Coping With Guilt as a Single Parent
Some popular pundits think guilt is totally wacko. Guilt is consigned to our “primitive, puritanical past” and has no place in the hearts and minds of postmodern people. Oh, please. Show me a single mom who has to drag her kids out of bed and leave them at day care (sick or healthy, screaming or content) who has never felt a tinge of guilt, and I’ll show you a bald-faced phony or someone so indoctrinated by feel-good philosophy that she is out of touch with real emotions. Of course you feel guilty from time to time! Even if you were a stay-at-home co-parent you’d occasionally face guilt over your child rearing capabilities.
One writer put it this way, “Mothering is about never being able to give enough and feeling guilty about that.”
You may feel guilt because you contributed to (or initiated) the separation that cost the kids the presence of a father they adore. You may feel guilt because you have to leave them in order to go to work. You may feel guilt because you can’t give them everything you’d like. (In my perspective, a very good thing.) You may feel guilt because of where you and the children are forced to live, what you feed them, where they go to school, the lack of money for summer camps and vacations. A mother in Virginia told me, “I hurt. I sacrifice my feelings for my son.” You may even feel guilt because you sometimes resent having children. (News flash: Resenting them from time to time is normal. If you resent them most of the time, you’d better seek counsel. Fast.)
What you do with your guilt becomes critical. Don’t punish yourself, and don’t spend all your energy trying to compensate your children. Your marriage is over. If you’re harboring guilt, it still owns you. Ditto hate, by the way. According to Dr. Carl Pickhardt, “Love and loathing are both passionate connections, and the divorce reactor is still ‘wed’ to the ex through hate.”
Whatever your circumstance, whatever the reason for your circumstance, it is your circumstance. Get on with it. This is one place I will use a slogan: Don’t cry over split milk. This is your life now, if only for a season. If you let guilt cripple you, you’ll not be able to provide the security your children must have.
On the other hand, guilt may be a call for contrition and repentance because of sin. Contrition means saying you’re sorry; repentance means turning your back on the sin you are sorry for. In Scripture we read of a merciful God who forgives and forgets iniquity, who removes our sin from us as far as the east is from the west. If you are truly guilty because of sin, try praying this prayer:
Lord, I have this guilt haunting me. It’s about _______________. I’m relying on Your promise to remember this no more. I need You to help me not to remember too. I’ve got these kids to raise, and I want to do the best I can. I can’t do it without You. Help!
Pray something like that.