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Parenting Guilt

Have you ever had the feeling that you simply aren’t doing enough? Started questioning your parenting methods? Felt torn between all your different responsibilities? Or simply felt like you weren’t good enough? These are all common signs of parenting guilt. 

A mother feels guilty whilst working next to her child

Parenting guilt is the term given to feelings of guilt parents feel in direct relation to their children. For me, it kicked in when I was about 6 weeks pregnant. Tired and nauseous, all I fancied was a warm bath but after some badly advised Googling I was worried that a bath would somehow harm my unborn baby. Instead I bought a bath thermometer and had what can only be described as a tepid soak for 10 minutes before jumping out and guiltily wondering if I had put my needs before my baby’s. It didn’t get much better from there.


Some parents may never feel parenting guilt, others might feel it all the time, but for lots of parents it can come and go in waves. Almost anything can cause parenting guilt, from a crying child, to going to work, to forgetting something important and the severity of those feelings are often related to the things going on around us. How tired are we? How are our children behaving? What other life stresses are going on? In other words, how badly parenting guilt affects us can often be linked to how resilient we are at the time.


We often hear the term that you can’t pour from an empty cup and that's certainly true of parenting guilt. If you find yourself experiencing those feelings of guilt remind yourself that this is completely normal and lots of parents experience this, but that guilt shouldn’t become your predominant emotion. Give yourself permission to take a quick break and reset, despite what you think right now, you deserve it. Take a deep breath, make a cup of tea, or even step outside for 5 minutes if you can. Just give yourself a moment away from the feeling.


Another way of managing parenting guilt can be to regularly reflect on all the things you are doing incredibly well at. Its often easy to forget all the good things for one bad thing, so regularly reflecting on your day and all the great little things that have happened can help you combat feelings of guilt by reminding you that you are enough and your doing a good job.


And finally don’t be afraid to talk about those feelings of guilt with your support network. These feelings are normal and you may feel people around you have experienced something similar. They can also help you to ‘put your thoughts on trial’ and consider if there is any evidence to support your current belief or if the thought is unfounded. They might also be able to offer some practical tips to help such as offering some child care so you can have a break.

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