There are many things that people tend to brush over when they find out you are pregnant and decide to share with you their wealth of earthly wisdom. There are also things that people just can’t explain the magnitude of, one of them is just how much you can love this little being that demands every resource that you have available, to the point you often end up neglecting your own needs to ensure that theirs are met.
The side effect of having such enormous amounts of love for said mini human being is something that I like to call the Parent Trap:Guilt. No one and I mean no one tells you how much guilt you will feel as a parent. Oliver is seven so I guess technically I am still in the early stages of parenthood… Considering it goes on for decades. When you throw my other two kiddies into the mix, guilt is probably in my top two emotions I have experienced throughout my whole life.
I started thinking about this when I was talking to a very good friend. She has a gorgeous little boy, he is almost 3 and a little whirlwind, in the best kind of way. He loves his Mama dearly and it is clear to see that she loves him too. She has done everything she can to give him the best experiences in life. She breastfed him because that was the best thing for them, she used cloth nappies (and now pull ups), she uses organic lotions and potions and he has a wonderfully rich vegetarian diet. He is such a happy little soul. She did these things because they were what was best for them both. She hasn’t returned to work and has focused all her energy and resources on raising her young man. And yet during a conversation she said “Am I a good Mum?” To which I responded without hesitation “yes” and she instantly jumped in with “but, I shout at him and sometimes I lose my patience, I see other mums who have so much patience and when their children act up, they speak gently to them and talk them through their emotions”. I smiled and said wisely “that is something I like to call the parent trap”.
I went onto explain that NO MATTER what you do for your child you will worry, you are doing it wrong. That you are ultimately screwing them up, and we are, have you ever met an adult without issues? No, me neither. It’s just a case of trying to minimise those issues. Any way, I said you always worry what you are doing is wrong. Then to amplify that there is ALWAYS someone who will tell you, you are doing it wrong, they may do it with the best of intentions, but man that is soul crushing. When you are bottle feeding your baby and someone tells you ‘Breast is best’ or when you are co sleeping and they tell you about so-so’s Aunts best friends, dog walkers, brothers sister in law who almost accidentally suffocated her baby whilst co sleeping or the people who ever so kindly tell you that your baby should be talking by now and it’s because they spend too much time watching Peppa Pig and In the night garden, they don’t encourage proper speech don’t you know, or that your baby doesn’t sleep through the night because you spend too much/too little time holding them. yeah, thanks for the advice, I’m just going to stick my head in the fucking oven as I am clearly doing it all wrong.
I said if you are child led and you try to meet your child’s needs as quickly as possible, eg feeding on demand, you are not giving them a chance to self soothe and understand that sometimes they have to wait. If you are not feeding on demand then you are then they are going to grow up with thinking that their needs are not important. If you don’t have your child potty trained by 2 years old then, they are not learning to meet the requirement of acceptable social behaviours and are ultimately going to be outcasts, if you spend time trying to potty train them and they take their time to pick it up, you are forcing it on them and they are going to have negative connotations with toileting and will eventually become bed wetters. I know I have completely over exaggerated, but often that is what we as parents feel. We feel insecure, unsure and guiltly and it gets amplified at different points. When your child isn’t ticking all the boxes you wonder if it is something you have done?
Guilt is generally a horrible emotion, that doesn’t have many positive effects. However when it comes to parenting I often think the opposite is true and that your guilt keeps you on the ball, it doesn’t allow you to go into auto pilot and when something is off kilter you are quick to pick it up and rectify it. If you feel guiltly it means you are a good parent, that you care, that you are aware and that you often know what you need to change. Sometimes it even strengthens your resolve, When you think I won’t follow the crowd, I am going to do what is best for my family.
So any new parents or parents to be. Be prepared to feel guilt, but that guilt is cushioned by the immense amount of love. Know that in feeling guiltly you are showing you are focused on your child. Know that your guilt is another way in that you give yourself to your child. Half the things you feel guiltly about wont matter in an hour/day/week or month. So your child has stayed up past their bedtime, you have only washed their hair once this week and they haven’t any had fruit or vegetables today. Your guilt is chance to change it. Tomorrow is a new day, a chance to change things that made you feel guiltly today and a chance for you to feel guiltly about something new. No one is perfect, that is why we feel guilt and remember that mum at the park, the playground, the doctor’s surgery that had it so together. She has her own guilt. You are not alone, it does not make you a bad parent.
So my advice, if you already have children. Share your guilt. Talk to other parents and parents to be. I’m sure some of the things you both feel guilty about will make you laugh. Talk to new parents and parents to be. Tell them where they can get information and advice. Don’t bombard them infomation or stories. Let them know tha you are there if they need to talk. Let’s stop the Intetnal Mum Wars. Let’s all join together, this is a hard enough job as it is.
* I’m sorry if this post offends anyone (sorry for the swearing), but I stand by the sentiment of what I am saying. If you have opinions/facts/ideas to share. Feel free to comment!!
Thank you for reading