Letting Go of “Homemaker’s Guilt”
“I’m a bad wife, a bad mom, and a bad housekeeper!” she berated herself.
“All these other people have their act together. Their houses are clean; their kids are well-behaved; they get to where they need to be on time. I’m just a loser. Being a wife and mom is the only job I have, and I am doing such a horrible job at it.”
I listened with sadness as a dear lady poured her heart out to me, sharing how defeated she felt.
When I probed further, she revealed that her childhood had been filled with the critical and judgmental voice of her mother. She had never felt good enough; never felt that she could do anything right. Now as an adult she still hears that inner voice telling her she’s a disappointment to her mother.
Instead of seeing her house full of people to love, she sees the dirty dishes in the sink and thinks she is a lousy housekeeper.
Instead of seeing the busy season of motherhood for what it is, she sees all the ministries she is not involved in and thinks she is a bad Christian.
Perhaps you have felt this crushing weight of self-condemnation too.
Maybe you're seeing yourself through the critical eye of your mother.
Or maybe you're imagining that your friends are silently judging you.
Or maybe in your mind you've compiled all the best parts of others' lives and you feel that you should be meeting those standards every hour of every day.
But to incorporate the strengths of every homemaker you know and try to live up to them all, your life would have to look something like this:
You're a woman with a perfectly clean, organized and beautifully-decorated house, who is so frugal that you got all the decorations at yard sales. But you didn't take any time away from your family to go to the yard sales because you enjoy being with them every minute. You also homeschool your children for 14 hours a day so that they will be well-educated, but you always give them plenty of time to play and express themselves. You make everything from scratch from food that you grew yourself, but you are never obsessive about spending too much time in the kitchen because you need to be spending quality time with your kids. You make homemade gifts to take to the neighbor's house, and you also sell those products on social media so you can earn money to help contribute to the family's income. Your children are obedient, well-mannered, and never look disheveled in spite of the fact that you know how to let “kids be kids” and allow them to make mud pies in the back yard without getting stressed about it. (Their clothes never get stained because you always treat the stains immediately after they're done playing — their clothes don't ever get left in the middle of the bathroom floor.) In the midst of all these activities, you prepare a healthy dinner, and you serve it at the table you bought at a yard sale and refinished yourself. When your husband arrives home, you greet him with a sweet smile, never flustered at the food that's burning on the stove and the children who are running through the house (because you don't burn food and your children don't ever run through the house anyway.) After dinner the children immediately begin helping clean up the kitchen and get ready for bed without being told (because you have organized family routines that everyone follows perfectly.) When they're safely tucked in, you complete your daily exercise routine and check over your shopping list for the next day, which includes a gift for Great Aunt Sally's birthday next month (because you're so organized like that.) Then you finish folding the laundry (that you actually remembered to put in the dryer) and tidying the house before you spend some quality time with your husband and read your Bible before bed. (You never go to bed late — you need to take care of your health you know.)
If that sounds ridiculous, that's because IT IS!
But when you believe that your godliness or your value as a homemaker is proven by what you do, there will always be something more for you to chase after.
There will always be more laundry and dishes to do; there's always a nicer meal that you could make; and another homemaking skill that you need to learn.
Doing those things is not wrong. Staying faithful in the midst of the mundane is good. Learning new skills is commendable.
But your ability to do all the things doesn't actually prove a single thing about you.
When you believe that the critical voice of your mother that you hear in your mind will be silenced when you do more and do better, you will be disappointed.
When you believe that when you can appear perfect to others, that you won't live in fear of what they might be thinking, you will find that is not true.
And when you believe that you can live up to impossible standards that you've set for yourself if you just keep trying harder, you will only set yourself up for burnout.
You will feel overworked and underappreciated; you will feel shame; and when the stress of it all spills over onto your family with ugly words, you will feel shame for that too.
If you're playing this game of trying to chase away guilt as a homemaker, I have good news for you.
You don't have to play the game.
“Good enough” is an elusive goal that you will never be able to reach. The harder you try to get there, the more you will find that it is always out of reach.
Many churches and Bible teachers reinforce this faulty thinking as they focus on all the things a good Christian is supposed to do and be. Instead of leaving church services with a sense of freedom and the ability to breathe a little lighter, you leave every service feeling even more weight of yet another character trait or act of service that you need to add to your life.
But what was it that you would have loved more than anything to hear from your critical mother?
Maybe something like this?
“My love for you is not based on your behavior; it is based on the fact that you are my child, and that will never change. I’m not waiting for you to learn how to make your bed without a wrinkle before I delight in you; I delight in you because you are my child.”
Likewise, when you learn who you are in Christ and that truth sinks way, down deep into your soul, the inner condemnation you hear will disappear. You will find yourself transforming as a person, a wife, and a mother when you claim the truth of your belovedness and live from it every day.
Your value is in who you ARE, not in what you DO.
I heard a quote recently that asked the question, “Are you hustling for your worthiness or resting in your belovedness?”
Jesus invites you to come unto him and find rest. His yoke is easy and his burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30.)
I encourage you to open the Bible and start learning who you truly are in Christ:
Here are just a few things from Ephesians chapter 1:
A couple of good books that will help you find freedom from the hustle and find rest in Christ:
I think some people are afraid to rest in the grace of God because they fear it will take away their motivation to do the things they ought to.
But I've found that when you are overcome with how abundant his grace is, the freedom that results from leaving behind a life of pressure and guilt provides an entirely new and better motivation!
When you fully grasp that God's love for you never changes — that you can't make God love you more by doing more and you can't make him love you less by doing less — you will be energized to be the person he created you to be.
You will be able to use the unique strengths he gave you as a homemaker, and with confidence you can eliminate all the “should's” that make you feel guilty when you don't measure up.
I used to apologize every day when my husband came home for all the things I didn't get done that day. I would feel so upset and stressed that I didn't get the laundry done (again) or that supper wasn't all that great. But I wasn't really apologizing to him; I was apologizing to myself for not meeting the unrealistic ideals of who I thought I was supposed to be as a homemaker.
Now I don't have to be stressed. I don't have to apologize. I simply have to rest in who God says I am.
Let the guilt go. Ignore the judgment – from others and from yourself.
Rest in Christ and be free.