I am quarantining with four restless children who balk at any schoolwork and my hardworking husband who remains shut up in our bedroom office all day, only emerging for a short lunch in our backyard.
We are blessed. Our family is healthy. My husband has a job. We can afford groceries.
But I am also quarantining with mom guilt. It has been sheltering in place in my mind and heart for nearly 18 years since the birth of my first child. It is one housemate I do not feel blessed to share space with at this crazy, challenging time.
With mothers everywhere, I am doing my best.
I am trying to teach and motivate the kids to continue learning outside of a school environment and remain on a reasonable schedule without nagging too much.
I am attempting to entice my children away from hours on screens by regularly giving them chores, playing board games with them, and taking them on long bike rides.
I’m doing my best to think up interesting or at least decent meals multiple times a day.
I am trying to work on my own important projects while supporting my family’s well-being more than ever.
And I am futilely devising ways to get my teenage son and daughter to go to bed at any hour ending in pm.
Do I often feel like I’m failing at these efforts? Yes.
Mom guilt is relentless.
After many years under its tyranny, however, I have decided I will not allow it to rule me in these present bizarre conditions. I am going to expel its fearful and defeatist soliloquies from my mind. I don’t want to self-isolate with it in my heart. I am banishing its hall of mirrors that reflect every mistake I have ever made as a mama back at me in exaggerated proportions.
Mom guilt and I are going to practice social distancing forever.
Never again, I hope, will I lay awake at night obsessing over mothering mistakes in intimate, excruciating detail, crying quietly and feeling like I have never been nor ever will be good enough for the four incredible children God has given to me.
Sadly, I am certain many of us mothers have had such moments while battling debilitating mom guilt.
But how on earth do we shake it?
I have heard it said that the closest we come to being like our Father in Heaven is by being merciful. Surely, He wants us mothers to show ourselves mercy. After all, we are supposed to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
I steadfastly believe our Heavenly Father would prefer we have a mantra of I’m doing my best to harboring an aching desire for perfection that gets in the way of our growth and optimism and keeps us from being present in the messy “now” with our families. He would prefer we cry out loud in prayer to beating ourselves up in private.
Loving, comforting, cherishing, and holding our young ones is something we do extremely well, and those acts of love reflect the great love of God for them, albeit imperfectly. Through each hug and kiss, important conversation, and attentive moment we give to them they understand His immense love better. When we forgive them generously, we model His unending mercy. When we ask forgiveness regularly after making mistakes or losing our tempers, we teach them about humility.
So, we cannot believe the lie of mom guilt, that we have made more mistakes in parenting our beautiful children than we have done good in their lives.
Now is the time to create a habit of self-compassion and of joyful reflection on all the good. It is time to forgive ourselves daily as needed, mamas, and everyone around us, too. It is time to acknowledge we are doing our best. To error is human, but to have perseverance and diligence and a desire to do better each day is human, too. Mothers have plenty of fortitude to carry on our amazing vocation each day in every circumstance.
What I desire for myself and for mothers everywhere is that we come to see ourselves at last through God’s and our children’s compassionate eyes, especially during this quarantine with all its fresh challenges.
My children often have told me that I am a good mother while embracing me and smiling, and on a few occasions the best mom! I want to believe I am…
Or, rather, that I am doing my best to be. That is what truly counts.