For this edition Clare writes in our "Diary". She shares a great insight to parental guilt around trying to be a "super-parent" and some strategies that work for her when she is handling any guilty feelings
When I have a spare moment in a busy day I often find myself, as I'm sure many of you do, scrolling down my Facebook page looking for something interesting or inspirational to give me my next boost!
A few weeks ago I read a really inspiring post that encouraged us to try to replace the feelings of guilt for our failings that we experience, with appreciation and thankfulness for what others give to us.
Sometimes when you read something, you instantly connect with it and this was one of those times for me. It started me on a little thinking journey.
I remember a conversation I had with a friend, way before I ever had children. On one occasion I remember her describing to me something that she called 'guilty mum syndrome'.
She told me that as a mother, she regularly found herself feeling guilty about something, and the pressure she felt to be a "super-parent" and get everything right. I reassured her the best I could, told her that from what I'd seen she was a great mummy, and that she didn't need to be a "super-parent" to raise her children as happy individuals. We moved on with the day and I didn't give it much thought.
It is only now that I myself am a mum of two that I think I understand exactly what she meant by this parental guilt and the feelings of pressure to be a "super-parent".
I feel guilty as a parent a lot. When I reflect on the reason for this, it is simply because I so want to do a good job, however I wonder if like me you wonder if our good every good enough? Especially when we see the images that the media and celebrity world give us around parenting.
I wanted children from a young age. By the time I was 25 I was desperate to have a baby so when I got married I didn't waste much time. In fact I found out that I was pregnant when we got back from honeymoon! It wasn't meant to be however and I miscarried fairly early into the pregnancy. This was my first insight into the feeling of guilt as a parent. It might sound illogical to some, and I did know that it wasn't really my fault but even at that very early stage of being a mummy, I truly felt that I had let that little person down by not doing a good enough job of helping it to grow.
These days, as a mother of 2, I frequently experience parental guilt!
I feel guilty that I spent too much of the day;
Then I feel guilty for;
not tidying the house (when I’ve spent quality time out and about with the children)
losing my temper with them, when I believe in positive modelling to deal with emotions
forgetting their water bottle for nursery that day
that they didn't eat as well as I would have liked because I gave them a chocolate biscuit!
I could go on, and I’m not even going into the guilt around being a stay at home mum and the challenging financial position that we have with my husband being the sole bread winner.
In truth it is easy to compare our lives to our friends and also those celebrity families out there. We might believe that some have made better decisions or have more enviable situations than ourselves. But truly is any situation ever perfect?
Many of us question our choices and decisions as parents but we can only ever do what we think is the best or sometimes the necessary thing for our family at that time. After all, there is no such thing as a perfect parent is there??!!
Personally, I don't think that guilt is always a negative feeling. It could be said that during the course of our busy lives it keeps us in check, allows us to reflect on what positive steps we can take to move ourselves and our family life forwards.
There are often things that are very difficult for us to change but there are also many small things that we can change.
Mostly importantly in all of this, I think it is important that we try not to allow any guilt we may have to hold us back in being the best parent we can be, to allow us to be too self-deprecating or simply to feel sorry for ourselves. After all as parents we have many achievements to be proud of and we must remember to focus on those.
One strategy that I have found very useful when working on this with myself is the practice of mindfulness. I find that putting myself 'into the moment' helps me rationalise and manage some of the concerns that I have.
I might ask myself 'what can I do now, within my capabilities, to move things forward or make them more how I would like them to be?'
I try to decide on a small thing and do it...and I often feel so much better for the positivity.
And so in summary, in writing this I'm making a commitment. To acknowledge these guilty feelings which inevitably will occur for me and to try to deal with them in a positive way;
Instead of feeling guilty, I'm going to feel proud of what I do give to my family, to feel thankful for what I do have and to continue my family and parental journey forward in a way that allows me to consider much more realistic expectations of myself.
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