If motherhood had a middle name it would surely be guilt.
Rarely a moment goes by since “Mom” became my name that I’m not left with some nagging guilt about something.
How about for poops and giggles we take a look at this week alone and see what guilts have come my way, shall we?
- Did I make my kids go to school, even though they really didn’t want to? (Guilty)
- Did I tell the children the school day would “fly by” and they would be home “before they knew it” even though the real person it would “fly by” for and “end before they knew it” was me? (Guilty)
- Did I have very few healthy and nutritious snack and lunch items on hand for the kids to pack in their lunch? (Guilty)
- Did I completely forget that the kids might need to pack their lunch? (Guilty)
- Did I then act all disgusted and tell the kids I didn’t know they would want to pack their lunch (instead of buy it) and then
makeencourage them to pack their own? (Guilty)
- Did I run out the DAY BEFORE SCHOOL STARTED and buy them their school supplies? (Guilty)
- Have I yet to buy them any new clothes or shoes for school? (Guilty)
- Did I buy them some stuff they didn’t need even though we are trying to watch our spending after a summer of indulgent spending on who- knows- what? (Guilty)
- Did I make one child go out for a sport that he really was not at all physically conditioned or mentally prepared for? (Guilty)
- Did I tell another one that from this point forward he was going to have to practice his music lesson EVERY DAY before he could play any video games? (Guilty)
- Did I actually tell one who would Not. Stop. Talking. to “Please shut it” so I could have some peace and quiet? (Guilty)
- Did I make one cry by telling her that I would be at her school this week so she might see me, but I would not be helping her class? (Guilty)
*Sigh* It seems like somehow opening this GUILTY door at motherhood has made me more aware of guilt in to other parts of my life, too. For instance:
- Did I enjoy my new-found ability to run a few miles so much that I nearly made the dog have a heat-stroke because whether he likes it or not I’ve tagged him as my running partner? (Guilty)
- Did I gossip with my friends at all this week? (Guilty)
- Did we miss church because husband’s work schedule has just made us TOO TIRED to go? (Guilty)
- Did I get irritated with Husband about his work schedule only to find that perhaps the issues he was dealing with at work were more important (once I stopped to listen) than my own? (Guilty)
- Have I said, written, or thought anything that wasn’t very nice or that may have landed wrong on other people? (Guilty)
- Have I woken up every day with a TO DO list in mind only to find that at the end of the day sometimes NOT ONE of the things on the list got done? (Guilty)
- And that I wouldn’t even be able to explain to anyone else–let alone myself–what in the Sam Hill I did with all my time instead? (Guilty, GUILTY, GUILTY!)
I’m pretty sure I’m not alone here, right? And it doesn’t seem to be limited to any one group of moms, either. Biological. Adoptive. Working. Stay-at-home. Brand new. Empty Nester. We all share it, don’t we?
So what is it we’re meant to do with all this guilt? And why does it haunt us? And is it all bad?
Today I seem to be more sacked with guilt than usual and in realizing this, I was reminded of something I learned about the role of guilt in our lives a couple of years ago. At that time, I was part of a team that launched a parish-wide catechism at our church. It was in gathering research for my part of a catechetical presentation, that I had a revelation about guilt and it’s role in our lives. I was researching the order of the Catholic Mass and I needed to be able to explain some things about it to a group of people who would likely be quite varied in age, so it needed to be both simple and somewhat catchy. My A-ha moment came when I realized that the order of every Mass requires all participants to recite the Confiteor (“I confess to Almighty God and to you my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned…”) and immediately follow it with the Gloria where we sing our praises to God.
Sadly, prior to my having to do the research, I’d never really held those two parts together. I’d always kind of hurried along through my “public confessions”, and then reveled (singing louder than those around me, because that makes me more holy, right?) in belting out my Gloria. But in holding these two things together: our sins and our praises, I got to thinking about guilt and how it works in my life. And I made the startling discovery that guilt is not really all bad (like for instance when we are “guilted” into giving our time, our money, etc. to a worthy cause) nor was it all good (like when we are “guilted” by someone’s hurtful comments or mean-spirited remarks).
So if guilt is not good or bad, then what is it?
And it came to me that perhaps guilt is simply an invitation.
I believe that in our moments of guilt, God is inviting us to take a moment, look into our hearts where God has written, observe our actions, and ask, “Am I on the right path here?” And in that moment, very often we will *know* if we are, or if we aren’t.
That’s why sometimes guilt is just there, looming, even though we are certain we are doing the right thing (like sending our kids to school even though they don’t want to go). In moments like that, I believe our guilt is intended to give us strength. To remind us that not only are we doing the right thing but, most importantly, that God is right there in our decision with us.
Sometimes the invitation of guilt comes in the form of your soul mate allowing you to”tear into him” as he drags his tired body home after a long day of work, only for you to realize later that perhaps the things he was dealing with that day were just a *touch* more important than the fact that you didn’t get to watch The Big Bang Theory because you had to put the kids to bed by yourself…again. This type of guilt is an invitation, too. An invitation to remember to tread lightly with those we love. To remember that sometimes it’s a good idea to put others first. Especially if they mean so much to us.
In realizing this (and in the need to present it to a group of all ages) I came up with a little trick for remembering that God uses guilt as an invitation to draw us closer to Him. It’s kind of cutesy, but it works for me:
G = Giving
U = Up
I = “I”
L = Looking
T = Towards
Y = You (God)
Keeping this in mind, my guilt can actually fuel my day. I am either being reminded of God’s presence, or I’m being gently asked to change my ways. As a result, I now often consider guilt to be food for my journey. And I very often, (just like in the order of the Mass), find myself afterwards thanking God for sending me an “invitation” to draw me closer.
Even if it sometimes stings a little.
And now, tying this all to back motherhood, it just occurred to me that it makes perfect sense that my call to motherhood is when I became the most aware of guilt in my life.
Because, after all, it was the long/lonely/scary/grueling/loving/rewarding/awesome call to motherhood that made me most realize just how much I need Him.