When I was pregnant with my first child, I thought the choice to breastfeed was a no-brainer. After all, how many times have we heard that “breast is best?” I did everything I could to prepare -- read books, took a class, and stocked up on all those nursing necessities (who says breastfeeding is free?). But when Evan came along, it just didn’t work. I got help from lactation consultants and my aunts and even La Leche League, I tried everything from herbs to prescription drugs to a hospital grade pump, but after six weeks, I gave up. That’s how it felt, too, like giving up, like failing, like being a bad mom from the very beginning. I think I spent those first six weeks crying. So when I got pregnant with my second, I was determined that things would be different. I made an appointment with a lactation consultant to find out what I could do to prepare to “succeed.” Of course all my plans were upended when Bennett came along ten weeks early, and it was back to the pump. This time, though, I saw the NICU lactation consultant, and she diagnosed me with what amounted to a physical inability to nurse. Anyway, I’d spent the first two years of Evan’s life beating myself up over something I couldn’t help. And it got me to thinking, don’t all of us do that? Isn’t that what “mommy guilt” is all about?
Not too long ago I read an article that discussed guilt vs. shame. I don’t remember what the article was about, and I don’t even think it was a Christian article, but it really struck me. It said that guilt is feeling bad about something we did or didn’t do. Shame is feeling bad about who we ARE.
Guilt isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can be a nudge from the Holy Spirit, encouraging us to change. But when guilt turns into shame – when a thought like “I am going to try harder to breastfeed next time” turns into the thought “I am a bad mom who can’t even breastfeed her babies” – that’s not the Holy Spirit, that’s Satan. Shame has no place in the life of a Christian, because who I am is a forgiven child of God.
So the next time you experience mommy guilt, whether it’s over losing your temper, or not doing enough crafts with your kids, or letting them watch too much TV, take that guilt and use it constructively. Don’t let Satan turn it into shame. Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”