Why does parent guilt exist?
There are so many blogs and articles and leaflets and medical professionals and people who think they’re medical professionals and scientists and studies and well meaning family members and friends and even strangers in the supermarket who will gladly tell you how to parent your child.
When D was tiny, I would hold her gently while she slept in one arm and with the other, frantically Google everything, from rashes to psychological effects of being an only child, from safe bed sharing to how to have a shower whilst being home alone with a tiny baby. I found there was always someone to support any view point if you looked hard enough. Be it on a Mumsnet forum, a brand trying to sell you their ‘absolutely-necessary-if-you-want-to-be-a-halfway-decent-parent’ stuff, or on an evidence based, trustworthy website (my favourite). Often, the opinions were so conflicting that, at the end of the day, any decisions were a personal judgement call based on what was most current and evidential, what resonated with my situation, and my coping levels at that moment in time.
And I think that’s where mum guilt comes from. There’s no one size fits all. There’s no definitive baby guide. Even health specialists peddle the ‘all babies are different’ line, because they are. And all family units are different too, from personalities to income, to working hours, to location and everything in between. That’s why what worked for your mum, and your aunt and your sister, and Mavis next door, might not work for you. It’s why you feel judged because, of all the ways to raise a child, you’ve picked YOURS based on your knowledge and situation, and some part of that is going to conflict with all the other ways people have decided to raise their children.
It’s hard, when you’ve thought so wholly and tirelessly about how to give your precious child the very best start, to accept that others have come to a different conclusion. It can put a seed of doubt in your mind, or can make you more judgemental of others. Remembering that we are all on our own unique journeys however, is the first step to acceptance of yourself and of others.
What’s the antidote?
I’ll talk a lot about positive parenting in my posts. I think a big part of that is showing support for each other in order to make sure no parent feels isolated, and to set a great example for our children. It also means looking inward and offering that support to ourselves. Through doing so we can feel confident enough in our choices that we don’t feel threatened when conflicting advice emerges, and can logically assess it’s validity.
Changing your mind is ok and almost essential as a parent. “Know better, do better” is the mantra, but it is difficult if you are full of self-doubt and that can make us defensive. (I know, I’ve been there – but that’s another post).
I’d love to see a world where all parents are proud of the way they raise their children, confident in their decisions, open to new ideas and never in doubt. That might be wishful thinking, but it’s a good goal to aim for.
With that in mind, here are some ways to boost your Parent Pride, and support other parents to do the same:
- Celebrate your parenting wins openly and unashamedly
- Document them on social media if that’s your thing, or in a diary so you can look back on them & feel proud
- Ask yourself, “What have I done with/for my child(ren) in the last week that I am proud of”?
- Point out to other parents what they’ve done that impresses you, however small, “Wow, you handled that really well, you stayed so calm, well done”
- Resist the urge to put yourself down (don’t follow the above with “I could never be that calm, I’d just explode!”)
- Talk to others about what you are doing right, not what you’re doing wrong
- Go beyond aesthetics and talk to parents about their children’s amazing speech, or fantastic dexterity, or awesome physical prowess – the things that took more effort to nourish than bonking and buying clothes
- Be respectful of other’s parenting choices, especially strangers – you don’t know their story
- Notice when other parents put themselves down, and pick them back up again – focus on the positives
- Be genuinely confident in your decisions – look at them critically, examine the evidence, apply it to your situation. Then if you have a wobble you can remember your reasoning.
- Accept that changing your mind is often a necessary part of parenting, and be proud that you’re strong enough and willing enough to change for your children if necessary.
- If you ever feel like you have made a mistake, remember that everything you’ve done was the best you knew how to do at that time. Be proud that you’re attentive enough to notice and make a change.
- If you are genuinely concerned about something another parent is doing, tell them gently and explain your reasons so they don’t get defensive. Accept that it is their choice when all’s said and done*.
- Look at your child every day, and when you feel that overwhleming sense of pride, send a little bit back your way – because YOU made that, and you’re helping them flourish.
Here’s your Parent Pride challenge:
Every day for the next week, log something that you’ve done as a parent that you’re proud of.
Log it on Twitter / Facebook / Instagram / a diary / notes on your phone – wherever you feel comfortable. It could be something you’ve done that day, like had a super successful baking session with your child, or it could be something from the past or something more general, like reaching your breastfeeding goal, or the fact your child loves brushing their teeth because you’ve always made a point of making it fun. Log it and keep it, and look at it when you need a boost.
If you post on social media, use the tag #parentpride, tag @L2MyDaughter on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram, and look out for other posts. Celebrate with other parents over their achievements and spread some love for all these other people that know pretty much what you’re going through.
You’re doing an amazing job – shout about it!
*Of course, if your concern is serious enough to be a safeguarding issue – seek professional avenues of support e.g. social services