A small tiff with my three year old, over feeding, right before he left for school, had once again reeling me with that feeling of being a “bad parent” And what triggered it, was my child’s incessant crying! It isn’t something new! I keep getting this feeling every now and then, especially when I am not giving in to my child’s demands of impulsive hitting another kid over a toy, or when I’m just walking off at times, refusing to talk (as I’m terribly upset with him) or simply when the child is not listening to what I’m saying, post repeating myself some hundred times, leading to an emotionally heated verbal explosion!
This feeling gets the better of me every other day. Right from when I forget to send snacks for my kid’s field trip, forgetting to pack that extra layer of clothing (when he’s wheezing with another bout of cold and cough) to failing to bake his favorite comfort food due to work commitments, the feeling is right there in my mind, yelling in my head that “I’m failing as a mom”!
“Parental guilt” is for real and it is an unavoidable emotion that all of us, as parents feel and get embroiled in. It’s a feeling that comes and goes, on and off! We are constantly guilty, thinking our best isn’t good enough! We struggle when work commitments or household chores prevent us from extending time to our kids. This feeling often plummets us into thinking if we are making the right choices for the sake of that “happiness” in our kids! Hence, no matter how much we slog, multi-task, try and fit in almost every “to-do-item” on that checklist, we still are feeling guilty about something or the other, especially with kids!
Some parents shrug it and move on, while some make it a vicious cycle, self-pitying to sometimes self-loathing themselves for the situation!
However, wouldn’t it be good if we all understood what it meant, at a much deeper level? Well, although I’m no Sigmund Freud, yet I feel that every emotion stems from a certain way we feel about a situation. Maybe identifying and dealing with the situation will be better, before the feeling takes us on another tizzy ride!
I believe “parental guilt”, sometimes is fine. After all, there’s no such thing as perfect parenting and parenting isn’t a competition, where we all have to meet certain milestones over a stipulated period of time. It’s every parent’s individual journey! Accepting that we are humans and we will be making mistakes, will make it an enjoyable and happy journey! So there’s no need to judge yourself and label yourself!
You don’t have to compare yourself with other moms! You are charting your own story, into which nobody can fit in. It’s just you and your child, so figuring out what that guilt can do to improve this journey, your equation with your child, will be more beneficial than feeling guilty about other moms do and you don’t! Focus on the good things that you are doing rather than what you couldn’t or didn’t! Understand that love is the only pre-requisite for this beautiful bond. Learn to laugh over your misses and flubs rather than taking things too seriously.
However, if the “guilt” keeps coming on and on, then maybe it is trying to point at a certain problem area at our parenting. It could be our ignorance or our inability, because of which we often end up feeling helpless and sad, and hence, the guilt”. If consoling ourselves isn’t doing us any good, then maybe we need to see beyond the superficial. It means that something is seriously wrong and we need to correct it as soon as possible!
For instance, if you are constantly feeling guilty for not being able to spend time, then maybe you actually need to consciously plan and spend some time! You need not quit your job, but maybe wake up early or take time off( even an hour or two would do) from your busy schedule, to spend time with your child, and do things with your child that he wants you for. The household chores can also wait some days, while you spend time with your kid!
“Parental guilt” can heal with your conscious observation and efforts, provided you remain keen to rectify the problem. The rest, you can leave on time! However, treat it before it turns into a shame plunging into you into a feeling of worthlessness and a negative sense of self, especially as a mother! Sometimes, this guilt or rather shame or negativity can even get spiraled, out of control and parents could end up making their and their kids’ lives miserable as well.
For the latter, mentioned above, I would also suggest creating the right community of moms/people around us, who make you feel better as a mother. Sometimes, the wrong sorts bring out the “parental guilt” in mothers, making them feel inadequate and negative about their parenting. You desperately and immediately need to stay away from such degrading people, who always make you feel small!
Work wisely and practically at the problem areas and have the right support system to raise your child and deal with your parental guilt in process. Finally, all I would say is stay observant and work smartly. “Parental guilt” is a natural emotion and a little bit of it is for the good. It stems from our desire to be a good parent to our wards. So neither ignore it nor take it too seriously! Just stay happy and know that you are doing just good and enough for your child!