How to take charge of your guilt

take charge of your guiltYou can’t seem to avoid guilt – it goes hand in hand with parenthood. And it’s not usually in small amounts. No, no, no. Parenting guilt comes by the boatload.

Why is that?

Maybe because you have a beautiful, perfect, idea of the parent you’ll become, before your little one arrives. You imagine that you’ll manage it all. You’ll have the perfect home, be a patient parent, and make time to look after yourself.

And then when your baby actually arrives on the scene, you’re so busy dealing with feeding, and nappies, and trying to get some sleep, that you fail to live up to all those ideals.

Even once you’re over that initial so-this-is- a-newborn chaos, you’re not living up to your pre-baby ideals. In fact, every day contains an endless list of failings.

You’re tired, you have a never-ending list of household chores, and your patience is wearing thin. You’re not the perfect parent you imagined you’d be.

You wish that you could take a break from the relentlessness of parenting, but you feel guilty about wanting time away from your child.

And your baby is so perfect, and so deserving of perfection, that the pressure grows. You desperately want to do the right thing by them, but you don’t always know what that is.

You’re winging it most of the time. Making up this parenting stuff as you go along, and hoping you’ll work it out one day.

Throwing work into the mix intensifies the guilt. It means letting someone else care for your child, and maybe even feeling guilty about enjoying time away from your youngster.

So what’s a parent to do? How do you take charge of your guilt, rather than letting it take charge of you?

Here’s my four-step strategy to help you take charge of your guilt.

Take charge of your guilt

1. What do you feel guilty about?

Get specific here. Feeling guilty about being a bad parent is not clear enough. Maybe you feel guilty because you lost your patience. Maybe you feel guilty that you enjoy working. Whatever it is, identify it specifically.

2. What did you wrong?

The Oxford Dictionary defines guilt as “A feeling of having committed wrong or failed in an obligation”.

So, if you’re feeling guilty, what (if anything) did you do wrong?

For example, many women feel guilty about leaving their child with another carer, or enjoying having time away from their child. But that’s not wrong, is it?

So ask yourself, “Have I done something wrong, or failed in an obligation?”

3. What are you going to do about it?

Now that you know what you feel guilty about, and you know if you’ve done anything wrong, what are you going to do about it?

If you feel guilty about leaving your child with a carer, you can make sure you’re happy with your child’s care giver.

If, on the other hand, you think you’ve actually done something wrong, that’s OK. Mistakes are learning opportunities. Just work out what you’ve learnt from the experience, so you can do things differently in the future.

4. Set yourself free

You’ve worked out exactly what you feel guilty about, you’ve established whether you’ve done anything wrong, and you’ve worked out what action you’ll take.

So now that you’ve worked through your guilt, you can leave it behind. As the song goes: Let it go, let it go!

Cate Scolnik

PS: You can get Cate’s Essential Working Parents Pack and video training on What Every Parent Must Know About Childcare free, online.

Cate Scolnik

Cate is a parenting coach who helps parents create easier lives, and families that thrive. Cate helps parents return to work with confidence, find work life balance, and raise positive children.

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