Monday, 15 April 2013

Parental Guilt: What gets you in a twist?

Source: via Casey on Pinterest
It seems that most parents feel guilty about something or, in some cases, everything:
"Guilt is one of the main things I think all parents feel - we can make ourselves feel guilty about almost anything"
"I feel guilt all the time ... For almost every decision I make!"
"Guilt is like a parent's shadow, it follows you wherever you go"
That's a lot of guilt running through our veins, isn't it. The weight of parenthood guilt hangs heavy for some for a wide variety of reasons.  Here's a selection from last night's discussion:

Wanting time to ourselves
Some of us feel guilty about wanting to have some 'Me Time'.  This is seen as essential by some but impossible for others: 
"I feel guilty for wanting alone time. S is 1 now and I've had precious little time to myself - just odd hours here & there"
"I feel guilty for looking forward to nap time or bed time, then I miss them when they're asleep"
Not spending enough time with the kids 
This old chestnut of guilt is familiar to quite a lot of those taking part in the discussion last night for a range of reasons.  Many working parents feel that the time spent at work or study is time spent away from their children. This seems to make a lot of people feel very guilty.
"I felt really bad last year. Me and MR were at uni, Max was at nursery and we were both working. I hardly slept"
"The thing I get most guilty about is not seeing my son enough. I'm working he's at nursery, I feel like they know he better than me"
The amount of guilt felt may be dependent on the different temperaments of the children as one mother suggested:
"I don't feel hugely guilty about working part time as my son is such a happy soul and skips on into the childminder's. If he was clingy or more needy, I would probably feel dreadful" 
Some felt that they were unable to spend time with their children as they would like.  This was either because of age differences, multiple siblings, children with special needs or just that there's too much to do to keep the ship afloat:
"Not enough days out makes me feel bad, hard to do with two with autism"
"I feel guilty sometimes. Having four kids I feel I don't always share my time equally between them all" 
"I often feel guilty for not playing with my LO's enough, I always seem to have to do something else"
Toughing it out as a single parent
The life of a single parent is tough, not only because of the continuous workload, but also for other more complicated reasons:
"What makes me feel guilty is the kids asking if I can have them on days they're with their mum & I can't do it"
Losing your temper
Ever snapped at the pestering child and instantly regretted it? I bet most of us can answer yes to that question! 
"Oh my where do I begin? I feel guilty when I lose it over something quite insignificant, and my son meekly says Sowwy Mummy"
Food refusal
That sinking feeling as your child again refuses to eat his or her dinner and worrying that they will wake up in the night, ravenous and beside themselves. Is there something wrong? Are they ill?  Or are they fussy eaters surviving on Quavers and Cheerios alone? Either way, it's a one-way street to Guilt.
"I feel terrible when he's gone to bed after refusing dinner - I feel I should be able to give him something he wants"
Change in circumstances
A change in circumstances at home can be difficult for everyone.  Whether you are moving house, moving in with your parents or in-laws or have just brought a baby home, there seems to be something to feel guilty about for the existing child(ren).
"I've definitely been suffering a few bouts of guilt since having baby no 2. last week!"
Those Baby Manuals
One topic that sparked quite a bit of pitchfork anger was the baby manuals read in those first few weeks of the first child and just how guilty they made you feel.  Your confidence is at an all-time low and people are telling you to trust your instincts when you don't know what your instincts are.  So in desperation you reach for the baby manual to see how things should be working out. Applying this advice to the situation with your child and it does not fit so you are to blame for getting it wrong: Hello Guilt, come on in!
"Want to know who made me feel REALLY guilty in those first few weeks? Gina Ford and Baby Whisperer books. Reality was different!"
"One of the best things my husband ever did was throw out the baby guides! They we're no help and exacerbated my PND"
"At the time I was convinced that I was the problem, not the books"
Accidents have us all in a spin!
"I'll never forget bumping babies head for very first time. I cried my eyes out, felt like I was worlds worst mum"
"Oooh no. I once accidentally gave my daughter some too hot food - I cried I felt so awful!"
Not Guilty Your Honour 
Not all parents feel guilty though. Here's what you had to say:  
 "I actually don't feel much parental guilt. I only feel bad on those times where I've really shouted"
"One thing I don't feel guilty about is CBeebies! I'd like to kiss the person who came up with Night Garden!"
"I'm pretty much a guilt free parent! I do wish I could give my kids more though"
 "It's about not being consumed by the guilt, we all make mistakes-learn and move on!In the grand scheme of things I'm sure it's ok"
"I'm a guilt free parent and proud of it. My kids are healthy and happy & that's all that matters. Lets just see how they turn out!" 
Another question asked was whether feeling guilty as a parent was a fashionable thing to do; are we feeling guilty because everyone else says they are?  This received a mixed response:
"I'm not a slave to fashion and can't imagine it feeling different just because it wasn't articulated in that way"
"No. I think its a very natural and common occurrence because you want to do the best you can and sometimes being human means you can't"
"I sometimes feel guilty about not feeling guilty when I drop P off at nursery & go to work ... Everyone needs a break sometimes"
"Nope! Just checked in with my emotions and they confirm guilt is real! Especially as I'm currently 3000 miles from family!"
"Hmmmm, I think there's a lot of pressure on parents, and comparing ourselves to others doesn't help, though we all do"
"I get so frustrated with parents criticising each other"
Can we spin a different twist to stop us all feeling so bad?
With all this guilt bounding around, perhaps we need to look at things slightly differently:
"I think parents spend a lot of time feeling guilty about what they're not doing instead of acknowledging what they do!"
"My philosophy on parenting is less about "perfect" and more about "good enough". I find this approach takes pressure off" ..."I think that's very sensible! Children don't look for perfection do they?  Just love"
So is there a positive to all this guilt?  Two Tweeters put it like this?
"Does feeling guilty really achieve anything though?" ... "Not in itself but it keeps us striving to be better parents I think"
What do you think?  Do you feel guilty about every decision you make or are you skipping off happily into the a guilt-free sunset?  Please add your comments here!


  1. Really enjoyed this. The comments about baby books and guilt reminded me of the earlier entries in the blog (another mumsnet blogger!).

    1. Glad you enjoyed it - make sure you join in the pbloggers discussion next week on Twitter!


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