This month’s topic is about parental guilt. Let’s face it each of us are experiencing some sort of guilt on a daily basis. Guilt is a funny emotion and it can take a hold of your emotions and you end up saying and doing things that you normally wouldn’t do. When it comes to parenting, I have found that guilt can be found in most things that I do for my children.
Currently, I am struggling with the variety of foods that one of my child eats. He doesn’t like meat or vegetables and refuses to eat pretty much what the rest of the family consumes. I follow suit, I give him what I know he will eat and just give him that, knowing that I am not solving the problem. Trust me I have seen doctors and nutritionists but nothing seems to work.
Using my Ipad as a babysitter
Another example of guilt that I experience is my children’s usage of iPad and how often I use it to parent my children. I started to wonder do other parents feel the same way? The feedback has been astoundingly YES!
One mother said she felt guilty for not being able to take her children to plays that cost money and another mother said she wishes she could spend more time with her children but has to work full time, another one says she feels guilty that she doesn’t pay attention to everything her child says and often finds herself thinking what did my child just say? Why wasn’t I giving the child my full attention? One mother disclosed to me that she felt a lot of guilt for making life’s decisions that impacted her child who has a disability. Small decisions that I take for granted, such as taking a trip or enrolling a child in school can take a lot of planning, research and advice from professionals. So I asked her how did she get through this she said she had a lot of support where she worked. She stated that she often feels guilty for the decisions that she has made but knows that every decision will have positives and negatives consequences. Often, she has to outweigh these decisions and does the best that she can and be real with her life and her child’s situation.
Pangs of Guilt
As you can see parental guilt has so many difference faces. As a parent the question that kept bugging me was how do I manage/deal or cope with these feelings? After researching, I realized that many parents or child care providers have this feeling. On average a parent has 23 pangs of guilt in a week. I didn’t realize that the pangs of guilt in a parent are so prevalent. I thought it was just me and my insecurities coming through to the surface. What I know for sure is when I converse with parents I find my insecurities bubbling up even more because I fall into the trap of comparing my parenting with theirs.
Self Compassion as a mum
I learned to understand and cope with guilt in many different ways. Firstly, my own self-care is imperative so that I was mentally and physically healthy so we can be the best person, friend, spouse and parent. So go ahead and take that walk, take a few breaths or even let out some steam on that boxing bag because you need it and your children need it. Taking time for the self means that you will be in a better frame of mind to be really be present with your kids.
Another aspect I had to understand was being realistic about my life and your child’s life. How much time did I have to realistically play with my kids and how did I engage with my kids? I accepted that my time maybe less or more on certain days but that it was okay. I had to turn off my critical self talk and just be in the moment (when I had time too) with them. I started to have deeper conversations with my 6 year old that were meaningful to him. With my 3 year old we engaged in water play in the bathroom basin and had a blast blowing bubbles everywhere and not worry about cleaning it up. I noticed that once we had moments like these I was enjoying my kids and they were enjoying me. I also noticed that I didn’t feel any guilt because (even though there were other things to do within in our daily routine) they were having a good time.
Any time you can share one on one with your child will help create and secure a nurturing bond so that those times when you are not available they will remember them and feel safe. I have learned to be kind to myself, being optimistic and lastly empathetic. I also remind myself that I try hard to make sure their physical, social and emotional needs are met. So if something falls through the cracks (if I miss something) its okay. Let this moment pass. I know this is easier said than done, but berating myself doesn’t help me move forward it anchors me into negative thoughts that then can impact how I am parenting in the present. In the end, I also learned that feeling parental guilt is ok. It teaches me that perhaps I need to do things differently or even spare 5 mins to run around the house like a monster with the kids and then get back to the dishes. We do the best we can. Its okay.