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Moms know guilt. We wear it like a tattered old sweater we refuse to part with. We carry it with us like a dark cloud that threatens our happiness. And we reluctantly but faithfully accept it from strangers, causing us to second-guess our every move.

Guilt can be helpful if it causes you to be a better person. But, if you’re like me, you take on a lot of guilt that doesn’t do anything but create stress and anxiety. That’s because we feel guilty about things that don’t deserve our attention. Here are five things I’ve decided I no longer need to feel guilty about – and I’m hoping you will join me!

Five Things You Can Stop Feeling Guilty About

  1. Your parenting style. Being a mom is a journey comprised of a million decisions. Breastfeed or bottle feed? Vaccinations or not? Homeschool, Catholic school or public school? It seems no matter what you choose, you attract critics and haters. Family, friends and total strangers weigh in on your abilities as a parent. Even your children evaluate your skills and tell you what you’re doing wrong (maybe that’s just my children!). But guess what? It’s your job to make those decisions and you’re not getting fired anytime soon. God gave your children to you for a reason – and he will equip you to be the best mom you can be to them. So pray for guidance and make your choices based on what you feel is best at the moment and don’t look back.
  2. Your work choices. Are you a member of Team LeanIn or Team StayAtHomeMom? A lot of moms feel like they need to take sides. I happen to fall somewhere in the middle, which makes it difficult to have allegiance to either team. But there are some maniacal fans on both sides and they can make you question your choices. One minute you feel guilty for not being home with your children and the next minute you feel guilty for “wasting” your master’s degree. Remember, God created YOU to be unique. He has very specific plans for you – and they don’t involve following the crowd. So, take heart and know that if your choices are in alignment with God’s plan there’s no reason to feel guilty.
  3. Your messy house. There was a time in my life when my house was clean and tidy. Then I had three babies. I’m not blaming the messy house on my children. But it was suspicious timing. And while I tried desperately to hold tight to my organizational skills, I eventually lowered my standards and learned to settle for something less than perfect. Any mom will agree – no matter how hard you work to keep up with the house, the dishes and the laundry, there will always be more work to do. For me, the futile effort to “catch up” with chores prevented me from enjoying my family. So now that I’ve come to my senses, I am content with baskets full of laundry going untouched and a few dirty dishes on the counter. (Very few. But still…) Whatever you’re obsessing with in your home is probably not worth the time you’re losing with the ones you love.
  4. Your food. I think nutrition is second to religion when it comes to polarizing topics. Everyone wants to eat healthy, but the word “healthy” is subjective. There is so much conflicting information out there that it’s hard to tell what’s best. Should I hop on the Paleo bandwagon and eat bacon? Or go vegan and avoid animal products? I’ve heard that a gluten free lifestyle is healthy. What about Weight Watchers – they’ve been around a long time, so they must know what works. It’s overwhelming. What’s even more confusing is the fact that there are medical doctors endorsing every option. And “medical research” to support each one. I honestly don’t know which approach is best but I suspect it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. So, if you’re trying to “eat healthy” then cut yourself some slack and don’t worry about all the conflicting messages you’re getting.
  5. Your broken relationships. I can be loyal to a fault – trying to make relationships work when they are meant to dissolve. Hoping to please people even if that means compromising my values. Doing everything possible to avoid disappointing others. So when a friendship falls apart, I don’t take it well. If there’s conflict or confrontation involved, I’m a mess. I take on all the responsibility for fixing things. But what I’m learning to accept is that sometimes relationships don’t work out for a reason. And it’s all part of a much bigger plan. So I need to let go of the guilt, learn from the experience and release the relationship with love.

The thing about guilt is that it’s not supposed to be a heavy burden we use to pass judgment on ourselves. Guilt is only healthy when it guides you back on a path toward God. It’s helpful when it prevents you from causing pain and reminds you to treat others with love and respect. It’s useful when it directs you to do the right thing. And sometimes, the right thing is to let go of the guilt.

Copyright 2015 Theresa Ceniccola.