Dealing With Mom Guilt
About the Guest
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Becky BaudouinBecky Baudouin is an author and speaker. She is the author of Enjoy Every Minute and Other Ridiculous Things We Say to Moms, and Cancer, Faith, and Unexpected Joy: What My Mother Taught Me About How to Live and How to Die. A former columnist for Chicago's Daily Herald newspaper, her three daughters supplied her with enough material for a five-year-run with her column, "A Mom's Point of View." Several of her articles have also been published in Focus on the Family's Thriving Fam...more
Moms can experience continuous waves of guilt over their parenting. On today’s program, Becky Baudouin unmasks the lies so that moms may walk in the transformational grace of God.
Dealing With Mom Guilt
Dave: Alright, so I’ve got two moms in the studio today. I’m going to ask my wife, Ann, this question—
Dave: —first. It’s: “If you had to think of one word, just one, to describe being a mom, the word would be…”
Ann: Oh, that’s hard. I can’t—
Dave: You don’t have to take that long.
Ann: I know; I know: “Overwhelming?” I have to put the other one with it: “Great.”
Dave: I thought you’d say, “Beautiful.” “Overwhelming” is the first word? [Laughter]
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson. You can find at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today.
Dave: It’s interesting—there was a survey in 2014—and I’m going to ask you moms if this is true—it said one in four working moms cry alone, at least, once a week.
Ann: I would say, even moms that are staying at home, are probably crying two times a week. I think both are super hard. But yes, I think that could be true for sure.
Dave: We’ve got some help today.
Ann: I’m so excited!
Dave: You are?
Ann: Yes, I’m so excited!
Dave: Well, tell the listeners who we’ve got.
Ann: We have with us today Becky Baudouin, and she’s written a book called Enjoy Every Minute: And Other Ridiculous Things We Say to Moms. [Laughter]
Becky, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Becky: Thank you; I’m excited to be here.
Ann: All you moms out there, you’re welcome. [Laughter] Because we’re going to start talking about things that people have said to you/that people have made you feel great about or guilty about, and we’re going to tackle these issues.
Dave: Yes; you’re a mom of three?
Becky: Yes, three daughters.
Dave: Three kids; how old are they?
Becky: Twenty-two, twenty, and fifteen.
Dave: What a great title.
Becky: Thank you.
Dave: Did you come up with that?
Becky: I did; I’ve had this on my heart for a long time. I knew this was the title I wanted. Most people think it’s funny.
Ann: Now that our kids are out of the house, yes, I do think that: “Yes, we do need to enjoy every minute.” People used to always tell me that, though, when I was a young mom. What did you think when people said that to you as a young mom?
Becky: As a young, overwhelmed mom—that would be the word I would pick when my kids were younger.
Dave: Wait; that would be your word?
Becky: But right now, I would say, “Transforming”; because I have been and am being transformed, as a mom, as I raise my kids. That kind of encompasses, I think, the wonderful, and the difficult, and all of it.
Dave: Obviously, the book is all these ridiculous sort of things that have been said. We can walk through many of them. Even the first one: “Enjoy every minute, because time goes so fast,”—what is the thought—of like, “Really?”
Becky: Yes; it is because, like I’m in the stage now, I have to stop myself from saying it; because, when I see moms with their little kids, especially little girls—
Ann: You feel it!
Becky: —I just want to say, “Oh, my girls used to be that age. Enjoy it because it goes so fast.” I can see that now. It’s always moms, who are further down the road; and it’s often in the grocery store is when they will tell you that.
But when I was in the grocery store with kids, and moms would say that to me, I would just think, “I know; I know. I’m supposed to be enjoying every minute. I know that it’s going fast, or it’s going to go fast; but it does not feel like it’s going fast, and some moments are really awful; they’re terrible!” [Laughter]
The best thing about them is they’re momentary, and you move through them; but you never hear moms of young children say this to other moms of young children, ever. It’s something that is/it’s when you’re looking back on it that you see that.
There’s 12 clichés or myths in the book—well-intentioned; there’s a nugget of truth in most of them—but I had so much fun picking them apart a little bit, and using some humor, and then digging deeper to kind of find: “What do moms really need to hear?”
Ann: That’s really good. What else did you say in this chapter of “Enjoy Every Minute”?
Becky: One of the things—the Scripture foundation for this first chapter, and then for really the whole book and the view of motherhood that I really want us to really take hold of—is Psalm 84; and verses 5-7 says, “Blessed are those whose strength is in You, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.” I love that phrase, so I really am encouraging moms to view motherhood as a pilgrimage. It’s a little—we talk about it being a journey—but a pilgrimage is a long trip with a spiritual significance. I think that is a great definition for motherhood and for parenting.
Becky: With that comes an awareness that it’s lifelong: we don’t have to figure everything out today; we don’t have to fix every problem right now.
Ann: That’s good, just in and of itself; because when you’re in it, you feel like this is the hardest/the biggest thing you’ll ever face.
Ann: You feel overwhelmed by the decision making and what you’re—it could be potty training—but you’re just in it. And to realize, “Oh, this is just a phase; it’s just part of that journey,”—
Becky: “It’s part of the journey”; yes.
Ann: —is a good reminder.
Then the verse continues, “As they pass through the Valley of Baca.” What’s the Valley of Baca?
Becky: I talk about the Valley of Tears/the Valley of Weeping.
Ann: That’s what it means.
Becky: Yes; but it says: “They make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength till each appears before God in Zion.”
This Psalm is so beautiful. It’s the Psalm that talks about dwelling in the presence of God. The idea with this is just, as we pass through even the valleys of motherhood and parenting, they can become places of springs; because God is with us. We hold the long view. There’s also then this expectation that we’re going to go through hills and valleys. I think part of what makes motherhood hard is thinking, “It’s not supposed to be this hard,”—
Becky: —looking around and thinking—“Everybody else seems like they’re doing just fine; what’s wrong with me?”
Ann: Yes, especially on social media, like, “These women have it together.”
Walk us back to your beginning of being a mom. What did it look like for you? Did you feel overwhelmed?
Becky: I felt overwhelmed in the sense that I never felt like I was ever going to be caught up again with anything. It’s like always this feeling of just never being able to catch up.
But I remember just the expectation part of it. I wanted to be a mom; I was so happy to finally become a mom. We lost our first baby; so by the time we had Katelyn, I was so ready and just couldn’t wait. Then the disappointment, I think, of seeing some of the things in myself; I wasn’t the mom that I imagined I would be. I never thought I would be perfect, but I certainly didn’t think I would be angry.
Ann: Did you ever have this thought: “Who am I?!” “What have I become?!” I never/I don’t think I ever really yelled; and then I could see myself: I remember going to church, and I was yelling to the kids in the minivan. Dave, of course, is the pastor; and he’s already there. I see myself, in the rearview mirror, yelling; and I thought, “What has happened to me?!” Then, I have this thought of: “My kids have done this to me.” Then it goes deeper; and think, “No, you are really messed up.”
Ann: Then you feel this sense of shame or guilt even. Do you think most moms come to that point of feeling like, “What’s happened?”
Becky: Yes; and I think that some of these—even with “I should be enjoying every minute,”—there’s this internal dialogue that we all have. But some of those well-intentioned things people say, or that we think, turns into really negative self-talk/like some of the things you just said: “I’m really messed up,” “What is wrong with me? I shouldn’t be this way,” “I’m the pastor’s wife; I shouldn’t be struggling,” “I’m a Christian; I shouldn’t be getting angry like this.”
Then we can talk about mom guilt, too; because that is just/I knew I wanted to talk about that in the book. It’s something that most moms would say they deal with on a daily basis. I don’t know what it’s like for dads.
Dave: I was just going to say—
Becky: Do dads have dad guilt?
Dave: —I was just going to say, “Is mom guilt different from dad guilt?”
Ann: I don’t know.
Dave: Explain what mom guilt is, and I’ll tell you if it’s the same.
Ann: Go ahead, Becky.
Becky: First of all, I knew I wanted to hear from other moms on this; so I put it out on social media and thought, “I’ll ask moms to chime in and say, ‘What kinds of things do you feel guilty about, as a mom, and what does it sound like in your head?’”
I thought I would get a lot of comments, and there would be this really engaging online conversation. What I found is that none of the moms wanted to talk about it publically.
But I invited them to private message me; and my inbox was flooded with very raw, honest—I put a lot of them in the book.
Dave: Way to go: they private message you, but then you put it in the book.
Becky: Oh, I absolutely asked for permission; and none of their names are put in there.
Dave: I know; I’m kidding.
Ann: Let’s hear what some of those sounded like.
Becky: What I found is moms feel guilty over almost everything/a lot of things that are outside of their control. Young moms, or moms of young children, were saying: “I feel guilty that they don’t sleep well,” “My baby’s not sleeping through the night,” “They don’t eat well,” or “They get sick.” I remember feeling so bad that I let my daughter get an ear infection—that’s how I took it on myself—that I had somehow allowed this.
Dave: Now, do moms feel that?—like it’s your fault.
Ann: Oh, yes; absolutely.
Dave: Your daughter got an ear infection; it’s not your fault.
Becky: I know. Now, in my head now, I know that that’s—I’ll just say it’s irrational—it’s not true; but in the moment, you think you have more control than what you do; so when things like that happen, it’s just this sense of: “It must be my fault.”
Then your kids get a little older; and maybe they’re not behaving well; or they start to struggle; maybe they struggle socially or in school. Then they even get a little bit older than that, and you start to see things; and you just feel guilty about everything. I even had several moms said, “I feel guilty that I can’t provide a sibling for my only child.”
Becky: That’s certainly something that we’re not in control over.
Becky: Then I had moms, who were in the empty nest season of life, who still were feeling guilty about so many things as their kids left home.
Ann: Regrets/then it turns into regrets.
Ann: Or if they see their kids maybe taking a wrong path, they put it all on themselves, like: “What did I do?” and “My friend’s kids are super successful, and my kid is still living at home. It must be me.”
Becky: Yes, comparing your kids to other people’s kids.
Then I also saw that there was a progression from what I would call guilt into shame.
Ann: Explain that.
Becky: The guilt that I would hear sounded like: “I yelled at my child; I shouldn’t have done that,” “I lost my temper,” “I hurt my child; I need to apologize.”
Shame sounded like: “I’m a horrible mother,” “My kids deserve better than to have a mom like me. They’d be better off with someone else.” That’s a really dangerous level of shame.
One of the things that I got from that was I think there is a difference. I think it’s important to identify: “Are we feeling true guilt?” or “Are we feeling shame?” The way that I would break this down is: true guilt, some people would call it conviction or godly sorrow in Scripture. I’m going off of 2 Corinthians 7:10 that says, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”
True guilt is something we want to feel. When I do something wrong—when I lose my temper and yell at my child—I want to feel guilt. I want to feel like/we want our kids to feel guilty when they do something wrong. We want to know that we’ve done something wrong: we want to repent, ask for forgiveness from God, the person who we hurt, and do the repair work that needs to be done.
Ann: That can be a conviction of God’s Spirit.
Ann: It can be a healthy thing; so then we automatically: “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that,” and then, that’s it: we give it to God; we repent; we turn the other way.
Dave: But the shame part is: “I’m a messed-up parent.”
Dave: It’s an identity.
Becky: So then guilt is about what I did, and I think the shame is more about who I am.
Ann: Yes, did you ever feel that? Can you think of a time that you felt that?
Becky: Oh, yes. I felt like/growing up in my home, anger was out of control. Someone actually said to me, “You interned in the school of anger.” I never had thought of it that way; but that was/as much as I didn’t want to become an angry mother, when that started coming out, and I began to really see that underneath my anger was fear.
Ann: —which that alone is really insightful; because we’ve all heard: “Anger is a second emotion.” You track back and now you realize, “Oh, my first emotion was fear.”
Becky: Yes, it’s been so helpful to be able to then take my fear to God and be honest: “What am I really afraid of?” Often, it’s something I don’t even have control over.
Dave: It’s interesting—when you talk about the second emotion—again, like Ann said, you go right back to fear. Most of us—like I never did—I was like yelling until I understood it was connected to something. I remember, as I was studying this and learning this, because I had some anger that was inappropriate—I mean, not hitting or—just yelling. I studied it a little bit.
Another first emotion we skip over, especially as a parent, is frustration. I remember trying to fix my dryer; and my son, CJ, comes down. What is he?—six?
Ann: —not even.
Dave: —five/four? He wants to help Daddy. I’m like, “Okay, just take this little screw head and screw this thing in.” He couldn’t do it; it kept falling off the thing. At first, I was so gentle; I was like, “Oh,”—I remember thinking—“This is so cool; Dad and son.” But as he kept missing the head of the screw, I’m like, “CJ, just put it on. CJ!” Next thing I knew, I’m sort of yelling.
He/literally, I just feel his little body crawl out; he’s headed upstairs. There I am, laying in the lint. I remember hearing his little footsteps go upstairs; and I’m like, “Oh, my goodness. He’s going to remember Dad as an angry man.” I remember thinking, “I’ve got to get a handle on where this anger is coming from.”
It was everything you’re talking about—it’s just like, “Enjoy every minute,”—when it’s crazy, and it’s chaos, you’re frustrated. Yet, that’s where we live, as moms and dads; isn’t it?
Dave: We’re just/they get the anger part; and we never connect it to, like you said, fear: maybe at what you’re doing with your kids, or how they’re going to turn out, or frustration; or even emotional hurt is another one.
Dave: But that’s insightful that you were able to pull that out, as a mom: “I’m afraid!”
Ann: Take us back to that then. You realized you were feeling afraid as a young mom. That was displaying itself in anger. Then what happened? How did you figure the rest out?
Becky: For me, the grace of God is so transformative. What that means is that, even in the middle of a moment that is going very badly—because I am getting angry/I’m expressing my anger in a way that’s hurtful—the more sensitive I become to the work of the Holy Spirit; and also other moms that I’m friends with, and I know their stories, and I know how they have been wounded—sometimes that pops into my mind and gives me insight. To be able to just, in the moment or shortly after, go back and own it; and ask for forgiveness.
I tell the story in the book of the first time I remember getting angry with my oldest daughter, Kate. She was six months old, and she’d gotten this ear infection. I remember giving/squirting the medicine in her mouth, and she spit it all out. I lost it! I grabbed the frying pan that still had our scrambled eggs in it; I threw it in the sink; I slammed the doors. Then I caught her, out of the corner of my eye; she was just stunned; she was just looking at me. I remember thinking, “Oh, I totally lost it. But she’s so young; she’ll never remember, and I never do it again.” [Laughter] That was how I lived my early years, just thinking, “I think I could really pull this off and be almost perfect if I just keep trying; and maybe, they won’t remember.”
Ann: Did you/I prayed that: “Please, Jesus, let them forget all of this.” [Laughter]
Becky: Then fast forward 15/16 years; now she’s a teenager. We’re fighting/you know, butting heads. I remember one day in her room, and it was fear underneath. I saw something that she was looking at; it was actually a story that her teacher had asked her to read for school. I walked in, and saw on the iPad some words; and I just flipped out; I’m like, “What are you reading?!” She’s like, “It’s for school.” I’m like/well, then I’m even more upset and walked out of her room; I slammed the door.
I like to slam doors. I can’t anymore; because we re-did our kitchen, and now we have soft-close doors. [Laughter] I really try not to slam doors. 8But I slammed her door and this picture frame fell off the wall; it’s a cherished frame of pictures of her and her sister. I opened the door; said, “I’m so sorry.” It didn’t break; we hung it back up. I said, “I’m so sorry. I’ll never do it again.”
Then, a couple of months later, we had an even bigger fight. I left her room; I slammed the door. As soon as the door left my fingers, I had that regret.
Ann: You remembered.
Becky: I just cringed. The door slammed. I heard the picture frame fall again. My daughter yelled, “You broke my frame!”
I just thought, 15 years of like: “I’m trying, but I keep doing the same thing.” That was a defining moment, really, just in the sense of: “I’ve got to really look at this. What’s underneath my anger?—because I’m really hurting the people that I love the most.”
A couple of days later, she came to me and said, “Will you help me fix my frame?” We sat at the dining room table, and we put some wood filler in the crack of the frame. We put some stain over it.
Ann: Go back and share the conversation that you had with your daughter about that/about your anger. Did you talk to her about it?
Becky: I did. I came back: I said I was sorry; I said I was wrong. The problem was that I had done it a couple of months ago and said I wouldn’t do it again. She was angry, and she was so hurt. There was this: “You can say you’re sorry; but if you’re going to keep doing it…”
I think that’s what can be so frustrating as a parent. It’s not like we just mess up once, and then are able to fix it, and not do it again; we’ve/I think so many of us feel like, “I keep just doing the same thing over and over again.”
For me, the grace came when we came to the table, and we sat together, and we were repairing the frame. I just thought, “This is what God is doing in our relationship. That’s what His grace looks like. We are not going to get it right every time. We are not going to always be about to change completely, or as quickly as we would like to, but we keep doing the work; we keep coming back to the table; we keep saying we’re sorry; we keep showing up; we get help to understand what’s going on.
I was doing all of that work and trying to understand. There has been growth. I still get angry, but I don’t think that I do the same things that I did before. And the best thing I can do is, when I know that I have messed up again, is come back and humbly own it; and say I’m sorry; and ask God for forgiveness; and then do the repair work in the relationship.
Ann: Yes, I love that your daughter came to you. It says that she trusts you—
Ann: —even that she would ask you to fix the frame with her. It shows that you have a good relationship with her.
But that part, even in parenting, of going deep into the shame—I have felt that—where I have turned it from: “I did something wrong,” to “I am so messed up; I am so broken.” We know that there is an enemy of our soul, who loves/he’s called the accuser, the accuser of the brethren. Sometimes, I get discouraged of how often I went there and I believed him. I would agree, like: “I know; I am broken. I am messed up. I am going to mess up my kids.”
I think our Father, who’s like, “Oh Ann,”—it is the gospel—“I’ve come to give you hope and grace because of the cross. I’ve set you free from the whys, and you don’t have to go down that same path.” Will I continue to mess up?—probably; and hopefully I’m getting better, because I’m seeking Jesus. I’m asking Him, also, “Lord, what’s underneath all of that?”
I do love Psalm 139. I’ll never forget—I have a friend, who’s super confident as a young mom—where I was thinking, “My kids would probably be better off if So-and-so was raising them.” I remember she said, “No, I don’t think that! I think that God put my kids under my roof, because He’s already equipped me; He formed me. Psalm 139: ‘For You formed my inward parts. You knitted me together in my mother’s womb.’” She said, “When God formed me, He knew the children that I would be raising.” Some are adopted; some are biological. She said, “I’m confident, everything in me, even the messed-up parts, God’s going to use for His glory.”
Ann: I was like, “Oh! I need to have that. I need to have: ‘Lord, You knew me before I was created, and You know my weaknesses. You know my strengths, and You know that You’ve already given me inside what I need to raise these kids under Your roof.’”
Bob: All of us, as parents, know our flaws/our failings. I think it’s easy for moms to pull back and think, “I’m ruining my kids.” Yet, God’s grace is sufficient in our weaknesses. We just need to keep crying out to God.
Dave and Ann Wilson have been talking to Becky Baudouin, the author of a book called Enjoy Every Minute: And Other Ridiculous Things We Say to Moms. We are making that book available this week to FamilyLife Today listeners, those of you who can help support this ministry with a donation. Your support of Family Life Today makes this kind of practical encouragement available, day in and day out, for moms and dads/husbands and wives, as we seek to effectively develop godly marriages and families.
Your investment in FamilyLife is really an investment in the next generation of families, who are coming to us for help and hope for their marriage and family. When you make a donation today, we’d love to send you a copy of Becky Baudouin’s book, Enjoy Every Minute: And Other Ridiculous Things We Say to Moms. You can donate online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can call to donate: 1-800-FL-TODAY is the number. Again, the website to donate is FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Thanks, in advance, for your support of this ministry.
Have you ever had somebody say to you, “Listen, God is not going to give you more that you can handle”; and you think, “I can’t handle this/what I’m going through, I can’t handle it”? Well, tomorrow, Dave and Ann Wilson will continue their conversation with Becky Baudouin. They’ll talk about how we should think rightly about the challenges that come our way and whether it’s more than we can handle or not. I hope you can tune in for that.
On behalf of our hosts Dave and Ann Wilson, I am Bob Lepine. We’ll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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