Writing While Wrestling with Mom Guilt

Writing While Wrestling with Mom Guilt

Today’s COMPEL blog post comes from Encouragement for Today writer and author, Arlene Pellicane. 

“Mom, can you play with me?” 

Oh, this is a complicated question! On one hand, you probably only have 18 summers with your kids and you want to cherish the time when your kids actually want to play with you. 

On the other hand, you have work to do. Perhaps you’ve just settled into a good writing groove and you hate to be interrupted yet again.  

I hear you.  Now during COVID-19, my kids are home (100% distance learning for school).  My youngest daughter, Lucy still often asks me when I’m ready to play store.  My first traditionally published book came out in 2010.  My kids were six, four and one at the time. I remember a day when Lucy (at about 18 months old) was sitting next to me on the floor, chomping on a piece of paper. I was trying so hard to finish a chapter. My husband James walked in and said, “Don’t you see she’s eating a piece of paper?” 

I might have intervened with child number one and two, but by child three, my thoughts were “She’ll be fine. The paper won’t really hurt much and I really need to finish this paragraph!” 

We can easily feel guilty as moms about writing, wondering if we are ignoring our kids or making them feel like they are constantly in second place.  I do want to say there is such a thing as “good guilt.” Good guilt says “I did something wrong and I’m sorry.” Bad guilt says “I’m no good.”  

Author Philip Yancey puts it this way:

Guilt is not a state to cultivate, like a mood you slip into for a few days.  It should have directional movement, first pointing backward to the sin and then pointing forward to repentance….True saints do not get discouraged over their faults, for they recognize that a person who feels no guilt can never find healing.  Paradoxically, neither can a person who wallows in guilt.  The sense of guilt only serves its designed purpose if it presses us toward the God who promises forgiveness and restoration. 

As it says in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  What a beautiful promise for us imperfect writing moms. When I snap at my kids or say it will “only be five more minutes” when it’s actually one hour, I can apologize and ask my children for forgiveness. I don’t have to live under mom guilt all the time.  

God can take our parenting mistakes and teach us lessons that will make us soar as moms (and writers). Just begin by admitting freely when you’ve made a mistake.  Receive forgiveness and lay down your mommy guilt. It’s an unnecessary accessory. 


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  1. This was so timely. I literally had a moment with my daughter yesterday that led me to lots of mommy guilt – the good kind. The kind that led me to see my expectations were too high and not clearly communicated. The kind that led me to clarify that my feeling frustrated at her messy room was ok, but my angry outburst at her for making a mess was not. And forgiveness followed.

    Thank you for this very needed word of wisdom.

  2. I am almost finished with a short story about how my daughter advocated for me when I was seriously ill this past summer. I would like to get feedback on my writing.

  3. What a wonderful quote from Phillip Yancey. We need to lay aside mom guilt if we are just using it to beat ourselves up. Real guilt leads us to repentance and change. False guilt does not.