Who knew being a parent could come with so much guilt?
It seems there’s always something to feel guilty about no matter what you do.
Whether you go to work, are a stay-at-home parent, don’t let kids play games on school nights or use the iPad to stop a tantrum because you’re so damn tired, sometimes it feels like everything you do is wrong.
Guilt is a useful emotion that forces us to reflect on our behaviour, helping us to right wrongs and increase feelings of empathy for others.
Just like sugar and alcohol, too much guilt can have a negative effect on our wellbeing, and parent guilt is no exception.
Effects of parent guilt
If these symptoms sound like you, you might be experiencing parent guilt:
• Difficulty sleeping
• Thinking that nothing you do is good enough
• Increased feelings of anxiety or depression
• Persistent stress
• No time for yourself or for things you enjoy
• Having trouble keeping up with everyday tasks
• Not enjoying spending time with your children
The good news is, once we understand the symptoms of parent guilt, we can start reducing its impact on your life.
How can we drop the guilt?
Sometimes our feelings can get so jumbled in our heads that it van be hard to know how we feel at all.
Taking some time to note down your feelings about your parent guilt, the reasons you might be feeling this guilt as well as any specific examples, you will begin to untangle the threads of your thoughts and get a better understanding of the bigger picture.
Work on one thing at a time
Emotions are messy and often affect multiple areas of our lives. To give yourself the best chance of success, choose one area to focus on at a time.
For example, part of your parent guilt might come from needing to drop the kids off at their friend’s house or to spend the day with grandma while you’re at work.
Instead of feeling guilt, reframe your perspective. Try commending yourself for working and supporting your child and feel gratitude that they will be spending the day with their friends or getting spoiled by Grandma.
Similarly, if you’re a stay-at-home parent and dread the holidays because you find it hard to keep your child occupied, see it as an opportunity to bond, learn how to cook something new together and turn household chores into a game.
Tackling one area at a time will make things less overwhelming, meaning you’re more likely to stick with your new habits.
Give yourself grace
Do yourself a favour and gather up all your perceptions on what you think the perfect parent looks like and all the ways you feel you don’t meet this ideal and throw it out the metaphorical window.
Life is messy and chaotic, but that’s what makes it fun and beautiful. Perfectionism is beige, lifeless, sterile and boring.
Cut yourself some slack, stop comparing yourself to others and focus on you and your child.
One of the best things you can do if it’s all getting a bit much or you’re feeling lost is to seek help.
Whether it’s reaching out to a friend or a professional, asking for help is a sign of strength and bravery, not a sign of failure.
Working on your feelings of guilt as a parent can take time, but with persistent effort you will begin to see improvements.
Not every day will be perfect, but the thing that matters is that you work through the bad days and keep trying.