adding baby #5 would be, “Oh, what’s one more?”  I figured I would be able to easily add a newborn to the mix – after all, I was already used to crazy with four boys!  I was fairly confident in my ability to handle it all.  Well, Janie has been a challenge.  Worth it all, but a challenge.  And I have struggled with “mom guilt.”

My oldest is 11.  He is at a stage of life where he needs to get out of the house more.  He needs more going on, and I can’t provide that.  My younger boys also need to stay busy.  But we can’t often head to the park or stroll around the pet store or even make it to the library on a regular basis.  Owen missed VBS this year because he was not old enough to go unless I signed up to help, and there was no way I could do that.  We have gone swimming exactly ZERO times this summer.

I’m calling it mom guilt, but if I’m honest, it’s not really Biblical guilt.

God has given us a conscience for our good.  We should feel guilty when we are doing the wrong thing.  When we feel guilty, it should be a warning sign to evaluate what we are doing in light of God’s Word and to confess things that are sin and turn away from them.

But God has never asked us to feel guilty over things we can’t control.

I can’t make Janie’s mouth function the way it is supposed to.  I can’t make Janie eat faster.  I can’t make Janie take decent naps.  I have only limited control over being able to pump a certain number of ounces of milk.

So what’s the real issue here?

I’m not in control.

God is.

So if I have a problem with what is going on in my life, I actually have a problem with what God is doing.  There are names for this, and none of them are pretty.

Worry. Anxiety. Fear. Discontentment. Lack of trust…

What if my children do not learn what they should this year because I’m too busy feeding Janie?

What if I have to put Janie on formula and she gets sick more often without the immunities from my milk?

How am I going to keep up with the laundry, cooking, baby, homeschooling, cleaning…?

Why didn’t God give us an “easy” baby?  Doesn’t He know we have five?

Unproductive patterns of thinking can easily take over.  Scripture gives us replacement thoughts for worry!

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.  I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:11-13

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son,”

Romans 8:28-29a

Just as a father has compassion on his children,

So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.

For He Himself knows our frame;

He is mindful that we are but dust.

As for man, his days are like grass;

As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.

When the wind has passed over it, it is no more,

And its place acknowledges it no longer.

But the lovingkindness of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him,

And His righteousness to children’s children,

Psalm 103:13-17

And here’s the thing.  This is quite possibly the most important part.  If these verses are true for me, are they not true for my children as well?  If God is allowing a trial into my life that affects my children, is it not for their good as well as for mine?

Maybe they will be more patient and compassionate as a result of Janie’s difficulties.  Maybe God will use this to help them see that life is not all about them and their happiness.  I can only see a tiny part of His plan – I don’t know what all He is doing.  But I do know that God is not shortchanging them in any way by the fact that we have to be mostly at home right now or that they have to wait for my attention.

I have also found that when I am willing to trust God’s design for our family, including the trials He allows, I am better able to problem-solve with the things that are under my control and make the most of whatever we are facing.  I can approach the situation with a positive attitude, knowing that God has promised to give me the wisdom to navigate each day with my children.  There are many things that we can’t do right now, but there are also plenty of things that we can do.

My kids are still young, so I really don’t know what they will remember from this time.  They might remember this as the summer where we never went swimming, but I hope not.  Hopefully they will remember this:

Letting go of the mom guilt over difficult family circumstances

Every time I look at this photo, it reminds me of God’s beautiful design for our family.  I don’t know how exactly He is using these trials in the lives of our boys, but I know that His character is only good.  And that is enough.

Moms, I don’t know what your family is facing, but can I encourage you not to live in fear of what you can’t control?  Trust the One who is working all things together for good for each member of your family!

20 Comments

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  1. [email protected] Peaceful Haven Aug 11, 2014

    Wow! What an absolutely wonderful and truthful post! I am right there with you! Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    1. Leah Aug 11, 2014

      I want to thank you so much for this post. I am a wife, mother of two kids and we homeschool. I have been dealing with a chronic illness for the past few years. I had been feeling much better, but have been doing very poorly the past few weeks. I have had lots of "mom guilt". I feel like my sickness dictates everything our family is able to do and all the decisions we make. Thank you for this encouragement. Thank you for this truth. Thank you for not just saying encouraging things, but for using God's word to remind me to dwell on truth.

      Reply
      1. Julie R. Aug 11, 2014

        Thank you for this wonderful post. We're struggling with lack of funds right now, and it's hard, but you helped to remind me of the perspective that I need to have. God does have a plan for my little family, and in the end it will all work out right, somehow, some way. Thank you again for the reminder.

        Reply
        1. Polly Strong Aug 11, 2014

          I just wanted to give you a humongous virtual hug. I also have 4 boys, so have been following your page, and they have all had posterior tongue and lip tie. We have been where you are now, the pain, the tears, the snipping and laser and massage and stretches, fear of reattachment etc. The constant feeds and no sleep. Weight issues and centile dropping and living on the sofa and siblings needing drinks or bottoms wiped and once again, I'm feeding. The sterilising, agonising over ozs and will I have enough and fenugreek and domperidone and if I ever see another oat! The rhythmic sounds if the pump as it draws out sore, bruised, cracked and battered nips..... If you ever want to chat, pm me. But know I know, and sending you the biggest hug!!

          Reply
          1. Sarah Aug 11, 2014

            Oh wow, I cannot imagine doing this FOUR times! I found out recently that we have actually been through it twice - we thought Jonathan had reflux (main symptom was choking), but now we know that he has a posterior tongue tie as well. Thanks so much for your comment!! It has been a tough road. Janie screamed every night from about 9:00 p.m. until 11:00 or 12:00, but thankfully that stopped almost immediately after getting her tongue revised because she could finally eat enough to get full. Her colic symptoms are almost gone, and her reflux is SO much better, so we are very thankful. I think she'll continue to improve as she gets older and stronger, but you're right - the fear of reattachment is there.

            Reply
          2. Lisa @ This Pilgrim Life Aug 11, 2014

            I am always so thankful for your posts. The Lord has blessed with wisdom and the ability to share it in a very encouraging way. I am thankful for what He is teaching you through this trial and thankful that you are able to share it here. As hard as it can be, it truly is the difficult times that make His love and care for us so much sweeter.

            I also think that the distinction between mom guilt and biblical guilt is an important one. I am going through a difficult season (life?) with some of my extended family right now and it has been really burdensome. You have given me something to think about though. How much of the anxiety and guilt that I am feeling is actually motivated by biblical guilt? Probably not much since I can't control what other people do.

            I hope that Janie improves soon and that your days can find a new normal routine that works for everyone. In the meantime, keep pressing into the Lord and remember that He is faithful (as you are already doing!). And, as far as what your boys remember about this season, I feel confident that the lack of trips to the pool will make as much of an impression as the opportunity for them to learn to live in a selfless way together and seeing you persevere in a hard season.

            Hugs!

            Reply
            1. Natalie Harris Aug 11, 2014

              I love your posts and your perspective and how you always turn it back to the Lord. My husband is deployed and we're expecting and i literally just don't have the energy to give my other kids everything that i feel that they should have, so this really spoke to me. Can I make a suggestion? I don't know you, and you don't know me, but formula is not the end of the world. my daughter was tongue tied and by the time we fixed it, she was a snacker as well and when she did finally eat, she had terrible reflux and EVERYTHING irritated her stomach. i cut everything out of my diet except pretty much chicken and rice and eggs (no wheat, dairy, spices, soy, etc...) and continued to breastfeed for a few months but I dried up because i wasn't getting the calories i needed and pumping didn't stimulate enough milk. And she wasn't sleeping well because she wasn't getting enough either. So i had to switch to formula and the difference was night and day. it was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders because i could eat, she could eat, and thus we both slept and our relationship went from one filled with guilt and resentment to contentment and love. My husband deployed also when my son was just a couple months old and again, the stress of raising kids alone and trying to maintain everything that happened around the house we had just bought, i dried up after about 4 months and he was formula fed too. and guess what? they're both fine. they are never sick because i allow them to play and explore (much like your boys do from the looks of your posts!) and their own immune systems could be put to work. they are both advanced for their age and are completely normal. I love that this wave of breastfeeding and natural birth has taken this nation (i had both my kids in a tub so i'm a believer in letting things happen naturally) but at the same time, we've villianized formula to such an extent that people who can actually benefit from it are afraid to turn to that resource. It was just a thought to see if there was anything that could lighten the heavy load you seem to be bearing. i know it did mine.

              Reply
              1. Sarah Aug 11, 2014

                Yes, that is a great point. I'm taking it one day at a time at this point, and I think that I will likely switch Janie to formula around 6 months - if we make it that far. 6 months is my goal. Then if things are going well, we'll keep going. But you're right - our culture has almost made breast feeding an idol. I will stop if it's too great a cost on the rest of the family!

                Reply
              2. Kara Aug 11, 2014

                Thank you so much for this! I apply those verses to myself all the time, but I've tried to keep control over my kids. I need to pray those verses over them and believe that all my shortcomings and failures as a mom can be used by God and it will be ok!

                Reply
                1. Amy Aug 12, 2014

                  I just stumbled across your website here and felt I should comment. I never do anywhere so please forgive me if I'm too forward! (not sure how old the post is, but..) I understand you as well. we are also going through A FEW of the things on your list. Not going through one, but a few at the same time. Baby (NICU baby on top of it), unemployment (ZERO income right now), homeschooling 4 kids, husband's surgery...you name it. But my comment here is EVERYTHING IS OK. Really. It took me forever to think that, but it's true. We live day to day knowing everything will fall into place if we work at it. After surgery comes looking for a new job..it will happen. Baby getting easier as they get bigger...it will happen. Schooling (to my liking)...it will happen. Right now what's important is your family. ONLY. It always is. We have lived on very limited income as long as I can remember ($23,000/yr. for 6 people) and we have always made it work. What the kids know is that we don't go out a lot. I don't care to anyway. Kids need to be home. Learning the ways of the home and being a larger/closer family is very important. They need the structure and routine as well. (I mean all of them-even our teenager-life is at home-not everywhere else) Sure we get out. Mostly free places. Playgrounds, co-ops, Nature centers, etc. But not often. Once a week, if that. Everyone needs to be home. Plus, as I saw (what made me LOVE your website!) you do a ton of awesome stuff at home!! That's good, free fun TOGETHER. You are doing it right. Everything is fine. Don't worry what anyone else is doing. Ever. I learned that only months ago and I literally feel a million times better in myself as a parent and person in general. What's best for us is best for us. Focus on yourself and your family. Sometimes being online makes that hard when you see everyone else's life. So we chose very limited computer use here. Hope all goes well and keep praying and playing!

                  Reply
                  1. Rebekah Aug 12, 2014

                    I'm new to your site, but so needed to hear this today. I am mum to three and our middle one has ASD, this summer I have struggled with the mum guilt over what the other two are missing. I just can't take them to the same places as their friends when my husband is at work, I don't have enough hands to keep them all safe. It's made me worry all over again about what the future holds, and makes Facebook painful to see other people's adventures, but I have to learn to hand it all over. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.
                    Every blessing for you and your family over the coming weeks and months x

                    Reply
                    1. JDaniel4's Mom Aug 13, 2014

                      We have a few things on our family's plate too. Thank you so much for this post and its wonderful reminders. I really needed to read them today.

                      Reply
                      1. Jo Aug 13, 2014

                        We are in a similar situation - I am in the process of treatment for cancer which seems to be a six month endeavor. Like your 11-year old, my 9-year son needs time to roam the bigger world. One way we have handled this has been to give him more challenging responsibilities in the house. For example, he has figured out how to make lunch for everyone when I am too sick to move. He has also done some wood-based construction (using old pallets) and developed more sophisticated computer skills than he had at the beginning of the summer. We bought him a Raspberry Pi ($35 computer) and a child-friendly book. He is responsible for keeping our computers backed up and scanned for viruses and malware. I try to make sure he has a friend visit at least once a week...and we make a frequent trip to the library.

                        Reply
                        1. Deborah Aug 13, 2014

                          Thise verses are beautiful and a great reminder for all types of mom guilt. Thank you. Something else that helps me keep a good perspective on mom guilt is thinking about my husband's childhood in the Dominican Republic. There, moms dont really play with their children. Their priority is cooking whole-food meals from scratch and cleaning, cleaning, cleaning and the kids play on their own or with siblings and neighbors, usually outdoors. The children also have very few toys compared to my kids. Like maybe 5 % of what mine have. Its practically a third world country. It helps me to remember that even if i dont reach every one of my goals every day, my kids are still blessed beyond the imaginations of most people in this world.

                          Reply
                          1. sarahelisabeth Aug 14, 2014

                            Thank you, Sarah. This is very helpful. I know that I have been concerned that my children were missing out because we care for an elderly relative. One thing that someone said to me recently is that we feel more pushed to take children out than previous generations. Even in my childhood, we spent much of the summer in the garden. I know it can be particularly difficult with tweenagers needing to go out. Will remember your situation in prayer. "My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness.2

                            Reply
                            1. [email protected] Measured Mom Aug 15, 2014

                              As usual, so well written! Thanks so much for putting mom guilt into the proper perspective. Wonderful verses! And LOVE that baby hair. :)

                              Reply
                              1. Ruti Aug 15, 2014

                                Thank you so much for your post & BIG HUGS!
                                I think you are right, often we feel guilty about stuff when we shouldn't and probably need to learn to cast our cares a whole lot more - I'm learning this everyday. Thank you for sharing with us - I love your blog & all your ideas, they are fab!
                                We are definitely putting a lot of nature walks on the agenda this yr, as they are free and get us outside.
                                Hope things get better soon : )

                                Reply
                                1. Lauretta Aug 15, 2014

                                  Wow. Thank you for this. I had never considered that the good from trials could be good for my children as well as for me. I needed that perspective.

                                  Reply
                                  1. Kelly Aug 16, 2014

                                    This is what I needed to hear at the exact moment!

                                    Reply
                                    1. Kathy S Aug 18, 2014

                                      Just found your blog and started reading this post. I really needed to read this post today. I am a mother of an autistic child which I am trying to homeschool. I was a teacher until this year, when I pulled my child out of the school system to homeschool. I had felt very challenged today, but reading your post helped me let go of the guilt a little. God must have big plans for your little angel (your daughter). Due to your post today, you have already touched some lives. Thank-you

                                      Reply
                                      1. Brittany Sep 23, 2014

                                        I have just found your blog.. Twice actually in the past two days on two separate Pinterest posts. I have to say. This post is exactly what I've been needing! I go through my day just loaded down with guilt, guilt that I'm at home with my son and not out helping to provide for our family, guilt that I feel I'm not managing our money the way I should, guilt that we're not able to have the things we want ( notice want, not need) all the time, and guilt when I plan for money to go somewhere and it doesn't. Guilty about what my sons eating and maybe if he watched his show too much today, and guilt that the house isn't perfect. Its time I let go of it, and realize it for what it is. This post has helped thank you!

                                        Reply
                                        1. Mamabug Sep 14, 2015

                                          I know you wrote this a year ago but God knew I needed to see it in 2015. Thank you. Little ones, medical needs for a middle child and I struggle all the time wondering if the big kids who have no issues are getting cheated. I forget that God put them in order, knew this was coming, knew my weaknesses and still thought it was best.

                                          Reply
                                          1. Lisa, mom to 7 Nov 3, 2015

                                            Thank you, thank you! I love your last sentence. I am going to print it in Large Type and put it on the fridge! Thank you to the author of the post as well... tough times here but not serious... I am usually consumed with guilt and worry... I need to cling to those verses!!

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