Today I am so happy to welcome my sweet (and very wise) friends, Kathy Helgemo & Melinda Means, from Mothering from Scratch. Not only do they live right here in my same small town of Punta Gorda, Florida, they are bloggers and moms who love to share their insight, struggles and parenting wins. Last year we commiserated together as we each were writing our books at the same time, and this year I am SO excited to celebrate with them the release of their new book Mothering from Scratch: Finding the Best Parenting Style for You and Your Family.
As moms it is so easy to doubt ourselves and assume that everyone else knows what they are doing, while we are just struggling to get by, but Kathy and Melinda, with honesty, humility, biblical truth, and even a little humor, offer the real encouragement that most of us are looking for. I was deeply touched by this book and especially loved that it didn’t feel AT ALL condescending, as so many parenting books tend to be, but instead offered practical solutions and a whole lot of grace. I highly recommend it!
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This is a guest post from Kathy Helgemo & Melinda Means of Mothering from Scratch
We all know the feeling — that sinking, mom guilt feeling.
A tidal wave of guilt comes flooding in, threatening to consume our every thought and action. It literally knocks us off of our feet. We feel unstable, overwhelmed and helpless.
Our kid is struggling in school and we just know it’s because we didn’t read to them enough when they were little. Or, surely it’s because we stopped breastfeeding them too soon.
Our strong-willed child is acting out and we believe it’s because we haven’t set appropriate, consistent boundaries every single minute of every single day.
Maybe we find ourselves chronically yelling at our kids. We know it’s hurting them, but we don’t know how to stop.
We start making ridiculous excuses or enabling our kids just to make it stop. After all, if only we’d done things differently, they wouldn’t be acting this way, right?
Mom guilt usually falls into two main categories:
- The things we wish we would’ve done
- The things we wish we wouldn’t have done.
Either way, the effect is the same. It robs our joy, clouds our thinking and often paralyzes us.
Where’s the life-preserver? What do we do? How do we gain control over our minds and emotions? Overcoming mom guilt isn’t easy, but it is possible. We promise.
Here are three practical ways to let go of the mom guilt that is eating at you….once and for all!
Decide what’s really true.
Who is this really about? Is the child truly suffering from my perceived mistakes – or is it only me? These are important questions to ask because our feelings and emotions can overtake the truth. Mom guilt acts like a very sophisticated liar. It seems like the truth at first, then reveals its true nature later. What a con artist! Yet, we fall for it all the time.
As moms, we’re all too quick to take responsibility for our children’s shortcomings. But how many times have you heard a mom say, “Johnny is so caring and such a hard worker. It’s all because of me! Aren’t I fabulous?”
Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Yet we often have this misguided notion that all negative outcomes are a direct result of our action or inaction.
Mom guilt stems from an illusion that we’re ultimately in control. Yes, we can guide and influence our children. But they’re unique and independent little people, with their own wills, giftings and opinions.
We’re not responsible for all of their successes. And we haven’t contributed to all of their failures.
We’re human. We do mess up as moms — often. And, yes, sometimes our kids truly do suffer because of it. But we have to be careful that we don’t allow internal punishment to replace heartfelt, God-given change.
So many of us only hear the voice of condemnation. It’s a mind trick. That voice tells us there is no hope for change. That our shortcomings can’t be redeemed. It’s the one that encourages us to wallow in our guilt, regret and misery.
Conviction is the opposite of condemnation. It causes us to feel remorse, but then spurs us to change and move forward. It’s from the heart and our God-given conscience — a conscience that has been surrendered to the Holy Spirit. (Kathy) I went through terrible bouts of postpartum depression which fogged up my mind with hopelessness. Later, after I received treatment and I sought help, I had a lot of guilt about how it may have affected my children. Eventually, I made peace with knowing that I could only deal with any aftereffects as they occur. I couldn’t go back to the past. I had to move forward.
Determine an Action Plan.
Alright, so we feel like we’re always falling short in a certain area of mothering. For example, we’ve determined that our ineffective approach to discipline is contributing to our child’s poor behavior. Now what do we do?
We can start by asking ourselves, “What can I do about it right now?” If we’re not sure, we can ask another mom whom we trust and know will provide some wisdom. A little objectivity can help us come up with the rest of our action plan should look like. This allows us to step back from our emotions and gain a little perspective on the problem.
Next, we can ask, “How can I avoid this mistake in the future?” If we’re chronically losing our temper with our kids, maybe we can make a plan to walk out of the room when we start to feel our temperature rising — at least until we can take a few deep breaths and regain control. Or, perhaps we haven’t been requiring our kids to help around the house and they’ve become a bit spoiled and entitled. We can come up with a plan to have them start helping with small tasks and build from there.
(Melinda) I was definitely guilty of this. As a recovering people pleaser, I spent too many years enabling my kids. And then one day, I looked around and realized I was the only one doing any work! I was resentful and exhausted. Worse, I wasn’t properly equipping my kids for the future. And one day they would pay a price. So, I simply started with asking the kids to bring their dishes to the sink. Then, emptying the dishwasher which led to cleaning the whole kitchen. I got plenty of pushback at first. Their level of helpfulness is still not ideal, but we are making progress.
When we’re moving in a positive direction toward change, it helps mom guilt stay at bay. We may continue to have some negative thoughts and emotions, but we can have confidence that progress is being made — even if it’s incredibly slow or we experience temporary setbacks.
Execute the plan with accountability.
Being vulnerable feels risky. But we weren’t designed to do motherhood alone. We need other voices of objectivity and support. When we share these issues with caring, trustworthy people, we gain voices who can help us determine if our guilt is truly legitimate.
Who can keep us accountable with the action plans that we have made to control mom guilt? Our primary guide is the Holy Spirit. We can ask Him to convict our hearts if we lose our resolve or focus. Asking wise, caring people in our lives to help keep us on track has also been valuable for both of us.
A final word of encouragement
Our imperfection breeds humility. What we feel mom guilt about today can often spur us to positive change if controlled and channeled properly. Our kids get the benefit of watching us be proactive. When they watch us mess up and seek forgiveness from Him it helps them understand that God’s grace is easily accessible. They will know that mistakes are part of our journey and that change is possible.
In what areas of mothering do you feel the most guilt?
What plan of action has helped you reign it in best?
Who has encouraged you to seek the truth behind your feelings?
Between the two of them, Kathy Helgemo and Melinda Means have been mothering six kids for almost 40 years! They blog over at Mothering From Scratch where they encourage and support mothers in finding their unique mothering style. Their book Mothering From Scratch: Finding the Best Parenting Style that Works for You and Your Family is available January 20th from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Christian Book Distributors.