Mom guilt can be a real struggle for new mamas, but there is forgiveness and hope when we mess up.
I suppose it was inevitable. After months of successfully clipping our baby boy’s nails, I snipped too low and tight—and caught his skin along with the nail. He turned beet red and shrieked as tiny beads of blood dripped from his finger.
I felt like an ax murderer and blubbered “I’m sorry” a hundred times as my husband tried to console both me and our baby.
The rest of the evening was ruined for all of us—and not because of a sore finger. I withdrew into the deep pit of mom guilt. Vowing never to cut his nails again. Declaring myself a monster. And otherwise brooding in self-loathing.
We mamas are so hard on ourselves, and pithy sayings like “we all make mistakes” and “you’re only human” don’t cut to the heart of the matter.
The ugly root of mom guilt is pride, and the path to healing from it requires genuine repentance and forgiveness. Neither is easy, but let’s begin together.
Repenting from Mom Guilt
Of course, I needed to repent. I was the careless mama who clipped my boy’s finger!
No, that’s not what I mean by repentance. I apologized more than enough times to my baby boy. What I really needed to repent of was my pride.
Although I know I’ll never be a perfect mother, I still hold myself to this impossible standard: Do all the things a wife, mother, and homemaker must do—from sanitizing bottles to keeping up with laundry and endless other tasks. But in doing all the things for my baby, I often feel as though I’m missing out on quality with him. Then I feel guilty, no matter what. In reality, I am guilty because, in my pride, I try to be perfect in my own strength. Can you relate, mama?
Proverbs 29:23 says, “A man’s pride will bring him low, but the humble in spirit will retain honor” (NKJV).
Wearing mom guilt like a badge of shame does indeed wear us down. The irony is that when we let go of our pride and stop repeating the guilt messages, we find release. Accepting that we aren’t perfect brings freedom.
So how do we repent? Like any other sin, pride must be confessed. Praise God for the promise of I John 1:9. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (NKJV).
If you’re like me, your prayer might be something like this:
I’m sorry, Lord, for my pride and for trying in my own strength to do all the things. Please forgive me for wallowing in guilt and self-pity when I make mistakes. Thank you that you are a God of second chances. Help me be the best mama I can be. Amen.
Now that we’ve relegated mom guilt to its proper place (outta here!) and confessed our pride and failings, it’s time to accept forgiveness.
Forgiveness is such a beautiful gift, so why do we hesitate to embrace it? Do we think we’re unworthy of it?
Of course, we are. None of us deserves God’s forgiveness for any of our sins. But we’ve already established His faithfulness and willingness to forgive, so let’s stop second-guessing Him.
You may be familiar with the verse, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13b NIV). Usually, when we hear this verse, it’s in the context of forgiving others who have wronged us. Recently, though, I realized that it also applies to forgiving ourselves.
God has forgiven me. Period. I have no excuse not to forgive myself too.
If we have truly repented of our pride, we have nothing more to do than accept God’s forgiveness and self-forgiveness.
Dear Father, thank you so much for forgiving my failures and for releasing me from shame and guilt. May I learn to be gentle with myself and ever thankful for your daily grace.
Turns out, I’m not the only mama who has messed up. As I blubbered to my friends about my failing, they each shared their own stories.
One snipped her son’s ear while trimming his hair. One locked her keys, cell phone, and baby in the car—and had to call EMS to get him out. Another one said, “Oh yeah, I clipped my baby’s finger too.”
We all make mistakes as mamas. Messing up doesn’t make us a monster. My friends and I went into mama-bear mode to remedy our mistakes as quickly as possible.
I do hold my breath every time I trim my son’s nails, and I imagine him eyeing me a little more closely during the process. However, when we make inevitable mistakes, we must give our shortcomings to Jesus and accept His forgiveness.
You’re doing a great job, mama. Don’t let guilt steal the joy of motherhood but lean into grace—and the abundant mercies of God, which are “new every morning” (Lamentations 3:23 NKJV).
Kristen Hogrefe Parnell
Kristen Hogrefe Parnell writes suspenseful fiction from a faith perspective for women and young adults. Her own suspense story involved waiting on God into her thirties to meet her husband, and she desires to keep embracing God’s plan for her life when it’s not what she expects. Kristen’s books have won the Selah Award and the Grace Award, among others. An educator at heart, she also teaches English online and enjoys being a podcast guest. Kristen lives in the Tampa, Florida area with her husband and baby boy. Connect with her at KristenHogrefeParnell.com.