Sometimes when I speak with working moms, I’m surprised by a certain disconnect between the way they think about the callings of work and motherhood. I’m thinking particularly of some strong, confident women I know who feel genuinely called to use their God-given gifts in the marketplace but who are nevertheless overwhelmed by worry and guilt over whether they’re doing enough for their children.
What I want to say to these women is this: “Why are you trusting God with your career but not your parenting?” If God has called you to work, isn’t it possible that he has called your kids to have a working mom? I think it’s time we looked closely at this thing we call “mom guilt.”
A certain amount of healthy guilt has its place in our lives. We’ve all felt the pinch of discomfort that motivates us to right a wrong, apologize to someone, or avoid certain situations in the future. But that feeling is not the same with mom guilt. There is no one right way to be a mom—no biblical prescription for the amount of time you spend with your kids or the number of soccer games you attend. This kind of guilt isn’t a corrective response to some objective wrongdoing. It’s imposed on us by a culture filled with impossible standards—and rather than opening our eyes to truth, mom guilt fills our hearts with lies.
Under strain, it’s tempting to focus on circumstances for a cure: If only I could cut back on my hours, we tell ourselves, or If only the company would give me more flexibility, or If society would just relax already about this “perfect mom” thing, we sigh—then things would be better. It’s true that there are actions that employers and the culture at large could do to relieve some of the external pressures placed on women and families. But external relief alone cannot cure this type of guilt because mom guilt is not an external problem—it’s a heart problem.1