Monday, 17 June 2013

Parental guilt

When I was asked to contribute to Premmeditations' 'Give up the guilt' one-off linky, I was not sure where to start. Many of the other contributors have much bigger day-to-day issues to deal with than I do (special needs, mental illness for example). A post about my guilt may seem ridiculously trivial in comparison. In addition, whilst I naturally feel guilty as a mother sometimes, I am happy to say I don't often get bogged down by it. I don't mean to sound smug and I am far from a perfect mother but I wouldn't be Mummy Zen if I let guilt get the better of me!

Yet I know from speaking to mummy friends that the kinds of things that bring on guilt for me are the same for lots of other mothers. Also when it comes to any emotion, it's personal and nothing personal should be trivialised! So here's what makes me feel guilty, followed by how I avoid it bringing me down.

I can divide my sources of guilt into two. One is related to my own parenting, so things I do that make me feel guilty about me not being a good parent/role model. The other is guilt about time, wanting to spend it in a quality way and with equal measure with my two children and feeling like I don't do a great job of it.

Guilt about parenting is when I feel like I'm failing as a good parent. I'm thankful it doesn't happen very often but it's usually when I'm having a bad day, being tested at every moment and regrettably I do one or more of the following:
  • shout
  • respond hastily and snap
  • deal out an inappropriate punishment (nothing too severe obviously! Something like no pudding or no bedtime story)
Guilt over time spent with my two children is something that came along obviously with the second child. I know a lot of other parents are in the same boat, feeling stretched and like they are not giving enough to each child. With my youngest, she is neglected when it comes to acitivities. I used to take my son to lots of play groups, a music class and then at home we would often do painting, arts and crafts. I'm ashamed to say I don't think I have once got out the paints at home to do with my daughter who is nearly 20 months now. I won't bore you with my excuses!

As for my eldest, I similarly do less activities with him at home than I used to. I try to do a bit of writing practice with him most days as he is coming along well with his writing, but in an ideal world I would do this and other fun stuff too. He will start school in September so I am aware he will need lots of encouragement and support at home, as they learn to read and write.

I could go on and on about the guilt of time management with my two children, how my youngest gets dragged here, there and everywhere to fit in around her brother's daily schedule and rarely has the luxury of something fun purely for her benefit. Similarly, I sometimes find it hard to spend a bit of one-on-one time with my eldest child, which I think is important.

So how do I not let the guilt I sometimes experience get the better of me? With the guilt about my own parenting, I hate myself for it. I try to step back from the situation and address what is really going on. Am I over-tired or hungry and it's making me impatient and unattentive? What are my childen trying to communicate through their challenging behaviour? Deep breaths, count to ten and start again! Making an effort to be a good parent is so worthwhile because everyone benefits, the children and the parent.

In the case of the guilt I sometimes feel over quality time spent with my children, I remind myself of all the positive things in our daily life and get it all in perspective. I give them both lots of love and affection, I cook healthy meals for them each day, I read stories to them both every evening, I always do at least one activity with each of them even if it is something small like playing chase or building Lego. I talk to them and listen. Then there are some days when we go above and beyond the norm! We do go to the odd playgroup, we do still do some arts and crafts at home, my son and I like to bake.

It may not be everything I wish I could do, but as parents we simply do the best we can. Provided we are doing that, we should be happy and accepting of all the good stuff and not expend our energy on what we are not doing or on what might make us feel guilty. I know it's not always as easy as it sounds....

Can you relate to the guilt I've described? What makes you feel guilty as a parent? How do you deal with it or do you struggle to do so? Do have a read of all the other excellent posts in this linky over on Premmeditations.
photo credit


  1. I can relate... all too much... The guilt. Always the guilt...

    I hadn't realised this was a linky until I cam ehere - I'm assuming that's where Looking For Blue Sky's post came from now. Ahhhh I would have joined in for sure had I still been blogging.

    I felt guilt when I was a teacher because I couldn't be anywhere near perfect. If I devoted time to catching up with marking, my lesson prep suffered, if I prepared what I hoped would be wonderfully engaging and interactive lessons, then I'd drop the ball elsewhere. And as for my poor longsuffering (at the time) partner, I'm amazed he stayed with me and we ended up married!

    But as a parent, it's even worse! It started when I couldn't keep anything down while pregnant, let alone all the folic acid and healthy foods. Then, w
    well, the preemie times... and now, ugh. It never ends! I hate it when I snap and am harsh, I hate it when I have to work and can't devote enough attention - and the reaction it gets. My daughter HATES being ignored. I feel guilty I can't give her a sibling to help keep her entertained, that we too don't do as many activities as we once did. So. Much. Guilt.

    And I know it's wrong. But the negative emotions are much more persuasive than the positive ones, aren't they? xx

    1. I know what you mean, it's like we are engineered to focus on the negatives. I know you do loads of great things with your daughter and surround her with love though, don't forget that! xx

  2. Guilt is such a useless emotion. Sorry, it does have a purpose: to help us notice it and practice focusing on more positive things. Because the change from negative to positive takes practice, just like parenting does. I felt guilty big time after my accident when it took me years to recover. but you know what? All your children need to know is that you love them and did the best you could. If you're willing to tell them that (when they're older) they will forgive everything. Enjoy the days and do what you can. Your daughter will be fine. She has a big brother, which you son didn't have. :)

    1. Wise words Maryse, thank you. You are absolutely right of course that the most important thing is your children knowing you love them and did the best you could. Hadn't ever thought about the difference in my daughter having a big brother and him not growing up from birth with a sibling. Great point!


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