Let me tell you the kind of mom I am.
Last week I dropped my girls off at school and realized I hadn’t bothered to listen to a weather report. “Mom, I’m cold,” my eight-year-old complained when I peeled her jacket off and hung it on her hook.
“You’re cold? Hmmm…. I guess it is a little chilly today. But you’ll be fine, right? You wear short sleeves at home all the time.”
“Yeah, Mom, but that’s at home!” Uh. As if that logic was supposed to explain something.
“Okay,” I said, “well, grab your jacket if you get too chilly. I think you’ll be fine. It will warm up by the afternoon.”
She walked into her classroom, and as I departed the building I did a quick scan around the halls to see what the other kids were wearing. Long sleeves, sweatshirts, all of them. Booger.
That’s when it hit me. The mom guilt.
What kind of a mother sends her child to school in short sleeves when it’s 40 degrees outside? Why couldn’t you have checked the weather app? Now she’s going to be freezing her tushy off all day, and it’s your fault. You have caused your child discomfort! Distress! Suffering!
You’re a BAD MOM.
I slid into the driver’s seat of my minivan and glanced at the clock. 8:20—which meant I had exactly 20 minutes to make it to my chiropractor appointment across town. Not enough time to stop home to grab a sweatshirt and drive it back up to school. But—Walmart was only three minutes away.
I steered toward the store, made a beeline toward the children’s department and grabbed the first long-sleeve hoodie I saw—six bucks, thank you, Walmart. Then I rushed through the self-checkout line and made it back to school just as the kiddos were settling in their desks for quiet reading time.
“Mom, what are you doing here?” My daughter gave me a crinkled brow look.
“I bought you a sweatshirt,” I whispered. “I didn’t want you to be cold. Look, it even has thumb holes.”
“Uhhhh…. Okay. Why do I need a sweatshirt?”
Because, child. Because your mother loves you and was thinking about you and needed to know you were okay. Because I am just crazy enough to go to Walmart with no time to spare, just to BUY YOU A SWEATSHIRT as if you don’t have six others already stuffed in your closet, all so I can get this wretched mom guilt off my case. It’s because I CARE, okay???
Or is it? Really?
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Is this the action of a mother who loves, or a mother who worries?
One is a virtue, the other is an issue.
And I’m honestly not sure which side I’m on.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:25–26)
Over and over in the Bible we read God telling us not to worry, not to fear, quit being anxious because it doesn’t get you anywhere and God is watching over you. He is in control. He’s got your back, and your child’s back, and guess what—a well-fed American second grader sitting in a heated building in April is NOT going to freeze to death nor probably even give a thought to her short sleeves as soon as recess flies. She’s got other stuff to do.
And so do you, Mom.
Worry doesn’t achieve anything.
Trusting in God does.
What does that look like in terms of mom guilt? Well, for one, worry causes the guilt in the first place. It’s a vicious cycle—not trusting leads to worry which leads to guilt. Therefore, it makes sense to reverse the process and begin with trust which will mitigate the worry which will annihilate the guilt. Sound good to you? It sure sounds good to me.
And secondly, if God says “do not worry about your life” (or your child’s life), then He must have a good reason that supports the command. It’s right there at the end of the passage.
“Are you not much more valuable…?”
It kicks me in the gut to realize this, but I’ve got to admit worrying about my kids is essentially an accusation that God doesn’t care. That He’s not watching over them, allowing some hardships to shape them for their ultimate good and protecting them from far more. And if that’s the case—if God is not trustworthy—then, of course, I’m the one who has to step up, to show my children all the caring I can muster, because who else will ever love them and clothe them like I do?
Yes, I know God wasn’t going to fly down from his throne to toss my daughter a hoodie. He could if He wanted to but I don’t think He works that way.
Because He always meets our greater need.
The trouble wasn’t that my daughter was chilly. It’s that I fixated on it as if all the woes in her life were my fault. The sweatshirt thing was a symptom of my overall tendency toward anxiety about my kids—as if God maybe shouldn’t have put me in charge of them because I just keep messing it up.
Oh please. God says I am so much more valuable than that. More than beating myself up, measuring my worth according to whichever self-imposed parenting rules I followed or broke on any given day. More than allowing the burden of guilt to take over my soul.
I’m worth way more than that. And so are you.
I guess I don’t really regret buying the sweatshirt. As much as guilt played a role, I truly did have loving intentions, too. That’s the thing—love and guilt can so often muddle together. Yet one is from God and the other is not. So let’s work harder at trusting Him who can see the difference and help us to do the same. Amen?
Now watch this: How identity controls your child’s behavior
This post originally appeared on BeckyKopitzke.com and was republished with permission.
Becky Kopitzke is the author of “The SuperMom Myth: Conquering the Dirty Villains of Motherhood” and “Generous Love: Discover the Joy of Living ‘Others First’. Becky lives in lovely northeast Wisconsin with her husband and their two daughters, where her home office is overrun with bouncy balls and tween craft supplies. For weekly, keeping-it-real encouragement, visit Becky at beckykopitzke.com.