The courteous crossing guard at the elementary school opened the car door for Drew to exit. A bleary-eyed Alyssa sat across, still in her pajamas – no shoes – and long curly red hair a mess. I had managed a ponytail but no makeup. Embarrassed that Drew was the only one of the three of us who was presentable, I couldn’t help but think what might be going through this gentleman’s mind. It must be nice not to have to get to work and be able to go back home and do nothing.
As soon as that thought entered my mind – because of course this wasn’t in this gentleman’s thoughts – I remembered just a few months earlier a similar situation. Only that time, I was dressed in my nice work clothes, hair groomed, makeup just right, and jewelry matching. Alyssa, similarly, had a cute outfit on, complete with tame red locks. At that time I couldn’t help but think what must have been going through that same gentleman’s mind. Tsk, tsk, tsk, taking your baby girl to someone else to take care of, while you go pursue your own fulfillment in a career.
Again, that was probably the furthest thing from this gentleman’s mind, but the unwelcome thoughts in my mind told me a lot about myself and how I viewed my choices as a mom.
The first six years of Drew’s life and the first two years of Alyssa’s life I was a working mother, and this past year I’ve been an at-home mom. I could list the hardships and benefits of both ways of life, but that’s a post for another day.
But I think what I’ve learned most prominently is that most moms – no matter what we do – carry a heavy load of burdens we aren’t meant to carry. Guilt for doing this or not doing that. Regret that we didn’t do something differently. Dreams of what we’d like to do but doubt that we’ll ever get there. Doubt that what we’re doing isn’t the best choice.
We attribute judgment from others that most of the time isn’t there. In a world of social media, mommy blogs, and Pinterest, there’s no absence of opinion where we can feel like we’re not measuring up. We’re constantly second-guessing ourselves. And in the moment of deepest despair, we look up Lysa TerKeurst’s book Am I Messing Up My Kids? on our kindle at 10 p.m. (Yes, I did that.)
If you can identify, let me encourage you to take action with these thoughts and put them in their place. They are only tripping us up. What I did one night was list all the ways I felt I wasn’t measuring up and why. Then, after I made the list, I prayed over it and identified whether I was feeling that way because it was true guilt or false guilt. True guilt is a conviction from God that this is an area I need to genuinely work on. False guilt can come in the form of comparison to another mom, comparison to an ideal, unrealistic expectations from others, or unrealistic expectations of ourselves.
You know what I found? Only one area in my litany of guilt feelings was an area I felt the Lord leading me to work on. The others I let go or am working on letting go.
Whether we work full-time, work part-time, work at home, stay home, public-educate, private-educate, or homeschool, let’s just work on letting go of the false guilt and let’s seek the Lord. It’s Him to whom we’re accountable for our families, after all, not anyone else.
And while we’re at giving ourselves some grace, let’s give grace to others who may be making different choices than we do. We never know what heavy burdens they may live under.