I wanted to cry when I realized I forgot to send a snack with my kid to school. No, she isn’t in preschool or kindergarten, and she didn’t even seem to care. Honestly, the urge to cry was a bit ridiculous. But it was one more thing to add to that steaming pile of mom guilt in the corner of my mind.

In that pile are all the ways I have failed as a mother: losing my cool (yet again), giving Ella formula after three months of unsuccessful nursing, letting the kids have way too much screen time, forgetting bedtime prayers, having a job outside the home and being a mom, PB&Js for dinner. And then there was that time when Max was a baby when I nearly left him in the cart at the grocery store. (I didn’t even make it into the car, by the way.)

You’d think I enjoy carrying around my mom guilt, because, quite frankly, I don’t easily let these “failures” go. Part of me believes I need to keep these reminders close, and, just maybe they will prevent me from repeating the same mistakes over and over again. But guilt doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t freshen us and give life—it suffocates and takes more than we have to give.

Trading mom guilt for grace

A recent conversation with my daughter brought some perspective. Ella was devastated over receiving a big red “D” on a test. She said she wasn’t good at science and would probably fail.

This was the same child who had brought home a straight-A report card weeks before. She was now standing in front of me worried over her college prospects in fifth grade. (Surely, I am not this dramatic. Right?) I assured her one test did not define her or her ability in this subject.

Much like that bright red “D,” my mistakes don’t define my worth. Or my motherhood. In his letter to the Romans, Paul writes, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (3:23-24).

I don’t have to be a perfect mother. I’m not and can’t be no matter how hard I try. Yet God gives His grace as a gift. And we’d be fools not to accept it.

Grace in motherhood

So what does accepting His grace look like in motherhood? It means I can stop giving myself a daily grade on how I did at mothering. Ten points off for running out of toilet paper, but five points added for getting the kids to try kale chips. It looks like relying on God for our daily strength rather than ourselves. Some days, it means ignoring the to-do list, knowing God made our bodies and souls to need rest.

Grace also looks like forgiveness for all my failures as a mom. “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses … Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).

Hear that, ladies? We can be confident in approaching our God. Confident in our forgiveness, confident in His grace. Confident enough in Him that we can let go of our mom guilt and just draw nearer.

Moms, motherhood is full of things we can feel guilty about. Here are just few areas we should give ourselves a break.

So what if you’re not the PTA mom?

If that’s your strength, then rock it. If not, well, let’s face it: If every mom was a member of the PTA, there’d be far too many women in the school cafeteria.

It is perfectly alright that you are not more like so-and-so’s mom.

You aren’t that kid’s mom, so why would you want to be like her? God gave you a unique combination of personality and talent to accomplish His goals through your life.

Reject the guilt you hold for working outside the home.

Maybe it was your choice to work outside the home, maybe you do it out of necessity. Either way, you can still be a fully engaged mom. Having a job outside the home doesn’t make you any less of a mother.

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t work outside the home.

I’ve worked both outside the home and as a stay-at-home mom. Both are work. Both have value. Don’t let anyone tell you changing diapers doesn’t change the world. It does.

Don’t feel guilty for needing some time to yourself.

Our phones die if we don’t charge the batteries, right? Moms need a break, too. You know, like taking a shower without a child desperately trying to pick the lock.

Get together with your friends and learn the Art of Parenting.

You can forgive yourself for losing your cool.

Kids are amazingly forgiving. It isn’t the worst thing ever to mess up and yell at your kid for feeding the dog his cereal. It gives your kids a chance to see you humble yourself and ask forgiveness.

You’re not a failure for forgetting family devotions from time to time.

Just the fact that you feel mom guilt over this shows your heart is in the right place. Maybe don’t start with a daily goal. Shoot for weekly or even monthly devotional time for starters. Trust me, you’ll get there.

You haven’t failed your kids by not serving healthy meals all the time.

I am pretty sure no one ruined their child’s future with the occasional Happy Meal or bag of Cheetos.

You aren’t a bad mom for using a tablet/TV for a babysitter every now and then.

We’ve all done it. I ran over my allowed data this month because I let my youngest watch cartoons during errands, big sister’s activities, and doctor appointments. No judgment here, friend.

God is not done with you

One of my favorite verses is Philippians 1:6, which tells us, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Hear that? He isn’t done with you. I always tell my kids a bad day/moment doesn’t make a bad person. Nor does one bad day make a bad mom.

I am still a work in progress (can I get an amen?). Moreover, I am His work in progress. And it is He who will bring me to completion, not me. How freeing is that? So I am letting go and letting Him. And in the meantime? I’m going to try and let go of some of that mom guilt. Time to kick that pile to the curb.

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