“If only I had taken better care of myself during pregnancy…”
“I know I’m tired, but I really need to do more for my kids.”
“Why didn’t I push that doctor harder for answers?”
“If I could just get more organized, maybe I could spend more time helping my child with therapies at home.”
“I’m such a bad mom for not enrolling my child in more activities.”
If you have ever entertained thoughts similar to the ones above, you are not alone. We parents can be experts at beating ourselves up over whether we are doing enough for our children. Add to parenthood the extra requirements of raising a child with special needs, and it seems we can never do enough to care for our kids.
The amount of guilt I have personally carried over various points in time has been, in retrospect, ridiculous. Our son has a genetic disorder that I carry. After he was born, I spent hours crying as I felt the weight of passing this often-painful diagnosis to him. When he developed PTSD and needle anxiety, I beat myself up over some of the previous medical choices I had made for him. When our youngest was little and things didn’t seem quite right I blamed myself, along with the neighbors, for being a bad parent. When she began receiving her smorgasbord of diagnoses, I wished I had pushed harder over certain concerns when she was younger. Over the years, as I have advocated for her in school, I have second-guessed if I should have been more assertive, less assertive, more informed, less worried or more involved. All of this has amounted to little in actually resolving any problems that may exist. It has, however, done an excellent job of making me feel more discouraged, incompetent, and defeated as a mother.
So, what would it take to acquit yourself when you find yourself guilty as I have? Did you know that in Revelation 12:10 Satan is tagged with the name “accuser”? Years ago in my special needs parenting journey, another special mom brought this to my attention. She asked me then, and I will ask you now, “Why are you doing the devil’s work for him?” When we inappropriately beat ourselves up with guilt, we are doing The Accuser’s job. He knows that when he can shake our self-confidence, make us second guess ourselves or immobilize us with discouragement, he renders us ineffective in reflecting the glory of our Creator. Rather than people viewing us moving through our trials with the grace-given strength we might ordinarily have, we may appear hopeless. And God is where hope dwells.
We were meant to be a walking, talking message to the world that, when all else looks hopeless, God is bigger. Our Hope is greater than our circumstances. We can be a living example of this joy of the Lord, but if we let misguided guilt take root, we allow the Light to be blocked by darkness.
The next time you are feeling guilty, challenge it! Go to God in prayer. Ask Him to show you where you can improve, and trust Him in his guidance. Also, ask yourself if you would talk to another parent the way you are talking to yourself. If not, then that is probably misplaced guilt. Know that wallowing in those feelings of shame and self-loathing are not what your Creator intended for you. He has made a way for you to live forgiven and free. Walk in that boundless grace, and accept His generous gift of helping you to carry any load you may bear in raising your remarkable child.
*To have Barbara come and speak to your group about “Grace Amidst the Gloom of Guilt” or other related topics, feel free to submit an inquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org.