I held the 16-ounce, $5 jar of mayonnaise in one hand, while looking at the 32-ounce container of regular mayo sitting on the shelf in front of me. The regular mayo was on sale — buy one, get one free. All reason within me shouted that I should buy the least expensive kind, and put the outrageously expensive jar back in the shelf.
And yet, I found myself carefully placing the organic mayo inside my shopping cart.
Torn between common sense and guilt, old, fear-ridden reasons danced around my mind:
“There’s no telling how much junk is in that jar. And the preservatives, oh! These deadly little creatures will enter your children’s bodies and order cancer cells to multiply at lightning speed. You’re a cancer survivor. You don’t take chances.”
As if I’d open the jar and feed mayo to my children with a spoon! For heaven’s sake, I spread a tiny bit of it on sandwiches — that’s all!
And yet, there it was — the little demon of fear and guilt that sits on this mom’s left shoulder threatened to win again.
It seems as if when I left the hospital carrying my first baby 15 years ago, an extra bag of guilt, feelings of inadequacy and fear was packed for the journey home.
It’s true, the Guilt-Fear-Inadequacy fountain pours a little bit of venom at different stages of motherhood:
It filled me with guilt when I couldn’t breastfeed my firstborn after six weeks.
It haunted my every thought when I had to leave my 13-month-old baby in her first day care.
It threatens me every time I must tell my children I don’t have time to take them to the park, or that I’m too tired to play a board game.
And it shouts from the grocery store aisles, where products that are supposed to protect, nourish and make life a little sweeter are painted as weapons of mass destruction by the latest internet article.
Guilt, fear and inadequacy are strong weapons used against mothers. And for most of us, we are the ones who point that weapon against our own hearts. We bite the bait and believe the lies, closing our eyes to the ocean of goodness and love that flow through every move we make, and every step we take in this journey called motherhood.
We are far from perfect. But oh — do we love our children!
As a matter of fact, it’s love that feeds the guilt monster. It’s love that is behind our every fear. It’s love that buys and layers them with sunscreen, and it’s love that throws away the bottle when it’s ranked as the worst sunscreen in the market.
Love is the fuel of every guilt trip we take and every fear we face.
But still, let’s face the truth: Fear and guilt do not belong with love.
Just as God forgives his children and gives them endless grace, I am challenged to give myself and my mother that same gift today: grace and the priceless gift of forgiveness.
I’m a work in progress. But so is motherhood.
But today I am proud to say that the jar of gold-priced mayo went back to that shelf. And I’m buying whatever sunblock I want, and even letting my children bathe in plain, old-fashioned sunshine for a few minutes. We’ll have frozen pizza for dinner and I’ll not beat myself up for it. I’ll say yes to ice cream on Wednesdays and smile at the sight of their cheeks smeared with chocolate.
And on days I cannot play that board game, I will give them extra hugs, and put my phone down to listen to their stories.
Motherhood is a gift from God, and time is flying by. I don’t want fear and guilt to rob me of one more minute of the few years I have them under my roof.
So, here’s to us — imperfect mothers of the world. Happy Mother’s Day!Give yourself a Mother's Day gift this weekend: Ditch the guilt and fear. Neither comes from God. Read this! Click To Tweet
This article was published on Patricia’s weekend column for the Atlanta Journal Constitution on Friday May 12, 2017