Becoming a parent has been a high point in my life. Parenting has inherently brought so many joys along with necessary responsibilities. But with all of the wonderful moments, it seems like there are just as many guilt-inducing ones. Parents fret about missing a ball game, forgetting to sign a daily conduct report, or being too tired to play one more round of “I spy” with an eager little one. While it might feel that parenting guilt is inevitable, there really are times when parents should gift themselves with grace and forgiveness while still working towards being great parents.
Eating Take Out
For many of us, even if we were not raised on home-cooked meals, we were raised with the idea that a dinnertime with mom’s special meatloaf, lovingly prepared all afternoon for the nourishment and enjoyment of her family, is what a real family dinner is supposed to look like. But according to counselor Stacey Moreau, LPC, it’s not the home-cooked part of a meal that parents should focus on. “Eating together, whether it is take out or a home-cooked meal, can provide the same family experience. The experience is really less about where the meal comes from and more about the interactions while partaking in the meal.” Baton Rouge lawyer Richard Pittman agrees, “Some parents think that parenting means preparing meals all the time, or only making exceptions for special occasions, or that take out is unhealthy. As a parent, it’s okay to just be too tired to do that.” So parents, unburden yourself of those feelings of shame when you pull into the driveway with your take-out bags. Just make sure to gather the family together around the table as you eat.
Losing Your Patience
All of us have a point where we find that our patience for “Watch me!” has run out, whether you’re a stay-at-home parent or one who works outside of the home. Mary-Margaret Bost, a Commercial Development Director for a multinational corporation explains, “I do feel guilty about losing my patience, and I give myself a hard time about it. Sometimes, I need a reminder that it’s healthy for kids to see parents have emotions—within a range of normal—and see them recover from it and move on. That’s part of growing up and building resilience for themselves.” Experts agree with Bost; children learn how to cope with their own negative emotions by watching their parents manage and resolve their own in a healthy way. And if you find yourself feeling badly about losing your patience when you’re tired or stressed, apologize to your kids. That in itself offers a great lesson in forgiveness.
Taking Me Time
Whether it’s spending time with friends, reading a book, or having a date night, parents often feel guilt when they choose to spend their time doing anything else other than spending it with their children. Claire Willis, mother of five and principal of Cristo Rey Baton Rouge Franciscan High School, remarks that she feels remorse when she is able to take vacations without her children and even when she goes to the gym during daylight hours “when we could be spending family quality time.” Moreau notes that moms and dads shouldn’t be so quick to condemn themselves. “Parents need to maintain their adult relationships, such as date nights and alone time on vacations, in order to keep strong bonds with significant others. They also need time to personally rejuvenate. If we don’t take care of ourselves, we can’t effectively foster the family unit.” A parent who takes the time to nourish his or her own interests and adult relationships is better equipped to cultivate a happy and healthy family.
Working Outside the Home
In preparation for writing this article, I reached out to hundreds of parents for their thoughts. The number one response received, and all from women, was that they feel guilty for working outside of the home. As Ashley Albritton, owner of Fine and Dandy Gifts and DIY Parties explains, “My largest mom guilt is having to work so much and not being able to do all that I was used to doing for my daughter for the first five years of her life. I hate missing out on different school activities from time to time, and feeling like the majority of my focus is given to making the new business work rather than spending more time playing with my daughter.” But parents needn’t judge themselves harshly for providing for their families and pursuing their own career interests. Moreau insists, “If you work outside the home or you decide to take a promotion which will require you to work longer hours, know that it’s okay. Parents should do what fulfills them professionally when they are in a place to do so, without guilt.”
Remember, all parents feel guilt over different things. We just need to be as forgiving with ourselves as we are with our children. ■