Every mom feels mom guilt sometimes. Sterling shares four tools you can use to process the guilt and move on. Don’t live your life with the tension of guilt. God wants you to live with peace. Come listen to find out how.
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We dive into today’s episode, I just want to let you know that I’m now filming these podcast episodes as videos and putting them on YouTube. So if you just go to YouTube and search for Made for Greatness, you can find them. And if you love watching videos and you just want to see me while I’m talking, you can go check those out. Today we’re going to be talking about mom guilt. And here’s the truth. All of us have mom guilt. And that is because all of us have I don’t want to say bigger necessarily, but just some idea of what we want to do. And then we fall short of that.
All of us have an idea of what we think parenting should be, what it should look like, how the children should act, how the house should go. And then when it doesn’t turn out like that, we feel guilty. We think, oh, it’s probably my fault. Brains are very hard on us. They’re very self deprecating. They’re like, probably, though, it’s your fault. And so we’ve been talking about this recently in Masters.
It’s just come up in several of our calls. And so I just wanted to address mom guilt on the podcast. And I also think that mom guilt really surges during the summertime. During the summertime, we have this idea that we’re supposed to give our kids a magical childhood. And so I think we just feel extra mom guilt around that and then around milestones too. So I think we feel extra mom guilt around birthdays or Easter or Christmas or vacations or the times we don’t take vacation. Mom’s guilt comes up a lot. And I’ll share some of my mom’s guilt today, so you can just see what that looks like for me and how I address it.
But it doesn’t matter what the flavor is, really. It’s just really important to notice, oh, I am feeling guilty right now. I am feeling guilty right now. And to just notice that. And we have another episode about mom guilt. So I’ll link that up where it talks about what the purpose of the feeling of guilt is, how God allows us to have the feeling of guilt so that we know when we need to repent and ask for forgiveness. And so when I feel guilt and I feel it, it’s kind of a sinking, heavy feeling in my stomach, almost like an eerie like someone’s behind me or something bad is going to happen to me. That’s what guilt feels like in my body.
Now. When I notice that feeling, I just take a moment. I’m like, Sterling, you are feeling guilty right now. I let my body just be in guilt for a little bit. I don’t try to rush it. I don’t try to get rid of it. It’s like, I am feeling guilty right now. And then I check in with myself and I check in with the Lord about? Is this something that I should feel bad about? For example, maybe I just spoke sharply to one of my kids, and then I’m walking away, walking down the hallway, and I feel this yucky feeling of guilt that might be appropriate, that I’m feeling guilty.
And as I check in with myself and check in with the Lord, I might want to go apologize to that kiddo. But when I’m scrolling through Instagram and I see someone’s picture of their kids on vacation doing something fabulous or getting dropped off at some awesome looking summer camp, and I feel guilty, I can check in and go, have I done something wrong? Do I need to repent of something? Is there any sinfulness happening here right now? And oftentimes in those instances, the answer is no, I haven’t done anything wrong. So that’s where I need to just check in with my fantasy self, and I’ll just go, oh, Sterling, there’s a fantasy idea that you have right now that children should go on vacation, get to enjoy Popsicles. This is such a silly example, but my husband really doesn’t love it when the kids have Popsicles because they get really sticky. But I just have this summertime fondness for Popsicles. And so sometimes we’ll go to the store together on dates, and going to the grocery store with no children is just a wonderful date. And I’ll say, let’s get some popsicles. And he’ll be like, OOH, I don’t know.
They’re so sticky. And I will feel this feeling of guilt, like, I want to give kids a Popsicle summer, and it’s terrible if I’m not giving them a Popsicle summer, but I see that ‘s silly like holding a sweet thing on a stick for just a moment. It’s just a thing. It’s not necessary. It doesn’t create strong Christian children. And what my kids actually end up having a lot is my daughter will blend up frozen blueberries and frozen bananas, and they make this blueberry ice cream, and they eat it out of bowls with no sticks, which I’m sure we could figure out how to put them on sticks, but then they would be sticky. And so when I check in with myself and I’m like, hey, Sterling, do you feel fine that the kids are eating the banana blueberry thing in bowls and still having a wonderful life? I’m like, yeah, it’s fine. We do not need to feel guilty about that.
So I think guilt comes up a ton around the summertime because everyone’s doing summer differently, and everyone posts pictures of the highlights of summer and not kids crying because the car is too hot and skin knees at all of the places, public places that we go, and lots of tears and all those things. We don’t document that. We don’t talk about that as much. We just talk about the highlights. So there’s that kind of stuff. And just check in with yourself, hey, do I just have this fantasy that everyone should be doing that? Is that important? Do I actually want to do that? Because when I checked in with myself about the Popsicle thing, because I could have just said to my husband, no, I really want to get Popsicles, and he would have said yes. But I acknowledge like, yes, we have six small children, okay? And I am the one who doesn’t like to split things up. So my husband would probably find getting Popsicles if we only gave them to the girls who are twelve, almost ten, and almost eight.
But I don’t like that because then the boys cry if they see that and it makes me sad. So I thought, well, I’d rather them all eat frozen banana blueberries ice cream rather than get Popsicles to satisfy this fantasy that I have and only the three girls have it. So it was such a calm and logical moment for me. And then you will feel this sense of letting go. Like, you’ve just let go of that fantasy. I wish we could see them as bubbles and then it’s just like, boop, it pops or it floats away. I’m like, oh, that’s not a problem anymore. That was just a fantasy.
And I’m not talking about hopes and dreams. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have any hopes or dreams. I’m talking about delusional fantasies. Like, oh, good families take their kids to Disneyland and we’re not doing that, so we might not be a good family. That’s just a lie. We want to pop those. So check in with yourself about do you just have this fantasy idea of something and it’s not real or it’s not important or it’s not a priority right now? Maybe it’s something you’ll do later. I’ve had to come to peace with a lot of that because when you have a high density of young children, there are just some activities that are not fun and I think we’ll do them later.
So there’s kind of the summertime things, but recently in Masters, I’ve coached a few moms who have felt really guilty about not showing up as the moms that they wanted. And it kind of falls into two categories. Either I’m a working mom and I feel really guilty about working, or there’s something going on in the mom’s life, like a high special needs kid, or like her mom has cancer and she’s taking care of her or moving or maybe husband is gone and so she’s kind of solo parenting all of the kids. Some big thing in her life that she perceives is keeping her from showing up as the kind of mom that she wants to be with the kids. So there’s guilt. And in both of these, it’s kind of the same thing. It’s whether your body is with the kids or not, right? Whether you work outside of the home or you’re just in the home, but you’re preoccupied with something else that’s going on in your life, you feel disconnected from the kids and you feel guilty about that. And so when I coach a mom about this, I will just ask her.
So first I tell her what I already told you about. Is there any sinfulness here? Do we need to repent of anything? Do we need to ask for forgiveness for anything? And then I will ask her, is God calling you to do this thing right now? Is God calling you to be a working mom? Is God calling you to take care of your sick mom? Is God calling you into a season of spending much more time with this kid who needs something than the others? And almost always she will have clarity and say yes, because the women in Masters are deeply faithful moms, and they pray and they talk to God and they will say yes. And I’ll say, yeah. So then maybe you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be. And maybe it’s true that you’re not giving ideal parenting to all or some of the kids right now. But we have this idea that not giving ideal parenting to the kids is a problem. Instead of wondering, is this the kind of childhood that they are supposed to be having right now? Is this the kind of childhood that they are supposed to be having right now for the work that God is going to call them to do? How could you know? I want you to think about your own childhood right now and think about the worst things or the hardest things or maybe some of the shortcomings you have perceived in the way that your parents raised you. Like, you look back and you’re like, that wasn’t ideal parenting.
And I want you to see how that forged you, molded you into the person that you are now. Whether it sent you on a journey of pursuing something in college, whether that version of you had to be that version of you for your husband to want to marry you, to be open to the kind of family that you have now, to show you an example of what you didn’t want. And so that has created resolve in you to have a different kind of family right now. And I want you to know that the Lord is taking your kids through the same thing right now. So let’s use working moms as an example. Let’s say God has called you to work and your kids say to you, mom, you work too much. You’re never home. Of course that’s going to make you feel terrible because you already feel bad about working.
And so one I want you to get clear is God asking you to work? And if the answer is yes, then that’s the answer we give the kids. Hey, kids, god has called me to work and I am saying yes right now. And that does mean that I spend less time with you. But it is important that we pray and we listen to the Lord and we do what he says, even if it comes with sacrifice. I don’t know any moms that don’t have mom guilt. So the working moms think that it would be so much better if they weren’t working. But I know plenty of stay at home moms who struggle for other reasons and feel like they aren’t the kind of mom that they want to be. And so we just want to get clear, are we doing what God is calling us to do? And then we want to tell the kids that I am doing what God is calling me to do.
That is true in all ways that we are living our life, because children are extremely self centered. We love you, Boo, but you are extremely self centered children. That’s how they come out. And it’s our job to teach them virtue, to teach them how to be less self centered. And I think that’s kind of our job as humans, and we do it for our whole life, right? I am way less centered now than I was five years ago, ten years ago, 20 years ago. And so, of course, children think everything is about them, and we don’t have to shame them for that. We don’t have to say, not everything is about you. Right? We can just say, you know, there’s a lot going on in our family, and our family works together.
We’re a team, and dad does this work, and mom does this work, and we support each other. And sometimes we spend a little bit more time with this kiddo because they have needs in some way, and sometimes we spend more time with you. I think one of the ways that we can minimize guilt is first get with the Lord, make sure we’re doing what he wants us to do, repent if we aren’t. But then just giving context to the kids, just explaining to them, yeah, this is what’s going on right now. So my husband and I, I would say, have a painful marriage. We struggle in our marriage, and our kids see it, and we don’t like, we’re not a yelling couple. We’re not yelling at each other in the kitchen, and everybody sees it. But the kids can feel the tension between us.
And I certainly think that they notice that we aren’t very lovey dovey and warm. They know that something’s missing, particularly our oldest two. And that’s really hard for me. I feel guilty sometimes that I can’t figure this out. I haven’t figured this out yet. And that they’re watching a marriage example. That’s not the example that I want to set for them. But here’s the thing.
I don’t know what God’s plan is for those oldest two girls. Maybe one of them is supposed to be a nun. Maybe one of them is not supposed to be interested in marriage. Maybe one of them needs to pursue a career for several years thinking she doesn’t want marriage, and then God will soften her heart, warm her heart up to the idea of marriage and then bring a man into her life. I feel like that’s largely what happened to me, right? I had no interest in marriage until I was 24, which is not so old, but when I hang out with traditional Catholic families, a lot of them, like, get married at 18 and 19. And so when I feel guilty about not showing up as the mom that I want to be, and in this example, it’s modeling marriage, not the way that I want to model marriage. I know that I can give context to the kids now in a kid version, and I fully trust the Lord that this is the type of childhood that they’re supposed to have, because the Lord could sweep in and just like, boop solve that, right? He could just solve it. He could just bring us a person or a tool or something or just have a supernatural grace of understanding and just, boop, solve our marriage challenges.
But he isn’t. And so I just trust him. I trust Him that the childhood that my kids are having right now is part of their sainthood story. And so I just want you to trust that. I want you to trust that whatever you’re going through right now, your job is to stay close to the Lord and trust the Lord to pick up your kids. And it doesn’t mean we ignore them. But if he’s calling you to a particular work in the season, whatever it is, and it means you’re not as hands on or you’re not doing the mom thing quite at the level that you want to do, trust the Lord to fill in the gaps. Trust Him that he has a plan for those kids.
He loves them, and it is a perfect plan for them. And so the next thing I mentioned briefly, but is giving the kids context for what’s going on. And we will have several opportunities to do this. You can give them context now. So the older the kids get, the more you can explain things to them. And so as my oldest has gotten older, I have explained more to her about what’s going on between my husband and I. And I’ll just say, Listen, we both came from divorced homes. We did not have healthy marriages to see.
So we’ve had to really learn for ourselves what that looks like. And I’ll say things like, do you think you would be really good at playing basketball if no one ever showed you how to play? Like, if I just handed you a basketball and said, there’s a hoop. Go play basketball. I said, Even if you had a general idea that people take the ball all the way down to the end and put it in the basket, do you think you’d be good at basketball? No. I began to explain to her, like, hey, we just didn’t have good examples and we love each other very much. And do you see us trying? She’ll say, yeah. I’ll say, yeah. You always see us sitting down or reading books or talking about our marriage.
And sometimes that looks serious. And I said, but that means we’re working on it because we love each other. It’s because we’re so committed. We made these vows. We believe in Catholicism and that marriage is forever. And so she’s older now, and I can give her some context to that as she gets older, like when she’s much older, I will give her a lot more context for it. And I’ll say, let me tell you some other things that were happening. Like, I don’t tell her about natural family planning or abstinence or hyperfertility.
She doesn’t need to know about that right now. And you’re going to be able to give your kids context in the future at many different ages and certainly in their adulthood. And so let’s say that you’re a working mom or you’re going through this season and maybe you’re taking care of an ailing parent for three years. It’s a long season and your kids are feeling kind of pushed aside. Then later, as adults, you get to explain that to them because they’re viewing life through their age right now, however old, they are 7915. And so they just have a diminished ability to make sense of what’s going on. And so later you’ll be able to say, well, let me tell you about what’s happening, then. Let me tell you why I had this job and why that was important for our family, or what it did for our family.
Or acknowledging, yes, your sister had that season of being really sick and we gave her so much of us and you got less of us. And that was really hard for me during that time. But that is what I felt like God was calling me to do. Doesn’t mean I loved you any less. I’m interested in who you are and what’s important to you. You’re going to have to explain those things to them. And so I don’t think any of us are going to escape mom guilt. It’s going to come up.
And I think these are some tools we can use. One we can just check in right away with yourself and with the Lord. Do I need to ask for forgiveness from the kids or from God? Like maybe you were recklessly scrolling on your phone for 2 hours and ignoring the kids. And you can be like, Lord, forgive me for that. I was sitting in vice doing that, not doing what I want to do, not showing up the way that I want. Please forgive me. Strengthen me, Holy Spirit. I’m going to go spend time with the kids.
And I’m not saying scrolling is always sinful, okay? But I know for me, when it reaches that level, when it’s not just playful and fun and entertaining, it’s like, I’m avoiding my life. It’s like sitting at the penny slots, right? It feels like that. So check in. Do we need to repent of anything? And then two, check in with your fantasy self. Is this just a fantasy? You know when kids are like, I want to be a pro baseball player and we’re like, you’re not going to be a pro baseball player. Okay? Are you doing that? Are you like happy children who have Popsicles? If they don’t have Popsicles, they’re not going to be happy children. Right? That was just a fantasy that I had. And in that moment, I could have just made a plan and said, yeah, I’m going to do it and I’m going to be committed to wiping them with a wet towel or something, right? So it wasn’t necessarily right or wrong, but I stared into the reality of it and I just chose, I’m going to choose to do it or not do it, but I’m not going to sit in this guilt feeling.
So do you need to pop a bubble of your fantasy self? Do we need to like, pop it as it floats away? I’m picturing Cinderella when she was cleaning and she saw all of those bubbles with herself in them. It feels like that, like, oh, that was just a fantasy version of myself. We’re just going to pop it. And then the third tool is trusting the Lord with your children and their future and acknowledging you don’t know who he’s making them. You don’t know what kind of childhood they need to have in order to be who they need to be. I am very grateful for who I am, and I know it is a product of a lot of the adversity that I experienced in my childhood. But I love who I am and I love this work that God has called me to do. And I’m grateful that all of the pieces have come together for me to be this version of me at this moment.
And so your kids have that same story and we just don’t get to see it. So I want you to trust in the Lord. He is good and intentional with you and the kids. And so even if the kids are experiencing something and it doesn’t look good right now, just hold on tight to them and be like, God knows, god knows. And then the fourth thing is context. Do you want to give them context right now? And depending on the age they are, you can talk to them, give them more information. We don’t want to burden children with adult things, right? But by the time my daughter was twelve, I felt like it was time to start telling her a little bit more about our marriage so that she didn’t feel crazy. Like, I didn’t want to say, what are you talking about mommy and daddy are fine.
You don’t need to worry about anything. Right? We don’t want to do that. I was like, yeah, we have some difficult things. We have some tension. And I told her, you do not need to worry about us separating. We love you. You are safe. Neither of us are leaving.
And then I showed her, watch what we do. This is the evidence that you are safe. This is the evidence that we are working on it. And so I know I get to give her context now and then I know I get to give all of them context later as adults. And and so I’m hoping that these tools just help you manage the mom guilt stuff because it’s going to come up. It’s never going to stop coming up. It’s going to come up. And then we just want to reach in our tool belt and be like, what are the tools? Which is 01:00 a.m.
I am going to use right now to let this feeling go, to let it pass through me. We don’t want to walk around carrying the tension of guilt in our bodies. It’s not good for you. And if you want me to help you with this and anything else that you’re going through, I want you to join Masters. Come. You can either raise your hand or you can just listen to me coach other people. And when you listen to me coach four to six people in an hour, it’s very likely that what I coach them on is going to help you. It’s either exactly the same problem that you’re experiencing or it’s pretty close and you can connect the dots.
Coaching will change your life. I am just team coaching all the way because it has made my experience of my life so much better. And as you can tell, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t hard things. I’m just so strong now and capable in those hard things. I have this toolbox and I can just reach in and be like, oh, this is the one I’m going to use. I feel like I have so much control over how I show up and how I think about things now, and it’s so comforting to know that. So I want you to come join our membership. Come find out what coaching is like.
You can listen to coaching. You can get coaching. And this is how we become more of the moms that we want to be. We design things more intentionally and then we use tools like what I shared in this podcast where we go. Yeah, I don’t want to walk around feeling guilty all the time. How can I work on that? And then we just keep improving our life by using these tools. It’s amazing. You guys. All right? I’m praying for you.
Remember, you were Made for Greatness.