The proverbial encyclopedia entry for "good mom" varies across cultures. I've seen a variety of mothering ideals as I raise my kids in a global city. For some, a distinguishing mark of a good mom is the food she feeds her children. Or the accolades her child earns in school. Or her baby's accessories. Or her child's behavior. The list never ends.
But I've noticed a common thread that threatens to unravel us all. Moms live with a sense of guilt that we'll never be or do enough.
What, then, can save us from this "mommy guilt"? I've heard moms from different religions answer, "Give yourself some grace." We agree that grace is a freeing thing. But we're worlds apart on our ideas about what this grace is, where it comes from, how it frees us, and how we receive it.
From the Christian perspective, the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ on the cross is the apex of God's free grace toward sinners who justly deserve his wrath. We've staked our eternal life on the guilt-lifting, joy-fueling faith that only Christ is enough to reconcile us to God.
So when the shadow of my own mommy guilt creeps up on me in dark moments, these thoughts remind me of God's grace:
In the wake of a "mom fail" I need to bank on the blood-bought promises of God.
I must draw on strength from the One who promised that he would finish the good work he started in me (Phil. 1:6). I can receive comfort from the One who promised that nothing that can be named or thought of would ever be able to separate me from him (Rom. 8:25). I must depend on the One who promised he would be my God, strengthen me, help me, and uphold me with his righteous right hand (Isa. 41:10).
I need to fight against a legalistic approach to motherhood with the strength that only God provides.
I have to guard my heart against believing that today is my chance to be the best mom ever, in order to be at peace with my guilty conscience tonight. I have an Advocate who put himself forward as a sacrifice for my sin, so I have no need to vindicate myself (Rom. 3:24). In my effort to serve God faithfully in my motherhood, I must refuse to entertain the notion that my work can be done through any other strength but God's and to any other end besides his glory. I'm free to abide in Jesus, bearing fruit to the praise of God's glory as a branch grafted in to the life-giving Vine (John 15:1-11).
My pride-filled ego belongs in an eternal time-out.
Jesus frees me from the need to constantly evaluate myself. Instead of obsessively doing mommyhood mirror-checks, my heart can be taken up with Christ as I fix my eyes on him. With my affections bound up in Jesus, I'm free to look at the accomplishments of other moms and rejoice in the beauty of them, like the way I enjoy the wonder of a newborn's tiny fingerprint without regard to myself. The gospel frees me to be the type of mom who replays the day in her mind and feels neither boastful pride nor wallowing self-pity, but joyful thanksgiving to the praise of God's glory.
Christ Is Enough Forever
Whether our emotions agree, the verdict is in: There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1). We're free to bank on all the promises of God because they find their Yes in Jesus (2 Cor. 1:20). We're free to serve with the strength God supplies so that he gets the glory (1 Pet. 4:11). We're free to lay aside every weight and sin and run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:1-2).
No amount of mommy guilt can crush you if Christ was crushed on the cross in your stead. The atonement he achieved is enough to bear away our guilt and shame. The strength of his grace is enough to help us disciple our children like a good soldier/athlete/farmer-Mom (2 Tim. 2:1ff). And the promise of his presence is enough to sustain us through every morning routine, afterschool activity, midnight mothering, and every other season.