One of the things that new parents, particularly mums apparently, are often surprised by is the amount of guilt that comes with the parenting territory. It comes along right when you’re least expecting, and the accompanying physical feeling of having all the wind taken forcibly out of your lungs is really something to be feared. Experts tell us that guilt arises when we become aware of failing to be the best we could have been for our children (normally right when you’ve just yelled at them for no specific reason other than being the sole adult with them for 8 straight hours!)
On any given day, the following things can make me feel like my stomach is about to flip right over with guilt:
- Sending my toddler off to childcare. In our house, Elliot spends two days a week in pre-school, and a further day with each set of grandparents. This means I only look after both my children together on one day a week. Up to now this has worked really well. As I am currently on maternity leave from my four-day-a-week job, Alexander gets my full attention (when I’m not writing blog posts or cleaning the house) for the time that Elliot is away, which is what Elliot had at the same age. Elliot gets to spend time with other children and also with his grandparents – something I loved as a child, and an opportunity for them to spend time with him also. More often than not, I spend part of the day he’s at my parents with them all, so it’s only really three days that Elliot isn’t with me. Still the sight of a crying toddler who wants to “stay with mummy” being bundled into a car and probably arousing suspicion of kidnap among our neighbours on at least two mornings out of every week is tough.
- The variety (or more accurately the lack of variety) in my toddler’s diet. To get him to eat any sort of vegetable that isn’t hidden (thank you Annabel Karmel) in a sauce or pie is nigh on impossible and is normally accompanied by all sorts of excuses ranging from “I don’t like it” to “I’m too tired” or the standard “mummy, I’ll do it tomorrow” (by the way tomorrow, when it comes, is going to be an amazing day in our house!) The crazy child also turns his nose up at previous staples like bananas and blueberries. Weird! Despite knowing that it’s a phase, and my child will more than likely voluntarily eat some form of vegetable at some point in the future, I do look at other kids happily munching on carrot sticks/ cherry tomatoes/ broccoli trees and feel all sorts of guilt.
- Handing over parenting responsibilities to technology for anything over 20 minutes a day. I feel so proud if I can make it for a whole morning or afternoon without giving in to the demands of “can I have your phone/ipad?” And the truth is, as well as watching endless ridiculous videos of Thomas and his friends being covered with or built out of PlayDoh (something he is desperate to recreate at home, and that I’ve so far avoided!) he also spends time tracing letter forms, watching shows on iplayer like The Lingo ?Show, and drawing pictures on any number of art apps which isn’t too bad. The fact that he knows how to launch youtube, press search, and type in “Thomas” to find his programmes makes me feel pretty guilty. (Though I did have a moment of pride recently when he showed me that he was trying to search for Abney and Teal (yes, another TV programme) and he’d got as far as “abnet and tyal” – clever boy!)
Thankfully a quick google search reveals that all this guilt may not actually be such a bad thing.
For most of us a moderate amount of guilt is actually a sign of love, our strong attachment and commitment to do the best we can to raise healthy children. [Psychology Today “Are you a guilty parent?” Sept, 2011]
Well that’s a relief! Maybe the only thing we’re guilty of is loving our children and wanting to do the best for them. That’s no bad thing really!
Now you’ll have to excuse me, I’m off to buy more colours of PlayDoh so I can finally give in to those demands to build engines! Wish me luck!