Parental guilt: we all have it, right?
And we all know the majority of it is ridiculous.
Here are some of the things I have felt guilty for lately:
- When I went back to work and S started nursery, I promised both of us that I would make an extra effort to ensure the days we spent together were filled with fun and special time… Fast forward a year, and I’m not doing so great at the special time. I need to make more effort to do fun stuff, to go fun places.
- S doesn’t have a daddy. There is no male influence in her life. While I would die before allowing her biological father within 100 feet of her, I feel bad for her that she doesn’t have someone to do dad things with. I try, but I can’t really be both parents.
- She doesn’t have brothers or sisters to play with; when we’re home, it’s just the two of us. And I’m not much fun to play with. I would love for her to have someone closer to her own age to play with, but it’s not likely to happen.
- Sometimes, when S is being… well, she’s just being two if I’m honest – and I am losing my temper for things I know she can’t help, I just stick her in the buggy and hope that a long walk will help both of us to chill out. I feel bad that she’s being shoved into a buggy and wheeled around town just because I can’t deal with being a good mother.
- I have been offensively tired for the last few days, and have done very little house work. I mean, even less than I usually get by on. Yesterday, I spent her nap… napping myself. This means that firstly, her living space is filled with unsorted washing and general junk that needs putting away, and secondly, I’m spending the time either side of her nap trying to catch up on boring crap rather than having fun with her.
- I feel endlessly guilty that we live here, on this estate, surrounded by drug dealers and people who have their arguments loudly, outside of our windows. More than once in the last couple of weeks, I have had to usher her out of the kitchen under the pretence of “let’s go and play in the living room, quickly, right now” because the words we can hear clearly through the kitchen window are not ones I ever want her to hear.
- Sometimes she doesn’t want what I’ve cooked for dinner, and I have the dilemma of “well, she won’t eat this, but I can’t send her to bed on an empty stomach… what will she eat?” – the answer to that question is never “some carrot sticks with hummus.” Not even close.
- This is possibly the most ridiculous one: when she wakes in the night crying, and she doesn’t want a cuddle, and nothing I whisper to her can make her calm down… I feel like I am failing as a parent. Because I’m the only one she has. And if I can’t calm her down and make her feel safe, then who can?
All of these things and more, on daily basis, make me feel like I’m failing as a mother. I’m a bad mother.
But when I stop to think about it, I know most of these things are ridiculous. I know that the very fact I feel guilty means I am doing a better job than those people who don’t feel guilty or worry about whether they’re doing a good job.
In everything – not just parenting – I find the complete lack of questioning ones actions very worrying. We should constantly check ourselves, wonder whether we’re on the right path, re-evaluate our positions. If we don’t, we risk getting past the point of no return before realising we did something wrong.
I believe parental guilt is there to make us question ourselves. It’s there to keep us wondering, am I doing the right thing here? Should I choose a different option? Is there anything I can do to make this better?