Parent Guilt: When You Just Can't Do Anything Right

Tuesday, 23 February 2016


When you have a baby, you're not just welcoming them into the world. You're also welcoming new aspects of yourself. It's like Inside Out when the new islands of personality start popping up in Riley's mind. Only instead of 'Vampire Romance Island', I have new parts of myself like cries whilst watching adverts that involve small children. And It's been an hour, where the hell is my caffeine. And the quite scary I will rip your head off if you harm my child in any way. Small changes, but changes just the same.

(It's not just personality changes, either. Hello, Boobs That Leak at Inconvenient Moments.)

Over time, some of these shiny new parts of your personality will start to fade away, to be replaced with interesting new ones. (Like the My Child is Being Quiet, She Must Be Up to Something radar, which is improving day by day). But some of them hang around forever. Like your new best friend:

Parent Guilt.

Parent Guilt is, unfortunately, just part of being a parent. You can't be a parent and not feel like you are totally screwing it up at times: that's just the way things are. I don't think I've ever, ever met a parent that thinks they have it together at all times and that they could never do anything better. (If you exist, please don't tell me about it).

Parent Guilt is not helpful. Parent guilt doesn't serve a wider purpose in the way that I Will Rip Your Head Off If You Harm My Child In Any Way helps you to protect your child. Parent Guilt waits until after the event and then makes you feel extra crap about it.

If your child falls over and bumps their head on the coffee table, as well as feeling sad and concerned, Parent Guilt will sneak into your brain and whisper that was your fault.

It doesn't matter if the coffee table has sat there for two years and never once caused someone to trip over; it doesn't matter if there is literally nowhere else in the house for it to go. Parent Guilt expects you to feel bad about it anyway.

Parent Guilt is there when you have to be tough on your child. Doesn't matter if they didn't eat any dinner and demanded chocolate anyway: Parent Guilt always sides with the child. So as they cry, and cry, and cry, and you're stood there with your arms crossed saying things like 'There's no use crying, that won't work on me!' you will also feel like your insides are slowly melting away with pain at the thought of them being upset. Partly because Parent Guilt is saying things like remember when you ate loads of chocolate when you were pregnant instead of choosing fruit? Bet you regret THAT now, huh?

Parent Guilt is also good at painting pictures of what might happen and will slowly and subtly convince you that that thing IS going to happen, no matter how unrealistic it is. For example. You've put the TV on because your child refuses to sleep any more, but still needs to rest, and you smell, and the house smells, and there's rubbish everywhere, and you know that somehow, in the next half an hour, you need to have a shower, get yourself ready, and at least attempt to do the washing up and take the rubbish out before your friend comes over.

Parent Guilt is with you in the shower. You realise your daughters' brain cells are literally melting away right now? Imagine them there, those little happy brain cells. And then imagine them dying. Because that's what's happening! One by one. Being replaced by the theme tune from 'Raa Raa' and the knowledge of all the episodes of 'In the Night Garden' in which the Pontipines lose their children.




(Btw, the Pontipines? Apparently have no parent guilt at all. They are the most lackadaisical parents I have ever seen. Literally every episode I've seen that features them involves them losing their children and then watching on in horror when they realise they're about to get squashed/fall from a high place.)

You start to build up defence mechanisms to deal with Parent Guilt. You repeat facts like mantras: Half an hour of TV won't hurt, half an hour of TV won't hurt. Or she can't have chocolate for breakfast, no child should have chocolate for breakfast. Slowly, over time, you start toughening up.


At some point once a day my house will be filled with the noises of farm animals - thanks, Timmy Time.

But then you'll be sitting around writing, or doing whatever you enjoy doing, and you know ... enjoying it. Or having a rare evening out with your husband and your friends. Who should come along to gatecrash your fun? Parent Guilt. Obviously. Suddenly, instead of thinking 'Ah, it's nice that I get to really enjoy being a parent AND doing other things that don't involve her', you start thinking 'I should feel bad about enjoying myself without her.'

You will realise that it doesn't make sense. Why should you feel guilty for enjoying yourself while your child is either a) enjoying time with relatives or b) asleep? You will realise, of course, that happy parents usually = happy child, and you can't allow your whole life to revolve around your child with no other outside interests, because what happens when they grow up?

Doesn't matter though. That sneaky Parent Guilt will still get to you before you can get your head around the facts. It hurts you like a little jab between the ribs. 'Hey. You. How dare you enjoy time without your firstborn child you SELFISH COW.'

I would like to say that Parental Guilt eventually goes away, but I hear it doesn't. Even after your children are grown up and functioning happily as adults. Nope: Parental Guilt is your friend for life, unfortunately. From the moment that you pop that baby out, and then forever after.

I've realised though that in order to raise a child you have to come to terms with a lot of things you'd rather not deal with: things like not always stepping in to protect them as they grow older so that they can learn to deal with things themselves, and being tough on them sometimes, and having The Sex Talk. (My whole body cringes at the very thought). You have to come to terms with the million emotions that come with protecting and nurturing someone with your whole heart, and then letting them go into the world without you.

And you have to learn to accept Parent Guilt. I'm trying to treat it like an annoyingly loud friend that you have to listen to sometimes out of politeness. When I'm putting my conditioner on in the shower and I hear the theme tune to Timmy Time come on, I think 'Hi, Parent Guilt.' And they go on and on about lack of intelligence of children that have screen time.

And then I step out, let the voice gurgle down the drain with the shower water, and carry on with my day.

Linking up with:

Pink Pear Bear
Mummascribbles
My Random Musings

22 comments:

  1. So funny…and so TRUE! I have a 15 month old daughter and she tests me every day. Sometimes I feel like all I ever do is tell her no, which makes me feel GUILTY! Glad to know I'm not alone! lol! Found you on Twinkly Tuesday! ~Megan

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    1. Hehe, thank you! Oh yes, the amount of times a day I say 'no' to stuff ... I swore I wouldn't be one of those 'no' parents but she always wants to do things that are either a) dangerous or b) impossible! Thanks for reading :) x

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  2. I always feel guilty if I have had a busy day in work and then my little girl wants to play but I'm to tired. She's a baby after all and she doesn't understand #bigpinklink

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    1. I bet that's hard. I am a stay at home Mum so haven't had to face that, but I have an illness that sometimes wipes me out for a day or two and as my husband works so much I'm mostly at home with her alone ... our family help sometimes which is amazing, but I still feel so awful when I'm so tired/ill that I can't play with her properly. Thank you for reading :) x

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  3. No one ever said this parenting gig was easy that's for sure. I feel guilty sometimes when I rely on the fact that all 3 of my younger kids are a year apart and I tell them to go play with one another and that that's why I had them so close together so they would always have a playmate. I tell them how mommy was an only child and lived with her grandparents who were too old to be raising a young child so I spent a lot of time by myself with no one to play with. I turned out fine...I think....well maybe I am a little introverted because of it. Any who, you are right, parent guilt overcomes me daily but there are times when I just tell it to leave me alone and let me have MY moment. The kids can have all the others. I am visiting from #bigpinklink

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    1. You're so right! Sometimes we all just need a 'me' moment. Considering every other moment of the day is for their benefit, I think that's allowed ;) love that you have three close together, and even though you feel guilty about it sometimes, at least you know they are building an amazing bond for life x

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  4. I feel parent guilt so often, even though I know it's often ridiculous and unfounded, and definitely not helpful in any way. I try to shush that voice down as much as I can, but it's not always easy to squash.

    On a lighter note, is it wrong that I'm slightly jealous that the theme tune to Timmy Time just induces guilt in you? It makes me want to gauge my eyes out - I'm not sure if it beats Topsy and Tim to my most hated tv show spot, but it comes a close second! #bigpinklink

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    1. You're right, it's definitely not easy to ignore the guilt. Some days I can, other days I end up in tears because I'm feeling bad about something.

      Hahaha, do you know what, Timmy Time has got to have some of the most annoying songs EVER (the one where they are at the beach and they all sing a song on the way there? ARGH.) And for some inexplicable reason, our Netflix now plays Timmy Time in Spanish and it always throws me when I hear the theme tune ;) x

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  5. This is brilliant and so true! no matter what you do, parent guilt will get you!

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    1. Ahh, thank you! Yes, you're right. No matter what, you'll feel guilty about something! x

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  6. This is a fabulous post, funny, but also so touching and true. I might possibly be up there with parent guilt's worst victims. It has even lead me to panic attacks. At the moment I feel like I feel guilty every second of every day! I have the TV worry, like you. I also have the food worry-mine basically don't eat anything unless its crackers, chocolate, or a crisp variation, and I love to eat healthily, so it breaks my heart to see them eating nothing wholesome at all! The youngest will only let me put him to bed, and will only be settled by me if he wakes up-basically he won't ever be without me. So I don't go out! The guilt that he might be at home screaming for me is too much! I haven't had my hair cut in 2 years because again, I can't bear the guilt of leaving him to cry when I walk out of the door! I realise I sound crazy, and there is a rational part of my brain that constantly tries to reason with parent guilt, but guilt always wins! I'm working on it, just not very successfully...! Thank you so much for sharing this with us at #bigpinklink!

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    1. Thank you! :) I feel your pain ... my daughter is going through a major fussy phase at the moment and I do worry a bit. And she won't be put to bed by anyone except me or my husband ... so whenever we go out, it has to be after she's gone to sleep! Guilt is crippling sometimes. Hope you get some 'me-time' soon! xx

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  7. Love the analogy Megan (fab movie!).

    My sons are 23 and 20 now. We say 'remember when ...' and they don't. They remember things we don't (things that made them happy). All that anguish as a parent! and wasted energy. I would still be the same if I could go back though. We want everything to be perfect for our children don't we! I'm pleased to say that my sons survived into adults I'm proud of :)

    Fabulous post Megan. You have such an engaging writing style :D
    x

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    1. It's a great film isn't it? Makes me cry though! Yeah, it's funny - looking back on my own childhood, I can only really remember the happy moments with my parents. I bet that's nice to hear from your sons ;) but yes, even if I knew that for sure I'd probably still feel guilty about something!

      Thank you so much, that is a lovely compliment x

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  8. Oh the dreaded parent guilt, yep it drives me insane. Having two girls of quite different ages (11 and 2.5), I've found that the guilt changes over the years. I share a lot of your guilt moments, plus the guilt of 'should I be spending more time with her and her homework' and the guilt of 'I wish she would go to bed, so I can watch something I want to watch on tv'

    I guess the positive about guilt is that it does show you care (I think!)

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    1. Oh yeah, I forgot about that bit - the 'looking forward to bedtime' guilt. Haha. I really love spending time with her but I do crave a bit of relaxation time too! And that's true, it does show that we care :) x

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  9. Excellent post. Loved the parental take on Inside Out.

    Guilt can be useful but often it's just a pain on top of more unrealistic expectations and self judgement!

    Also, in your photo you have a ton of cool stuff on the shelves. ON THE SHELVES. I weep with envy. I found my DVDs being used as tiddlywinks.

    #AnythingGoes

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    1. Thank you ;) I have to admit, most days we have the coffee table pushed up against the shelves so that she can't reach stuff! Hehe x

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  10. So true about parent guilt. It never goes away but it's something as parents that we have no control over it will always follow us. Great post :)

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    1. True, it's definitely not something you can prevent! Thanks for reading :) x

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  11. Oh Parental Guilt, how I wish it wasn't such a loud and opinionated friend ;) I mean, I'm sure it means well, and sometimes it has a point, but most of the time I wish it was just butt out of my business!! Had to laugh so much as I read your post :)

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    1. Haha, yes. I wish it was quieter ;) Thanks for reading x

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