Is the weight of the world on your shoulders?
As a parent, guilt can feel like a constant companion, but it doesn't have to be this way. Gretchen Carroll explains.
Mum guilt – it’s real, and while it’s not a new phenomenon, feelings of guilt have probably been heightened by social media in recent years. And of course, it’s not just mums who feel it, dads do too. So what do we feel guilty about? Here are a few examples of my own and from friends (it’s good to know other people feel this way too as that’s an important part of rejecting it – none of us are perfect!).
WHAT WE FEEL GUILTY ABOUT
❧ Comparing ourselves to other mums who seem to be handling motherhood well, and getting back into shape easily after giving birth.
❧ Bottle-feeding our babies instead of breastfeeding.
❧ Not spending enough time with our family if we're working mums – and equally – feeling like we're not giving enough to our jobs because of family.
❧ Leaving children at daycare – 'is it the 'right' place or carer?' Particularly when the child isn’t happy. Or wondering if they should be going to daycare as often or at all?
❧ The amount of time children spend on devices, and how much time we spend on devices in their company.
❧ What they’re eating – with babies this can be, 'am I introducing solids correctly?'. And when they get older, 'are they eating too much 'rubbish' or enough protein/iron/vegetables?'. This can intensify after seeing a health professional who might say our child is too heavy or too light, or their teeth aren’t looking healthy.
❧ Not playing enough with our children.
❧ Changes at home such as parent conflict or separation, and worrying how it will affect our child/children.
❧ Not being able to afford certain things for them.
❧ Losing our temper or not parenting how we want to.
❧ You can even feel guilty about feeling consumed with guilt!
HOW TO KEEP IT IN CHECK
❧ Remember, you are not alone, everyone feels guilty to a certain degree at some time.
❧ We all know to be kind to others, but let’s be kind to ourselves and lose the self-criticism.
❧ Lower your expectations of yourself (and others!) during periods of stress.
❧ Children don’t expect perfection from parents, they love you as you are, so if you’re doing your best most of the time, then you’re doing great.
❧ Children don't need the latest toy or gadget.
❧ You don’t need to be doing it all – identify what your priorities are as parents and focus on those, while letting other areas go. Eg if neither parent enjoys preparing food, then buy easy-to-prepare healthy food and take up offers from grandparents or friends.
❧ Surround yourself with adults who are supportive, not judgemental. If someone else is judging you, then they’re not worth your precious time and energy.
❧ What you see on Instagram is far from the full picture, so limit your time on social media and be selective with who you follow.
❧ When you don’t handle something like you wanted to, turn it into a good example of owning your mistakes and apologising to your child, they will understand and forgive.
Gretchen Carroll lives in Auckland with her husband and son. She’s a freelance writer, published flash fiction author, and enjoys good coffee and books. Read more of her writing over at gretchencarroll.journoportfolio.com.
AS FEATURED IN ISSUE 57 OF OHbaby! MAGAZINE. CHECK OUT OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE BELOW