From the moment we bring a child into the world, we want the very best for them. We make many decisions for them every day which bears huge responsibility. Understandably, we question ourselves and second guess our own decisions, always wondering if we made the right choices for our children.
The working mum feels guilty that she is not at home with her children. The stay-at-home mum feels guilty that her children don’t get the variety and social interaction that come with nursery and pre-school.
When you want to buy your child a treat there’s a flurry of guilt whizzing through your mind… ‘I mustn’t spoil my child’, ‘I want to reward my child’, ‘I don’t want to be mean and always say no’
When you let your child watch TV, which he may actually learn quite a bit from, there is the guilt coming in again; ‘too much telly is not good for my child, but he really likes this programme’.
A strict parent feels guilty for being too strict while a soft parent feels guilty for being too soft. Even the parent who thinks she has the balance just right will feel guilty at times about not being firm enough or not being soft enough – What is ‘enough’ anyway?
Perhaps the more choices you have available to you, the more the guilt battle goes on? If your circumstances don’t allow much choice, you accept things as they have to be and do the best for your child. When you have the freedom and more opportunities open to you, perhaps this makes even more of a challenge to get things ‘right’?
If you have the choice between private or state school for example, or which neighbourhood you bring your child up in. Where you take them for days out or holidays – Maybe the more choices you have, the more you will question your choices?
With the increased openness to self-improvement that our generation is experiencing, we feel more responsibility than ever before to create a safe, happy and well-rounded environment for our children and to understand them and their feelings so as not to screw them up and leave them with scars that show up in later life.
So how can we, as parents, overcome this eternal guilt thing? Be authentic, don’t wear a mask or try to be perfect. Don’t compete with your mummy friends or try to give the impression that you are supreme and have everything handled. Be human, be real and perhaps everyone around you will be too. Don’t surround yourself with those who have a pretence of perfection but surround yourself with supportive parents who ‘get you’, who share experiences with you and can be vulnerable with you.
‘Guilt is linked to empathy and understanding other perspectives’ – Brene Brown
So perhaps we should embrace guilt?
I have come to accept that feeling guilty is just a part of parenting that will never go away. It’s one of those, ‘you’re damned if you do, you’re damned if you don’t’ type of things that you just have to accept and live in harmony with and trust yourself that you are always doing your best for your children. YOU are enough.