Guilt is from the Devil. My Daddy always says that. He's a preacher man. Guilt is an amazing monster and it terrorizes and destroys us uniquely--it's a special guilt, just for you which is the worst part. We all respond to it differently and sometimes the people around us can't identify and then we feel super alone. Exposed, ugly and alone.
Yesterday I got online to shop for shoes and it just pulled me in. I had like 57,000 pages to look at and I couldn't stop until I'd seen them all. Meanwhile it was morning and the kids were awake and hungry and I was just sending them to the kitchen to scavenge for stuff--"gets some dry cereal, there's Cheese-Its already open, have a pear". I wanted to stop and be a mom, but not really. I wanted to want to, but mostly I wanted them to go away so I could have a lazy Sunday morning with my coffee and no jobs.
I was remembering how this kind of scenario used to look. Back in the day when I had only two kids I was seriously struggling. Two kids was enough to start upsetting the balance when daddy wasn't home and that's when I really started realizing how much time I had been enjoying for myself. I found myself feeling so resentful about all of the needs--the constant needs. Baby is awake and it's 4:00am, baby is poopy and my eyes aren't even open (I mean what a way to wake up), toddler is already up and hungry for breakfast and getting into trouble and I have to sit here and breastfeed and I haven't even had coffee. I need to get to the grocery store, but toddler is taking off her shoes and hiding my keys and throwing a temper tantrum and running into the corner of the table while baby poops (again?) through her cute little outfit and screams in my ears and needs to breastfeed (again!) I can't possibly think about getting myself ready. When would I do that? Why would I do that. Who even cares and baby will spit up on me in 5 seconds anyway, and mud will get on my clothes when I chase toddler through the parking lot in the rain. And I'm supposed to still keep the place clean even though toddler is walking along behind me taking things off of shelves and getting into literally EVERYTHING. And she wants stuff. She wants stuff all of the time. And everyone needs to eat all of the time and their are enough dishes to rebuild the Great Pyramid. And I don't like playing Polly Pockets, they barely work. I hate Disney Princess costumes all over my house and I hate that my sweet little, pretty little girls want to get undressed constantly so that they can wear them, leaving their clothes all over my house and their cute little faces covered in play make-up that I have to clean (off of their faces and off of the carpet and whatever else). Everything that they need or want costs me. Anything I do for them comes at the expense of me. I feel this knot of resentment because what about me? Am I not a person? Do I not count for anything anymore beyond what I can do to facilitate them?
But the guilt is way worse than the resentment. What kind of a person am I? I thought I was a good person, a nice person, a good mom. I wanted to be a mom, it's really all I ever wanted. I want my kids to have a wonderful life and to have memories of it being fun and happy. I want them to have the childhood I remember--the one where mommy and daddy love us and want us and lay down their lives for us and the world accepts us and is filled with possibility. But instead they got me. Selfish. I feel sorry for them. How could God give them me? If he loved them He wouldn't have. I would do anything for them--I would jump in front of a moving bus for them (although once a bee stung me and I literally dropped the baby. I was horrified. My instincts kicked in and I saved myself. Gross). I mean I love them more than anything in the world, but if I'm honest with myself, maybe not more than me. In my little world inside my little head, this kind of crushing, suffocating, overwhelming guilt turns to anger (guilt=anger for me. It's just the way I roll). I was so angry. Angry that I wasn't getting my needs met, angry that my kids weren't' getting their needs met. Angry that in order for us to survive it would be them or me. Angry that I couldn't willingly and enthusiastically chose them. Angry at myself, angry at God, at Jacob, and my kids. Angry with all of the other moms who seemed to do it effortlessly. I felt so alone. I was dying of guilt.
I don't know what broke it really. It was a series of things. It was a journey of discovering that I am not perfect. I mean, of course! I didn't think that I was, but I guess somehow I thought I was supposed to be. I knew I was selfish and petty and impatient, and critical (and, and, and), but somehow I was still surprised that it was showing up, and angry. I thought that the success of my family and the happiness of my kids required it. I didn't know that I thought that or I never would have done it. It wasn't conscious. I remember riding along in the car with my sis and pouring it all out and I could tell she was trying to understand. She kept saying I don't see what you're talking about, I mean I hear you and I'm so sorry you're hurting, but I don't see it. She didn't expect me to be perfect so it didn't surprise and horrify her when I wasn't. Sure, she's seen me holler at my kids a time or two, but so? They're annoying sometimes. She knows I love them, she knows they know I love them. She knows I like my house orderly and the kids are little animals and she's sure that's really frustrating. So?
It just started to clear up. It's like God gave me Claritin. The world does not depend on me being good. My family does not depend on me being good. My kids do not need me to be good. God is good. My kids do have a perfect parent, and it isn't me! But he gave these kids to me and me to them, and it is good. "Other mothers"--the ones who are doing it right, better, different--they are not right for my job. I am the right person for this job. I know this because God is good, and He chose me to do it. He must think I'm capable of it and He loves me, so really I am free! Free to do this job, to do it sometimes poorly, to say "I'm sorry" and move on. I am loved, I am forgiven.
Forgiveness is so freeing. The guilt and anger and blaming were doing more damage than anything else I was or wasn't doing. The tone was so unhappy, so bound up. Like a time bomb waiting to go off. But nothing is riding on me. Who do I think I am that so much would be riding on me being perfect? That's just silly. Later, when telling some of this to my mom, she looked at me quizzically and said "I yelled at you guys all of the time, I used to sleep until 11:00 on Saturdays and spent most of your childhood in depression". I don't even remember that. I mean I remember that she used to sleep late, and I guess I remember getting hollered at periodically, but so? I remember that she loved me, she gave everything to me. She was an amazing mom and I can't even imagine if I had been raised by another. I want to be just like her.
I hope this is encouraging and not horrifying. Its not always that great to show people what's inside. Sometimes people judge you and maybe they think less of you, or they pat you on the head and patronize you, but I don't even care anymore. I know who I am. "Know who you are and be that". I know how ugly it gets up inside my head, there's no denying it. Sometimes motherhood is too big a sacrifice for me and I feel sorry for myself and take it out on them. Sometimes I'm a terrible, selfish mother. But I know that God never expected me to be anything but what I am, and I know I'm forgiven. I am always free to face it, to ask them to forgive me too, just like God does. And they always do. They are better at being my kids than I am at being their mom. They are not bound by guilt. They are such great kids, I am so blessed. Maybe you don't struggle with this in exactly the same way. Maybe guilt looks different on you, but I'm sure you feel it too. It's part of the job description. I always have to remind myself that each day is a new day. Who I am is no surprise to God. I am forgiven for yesterday and I am never going to be capable of perfection tomorrow--but nothing is riding on me! God is my perfect parent and believes in me. Not because I can do it right, but because I am unique. I bring myself into this home--all of the great parts of me and all of the ugly--and I was hand-chosen for these kids, for this life, and it is good!