A vague haze of guilt follows me around these days, not unlike the cloud of dust that perpetually surrounds Pigpen in the Peanuts comics. Let me explain.
This morning the boys won’t stop crying after Josh leaves for work. I try all the usual tricks—reading their favorite books, plying them with Cheerios and apple juice, playing dance songs—nothing works. I finally leave them in the playroom with the gate locked and go get ready for the day. Guilt.
An hour later we arrive at the YMCA where I drop them off in childcare. They normally love going to play but today Kyeler clings to my neck, screaming out wild sobs and yelling, “Mama! Mama!” My heart just about breaks in two but dangit if I am going back home, so I leave him there, still crying. Guilt.
I make it to Zumba on time and spend an hour dancing and laughing at the instructor’s antics. It feels so nice to move around, to snag my favorite spot next to the giant window, to have an hour of the day without toddlers crying for me to hold them. But then I think about how a lot of moms are at a 9-5 job right now and don’t get an hour off like this, and how my children are probably crying downstairs, and who am I to deserve an hour of carefree booty shaking when my life is already so good? Guilt.
When we get home from the gym I peer into the fridge, willing it to magically produce a nutritious and kid-friendly meal. All I see is a small Pyrex of leftover ribs and an even smaller one of veggie tots that the boys refused to eat last night. I add a sliced banana to the mix and call it lunch. All the veggie tots end up on the floor, as predicted. I have no idea if they got enough to eat. Guilt.
The boys go down for a nap around 12:15 and the “shoulds” immediately swoop in to assault me. I feel drained from working at the hospital all weekend and then diving right back into the full-time work of motherhood, but I know a million tiny tasks await. I should fold the laundry, and do the lunch dishes, and clean the bathrooms, and start packing for our trip this weekend. What if I took a nap instead? Guilt.
I mull over this feeling that has been plaguing me. If I truly believe I am made in the image of God and loved by Him unconditionally, why am I spending so much mental energy holding myself up against an impossible standard of motherhood that I’ve created? I’m aiming for the wrong things. What God desires for me is this: to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with Him.
I leave the dishes in the sink, the clothes in the dryer. I change into my comfiest outfit, close the bedroom curtains, and slide underneath the covers to rest. It feels a little bit like absolution.