How many of you can honestly say you have never felt guilty as a parent? Whether you go out to work or stay at home there is always something to make you feel bad about your parenting skills and decisions. You are not alone! Google throws up over 70 million results when you type in ‘guilty parent’ but a lot of it is there solely to make you feel guilty or at the very least feed into your already guilt-ridden anxiety. So, what can we do about parental guilt?

Firstly, remember that you aren’t the only one who feels like this, I know it seems from the reams of happy faces and gushing sentiments on our social media feeds that EVERYONE else is leading wonderful, guilt free lives, but this is just a snap shot of their lives and what they want you to see. Chances are the ones that are posting these ‘idyllic’ pictures are feeling even more guilty than you and are just trying to convince themselves that they are doing an amazing job (which they no doubt are!) but if you actually held a conversation with those parents they probably would tell you that they struggle to juggle work / life / family as much as the next person and that everyday guilt eats away at them too.

So often guilt comes about because of how we think other people will judge us. We sometimes look back on our own childhood and things that we liked or didn’t like about it are what we want to replicate or avoid, what we begin to realise is that in a lot of cases our own parents struggled with the work / life balance too and we then start to reconsider our feelings around what sort of parenting we had and how can we make it a better experience for our own children. When you feel guilty one of things you automatically want to do is make things better, even if in general you are not actually doing anything wrong. For example, you have had to work late because there is a big project on at work, because of this you missed the nightly bedtime story and your child is ‘sad’. To alleviate you guilt and make them ‘happy’ again you buy them a toy or promise a special trip out. The problem with that is that it teaches children that they will be compensated if things do not go their way and it also teaches them to play on out heartstrings. Thus, the merry go round of parental guilt continues. It’s okay to say ‘I’m sorry I didn’t get home early enough tonight to read to you, work was really busy, I will be home in time tonight / tomorrow and we can read together then’. You have recognised that they may be a bit down, as they like that time with you but also they have to see that you can’t always drop everything to be with them and that sometimes other things take priority.

Parenting guilt comes in many forms and I’m not going to list them all here, chances are you will feel bad if you don’t feel guilty about one of them and worry that maybe you should be! But how can you avoid feeling overwhelmed and try and keep those feelings of guilt at bay?

  1. Parental Guilt is Normal! – Talk to any parent or grandparent and I bet you they will all say they have felt guilty about something at one point or another. Is your child loved, fed, clothed and warm? If the answer is yes, then you have nothing to feel guilty about!
  2. So, what if EVERYONE is going skiing next year and your family isn’t, are you paying the bills, is your child loved, fed, clothed and warm? If the answer is yes, then you have nothing to feel guilty about! You do not have to give them the perfect life, whatever that maybe your job is to make them feel safe and secure.
  3. If you are feeling weighed down with guilt maybe channel that negativity into something positive. So, if you child wants a new more expensive toy, clear out the cupboards, sell stuff, get them to help with it. They will learn that things cost money and that nothing can just be handed to them on a plate. How much better that you teach them a life skill and they get something out of it, than you work yourself to the grindstone trying to get the money for it. Is your child loved, fed, clothed and warm? You get the idea….?

Be the first to talk to other parents about parenting guilt, believe me once you open up the conversation I bet there is a whole heap of guilt ridden parents out there ready to unburden themselves, it’s just that we all think we are the worst parents in the world and are frightened that talking to others will only strengthen that belief and make us look terrible. Do not believe everything you see in the papers or on social media, a lot of it is hype and put there to get a reaction. Give yourself a break and remember that it is the little things that children tend to remember about growing up rather than the grand gestures.

And finally, remember that guilt takes us away from the present moment because we are thinking about something that is not happening right now. If we are with our children, they need us in the present moment because they need us to engage with them and give them our physical and emotional feedback. If we are thinking about something in the past or something that may or may not happen, we cannot fully engage in what we are doing with our children. So if we are feeling guilty about something whilst being with our children, we need to have a conscious moment where we recognise this and bring ourselves back to the present. The guilty feelings can be set aside and hopefully not revisited later.

What do you feel guilty about as a parent? And how do you try to overcome the feelings of not always being a perfect parent? We would love to hear what you have to say. Pop over to our Facebook page and tell us what you think.

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