One morning, I was dropping my kids off at daycare when a fellow mom says to me, “Ugh…it’s so hard leaving my kids here. I just feel so guilty.”
Parent guilt, yuck…
Have you ever felt like this mom? I think we all have at one time or another and we think that guilt just comes along with the territory. We think it’s normal and useful, and we are even encouraged to feel this way by other parents and grandparents. However, I believe that the feeling of guilt is unhelpful and optional, and it affects our lives in a really negative way as it deprives us of our joy.
Guilt is defined as “a feeling you have when you think you have compromised your morals.” Since it is a feeling, that means guilt is caused by your thoughts, since all feelings are caused by our thoughts. When you think you have compromised your morals, you have the thoughts that make you FEEL guilty. If we take this definition of guilt literally, I think what we’re feeling is actually shame or worry, because these parenting situations are rarely compromising our morals.
So, let’s brainstorm. What do you feel guilty about in your life?
Is it how much screen time you give your kids? Having a picky eater and giving them unhealthy food because they actually eat it? How much candy they get to eat on weekends? Not rescuing your child from something challenging and seeing them suffer a bit? Yelling at your kids more than you want to? Spending time away from your kids? Not enjoying playing with them? Taking time to exercise or go out with friends or your spouse? Are you feeling guilty for not feeling guilty?
Ask yourself – are any of these things compromising your morals? Or are they just choices that you are making as a normal part of parenting?
If they are just choices as a part of normal parenting, then why do we feel so much guilt?
Well, one of the reasons we feel guilt is because we love our kids fiercely and want the best for them. Sometimes we can’t always make the perfect choice in every situation. We don’t want our kids to suffer at all and then we feel like we are the cause of that suffering when we impose consequences or let them fail or let them eat unhealthy food. And it’s hard because we feel the tension between feeling responsible for their suffering and wanting to do what’s best for them. What’s best for them isn’t always the easiest path, nor is it the path that feels the best for us or for them.
Also, we want to parent well, but we don’t always know how and we make mistakes a lot. There’s no manual, no right or wrong way to parent. On top of that, parenting needs us to be good at everything, which is impossible. We have to do things that we aren’t good at, and it feels bad to us when we can’t do it all the way we want to. So as a result, the challenge of the job of parenting combined with our deep desire to do it well, creates many opportunities for us to find reasons that we are doing it wrong. So then, the result is thoughts that make us feel guilt or shame.
So how do we get rid of our guilt?
First, when we make a mistake, it’s important to not judge ourselves, but to just notice that something didn’t work or something didn’t go as well we wanted.
Then, we need to think of those moments as ways to improve as a parent while being compassionate to ourselves.
Next, when guilt comes up, pay attention to additional thoughts that we have that are layering on top of those mistakes which are making us feel guilty. Since we know from earlier posts that you have a choice as to which thoughts you want to believe, you can decide not believe those thoughts that cause guilt, and to stop the guilt in its tracks.
Instead you can practice believing thoughts like, “I am doing my best,” “I am enough.” “I will learn from this mistake or situation, and love myself in the process.”
Finally, as a parent, the best gift you can give to your children is to find your own true joy within yourself, and guilt and shame only take away from that joy. It’s our responsibility to take care of our own needs, and realize that we can create true joy from loving ourselves.
Life coaching helps us release guilt and find our true joy so we can be the best version of ourselves.
One of the biggest and best gift we can give our children is for us to show up from a place of joy and love. Don’t let guilt rob your kids of the best version of you!