We’ve been chatting about something most moms feel at some point in their lives: mama guilt. What do we do with it? How does it affect our parenting? Tracy and Jen shared earlier this month, be sure to check out their stories. Today, it’s my (Kim) turn and I’m sharing something I don’t typically talk about so here we go . . .
He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.” Isaiah 40:11, NLT
I sat next to my oldest girl, stuffed into an auditorium seat along with hundreds of other students and parents listening to the college president speak.
How did we get there? College freshman orientation. Where had the time flown? Wasn’t I just a student myself with my entire life spread out before me?
Instead, I sat next to Kelsey trying to hold back the tears that threatened to spill. This girl and I had been through so much together. Years of just the two of us as I parented alone. Learning to combine our little family with another as we became a blended family of five and, eventually, adding Emma for a total of six, followed by years that tumbled with trials and hardship, laughter and love.
The president’s words invaded my moment of reminiscing. I tuned in to hear him challenge us to encourage our kids to leave our nest and allow them to fly on their own.
I chuckled and nudged her – that’s exactly what I said! She didn’t like hearing that so much. I believe one of my jobs as a mom is to raise my kids to leave the nest and care for themselves. I still believe that. I wanted Kelsey to take care of herself, no matter what life brought her way.
Oh, how I wanted her to live well and lead a different life than I created.
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous – how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me,O God. They cannot be numbered!” Psalm 139:13-17, NLT
I was in my second year of college and on track to become a teacher. I didn’t have a boyfriend but yearned to be loved. The yearning became so strong that I chose sex before marriage and ended up pregnant. There’s more to that story but some details aren’t meant to be shared, only left in the past with grace. But that single decision led another and I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl though I was barely past the girl stage myself. I was twenty years old.
Even then I determined to protect and provide for my girl, no matter what. I determined to raise her to be strong and courageous and compassionate and deeply, deeply loved.
But there were days, and sometimes still are, when the weight of guilt presses down accusing me of all I’ve done wrong, pointing its snarly finger at every place I’ve failed, how I failed her.
When those thoughts and feelings of failure take root, others often join in until I tumble headfirst toward despair. They remind me that life didn’t get easier after I married. In fact, it turned much more difficult when we lost her youngest sister in a fire that destroyed all we knew and grief ripped at our souls. I did my best to protect her from the worst and tried to make up for what she lost, because she lost so very much, but I could only do so much.
So I pushed and encouraged and prayed, sometimes from a place of genuine love but often through a heart filled with guilt. Oh, how I love my girl and wanted to keep her safe, shielding her from the wounds of life. I didn’t want her to feel the pain and rejection I experienced from being a young single mom and the hardship that followed.
My fear of her pain and being crushed by my own pushed me to learn more about God’s character as I experienced the depth of His love. I realized the greatest gift I could give my girl was a life whole heartedly pursuing Jesus. That meant I needed to give Jesus access to my whole heart, allowing Him to heal the broken places and breathe life into the wounded spaces. That meant I needed to release the crushing power of guilt and shame to the One who frees and doesn’t condemn, and choose to trust God to redeem and restore all that had been destroyed.
It was during those dark days that I also began to learn in order to truly fight for my girl, I needed to wage war in a different way. I couldn’t protect her from the sorrows of this world, so much was beyond my control. But I could pray to the One who ultimately protects and loves her infinitely more than I do.
So when the spiral of despair begin and the feelings swoop in, I grab hold of them and bring them to Jesus in prayer. Scripture says it this way:
The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way – never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose though and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, The Message
I started to see a better way to protect her, to fight for her. I longed to see my girl experience healing in her own heart and soul, and to grow in wisdom and strength. I longed for her to see God’s hand at work, especially during those darkest of days.
There’s such a tender balance between allowing our kids to experience pain trusting they find hope. It’s such a fine line to walk praying they’ll see Jesus knowing it often happens at the bottom of a pit. But pray I did, and will continue to until my final breath.
As I sat next to Kelsey at her college freshman orientation and allowed the tidal wave of emotions splash over me – the guilt and hope, the excitement and fear, the love and loss – I was reminded again that God is bigger than my feelings, and He is greater than my failures and guilt. For sitting beside me was a beautiful, strong, and independent young woman who had begun to learn to follow Jesus on her own. She could have chosen a different way or even hidden from her own pain. Instead, she was learning to fly, just as her mama had prayed.
Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:30-31, NLT
How do you navigate mama’s guilt? Join the conversation by commenting below or jump over to our Facebook page and share. We mamas need to stick together!