Guilt is a useless punishing emotion. It lurks deep in your heart or sometimes relentlessly in the front of your mind. You may cry, get angry, grind your teeth, or toss and turn at night. Parents who lament over all the ways you are “failing,” I’m talking to you.
Remember we are all doing our best and our best is good enough. Can we all agree to stop burdening ourselves with expectations we have created but cannot meet in the reality of our lives? We look around and select these standards of parenting practices, never changing, set them in place as the level to which we should always strive, forever guilty.
Unreasonable Expectation # 1. You should be married to your children’s other parent.
No one intends on having a baby outside of marriage. No one intends on divorcing their spouse. Yet here we are. This is our reality and we can either punish ourselves daily or make the best of it.
New Loving Accepting Reality: I am a loving parent. My family experience is not defined by a post-war white picket fence view of society. My children are loved.
Unreasonable Expectation # 2. You should pick your child up at the first dismissal bell and not during the window of “Late Care.”
You’re not late, you’re working. And thus the guilt of the working mother rears its ugly head. Well, without it, the ugly head of poverty will rear its even uglier head. Picking up a child late means it’s more of a hustle when we get home, homework / bath / bed and less leisurely strolling through after school life. Let’s change our perspective. Your kids just had a TON of playtime with their friends, which shapes and adds to their own development. “Alright kiddos, another day of awesome play with your friends! When I was a kid I could only play with whoever lived next door to me after school. How fun you get to spend so much time with your friends every day. Now we’re heading home, I can’t wait to eat dinner with you and switch gears to homework.”
New Loving Declaration: I am so grateful I can provide for myself and my children.
Unreasonable Expectation # 3. Fully perfectly executed everything.
A perfectly kept home with beautiful furniture. A large backyard full of age appropriate play equipment. Birthday parties held at the most fun venue with a cake straight out of an episode of Cake Boss. Lunches made the night before with a well-balanced array of food cut into adorable shapes. The list goes on. And where the list goes, the guilt can follow. We are able to put our energies into one thing but not everything. And goodness, one can only manage so much!
New Loving Declaration: I enjoy when I can put my loving attention into one activity. I feel good about this single area of focus. That was enjoyable.
Unreasonable Expectation # 4. Wealth.
Six day family vacations to 5 star beach resorts. Expensive high-end clothing. Owning a home worth $500k +. Driving a new $50,000 car. Real talk, wealth is obtainable by only a small percent of the population. And that is fine. Those with wealth live within their means. We all need to live within our own means. Being able to afford our lives is inner peace. Memories are created in the moments. Your true friends won’t judge you for the size of your home or the value of your car.
New Loving Declaration: I am happy with the life I live and memories I create in the moments.
Unreasonable Expectation # 5. Children are in many activities and always entertained.
Horseback riding, gymnastics, sleep-away camp oh my! That requires a lot of logistical navigating not to mention money. We can only do what we can do. Hours of one-on-one engaged time with our children may not always be logistically possible. Someone has to fold the laundry. Some of us may want to chat it up with our best friend. We may want to work on that fun side project. We may need to zone out. We have to also fill our own cups. And that is okay!
New Loving Declaration: My time is spent in a variety of ways that make me and my family happy.
Ending today: Comparing ourselves to other people.
Beginning today: Our standards of self-love and acceptance are from within our own hearts. Happiness is in our moments.
Are you struggling with Parent Guilt? Don’t suffer in silence. Reach out to a like-minded parent friend. Talk it through and encourage each other to love yourself in the world you live in.