Are you a parent who is struggling with competing responsibilities and trying to do it all? Are you often worried that your actions (or inactions) will negatively affect your children? Do you sometimes feel like you are failing as a parent because you are not doing enough for your kids?
These feelings are far more common than you’d expect. As a mother of two boys, I myself have had bouts of my own feelings of inadequacy as a parent. These feelings are completely normal, and happen to both mothers and fathers alike. In fact, as we’re seeing an increase in fathers taking a more active role in their children’s care and traditional gender roles are evolving, these feelings of inadequacy are becoming even more prevalent in fatherhood than ever before.
Parents often worry in private about how their actions affect their children and what others think of them as a parent. Whether it’s guilt about formula vs. breastfeeding, not spending enough time with their children, working too much, not putting them in enough extracurricular activities, the quality of food they eat, or whether they have too much screen time, external influences often exacerbate parent guilt. From social media to parenting books to mom blogs, today’s parents can often feel inundated by unattainable parenting standards from a variety of different places.
Next time you are experiencing parenting guilt, remember there are ways to overcome it. Below are 6 tools you can employ to manage feelings of parenting guilt as it arises:
Write it down
Journaling those guilt-ridden moments is helpful because it can help you become aware of what you are struggling with so that you can take actions to address them. Journaling can include jotting down positive affirmations, or writing a forgiveness letter to either yourself or others that made you feel guilty.
Surround yourself with supportive people
While advice is often given with best intentions, it can often have a detrimental effect on someone struggling with feelings of parent guilt. Minimize interaction with those who you feel are judgemental and provide unsolicited advice and opinions.
Be kind to yourself
Would you be critical of the parenting style or approaches of your friend or family member? Treat yourself with that same kindness and make an effort to focus on yourself and on the positives.
Always remember that self-care is not selfish! In fact, it will help you be more present when you are with your children. Taking the time for activities that you enjoy, such as reading a book, going for a walk, or going to a spa will help you ‘refill your cup’ so that you have the energy to spend time with your children.
Challenge those unrealistic beliefs and rules
Challenge those rules and beliefs you read about in blogs, magazines and social media about how to be the perfect parent and reframe them into a more positive statement. Ask yourself…Is there evidence to support this rule and/or belief? And remember that there is no one universal formula on how to be a good parent.
Seek help from a therapist
If you are completely overwhelmed, consider seeking help from a therapist who specializes in working with parents and other caregivers.
Parenting is hard! It can be emotionally and physically exhausting trying to be ‘perfect’. I am here to remind you that there is no right or wrong way to parent, your feelings are valid and that there are strategies and people available to you that can help.