Feeling Guilty for What I’m Not

One of my goals for the new year is to read more e-books. Not just books–stacks of them line my desk, nightstand, bathroom. I even borrow my children’s library books. Bedtime stories are balm to a mother’s day-worn soul. Holding books, seeing and smelling them; this is joy and comfort. My husband, technology consultant that he is, regularly reminds me: “Printed books are on their way out. You need to adapt.”

I mostly disagree. The sliver of me that agrees bought Lysa TerKeurst’s “Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions,” and the companion devotional. They’re proving to be smart investments. Not just because it’s easier to read an e-book while toddlers paw into my personal space. TerKeurst speaks my emotional language. As in, ‘some days motherhood makes you feel crazy, guilty, useless and entirely undone by the simplest things.’

Day four of the devotional discusses feeling guilty for what you aren’t. TerKeurst describes a day where she feels guilty for ordering out instead of making a home-cooked meal, as one of her friends often does. On the same day, TerKeurst’s presence at a bible study draws scores of people. Many say “yes to God,” including a teenager who had tried to take her own life. The experience reminds her to celebrate her gifts, instead of bemoaning the person she isn’t.

The guilty-for-what-I’m-not struggle is one I’ve known since Noah was born. Before him, I didn’t ogle babies or swoon over toddlers. I appreciated my nephews and niece, and my friends’ kids. I appreciated even more handing them back to their parents. I didn’t have a mothering instinct. I didn’t even have a mom. When Noah was born, I felt guilty for all of these traits, especially for lacking the mothering instinct. For not wanting to give up my entire life for him. For not thinking he was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Four years later, I’ve come to recognize my son as a gift. He revised the story of my life, improving it in ways I didn’t know were lacking. He pushed me beyond the edge of comfort. It’s here that I’m getting closer to the woman God wants me to be. I still don’t want to give up my entire life for motherhood. But I do want to give my life for the purposes God intends. That I can say this is a feat.

Lately I feel guilty for not being the mom who manages a full-time career and a home. For not vigorously pursuing paid writing assignments, instead working on a book proposal that pays nothing and may go nowhere. Recently my brother asked if, by taking a career time-out for a book proposal, I’d be jeopardizing relations with current clients. I’m sure he didn’t intend it to, but the question rendered more guilt.

After reading about TerKeurst’s angst, I resolve to remember my gifts, and be grateful for them.


1 Comment
  1. I can completely relate to this, Kristina. So maybe I should buy the book too.
    As a mother and journalist, I too have tried juggling my life in different ways in hopes of being yet something more. Feeling guilty leaving my son in day care when he was a newborn, I cut down my full-time hours to three days a week. As a manager, that made me feel guilty when I couldn’t be there all the time for my reporters (although they did call anyway). I figured it would be best to then just stay home fulltime. That led to guilt over not juggling work and kids, so I went back to work at very odd hours, just to squeeze in as much time with my kids during the day as I could. That left too much on my husband’s shoulders. Feeling guilty about that, I opted to work from home.
    My choice to telecommute quickly led to working ALL the time, day and night. I just felt so guilty having the opportunity to work from home, and so concerned that anyone ever think I wasn’t working, that I was afraid to leave my computer. But the stress of being on call around the clock for both work and family led me to constantly scream either at coworkers that I needed just one minute to get to my car, turn it on, and call them back on my cell, or scream at my kids that I was trying to complete a phone call or edit a story and their question needed to wait.

    Now that my kids are in school all day and are far more self-sufficient, working from home is so much easier. But helping my kids cope with the emotions and stresses of being teenagers constantly makes me wonder: Have I made the right choices and the right decisions?

    Nevertheless, I constantly remind myself how lucky I am to be able to opt for flexibility in my life and to be there for the kids as much as I can. There are many parents who don’t have such options. And you yourself are a constant inspiration to others. I can’t believe how much you accomplish, both with your work and your kids, and make it all appear so easy.

    Thanks for posting, Kristina!

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