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Examining The Cause Of Your Parental Guilt
It's funny — right as I was writing this article, my son approached me to tell me about something, and I had to stop him. I'm working, after all. Yep, mini mommy-guilt moment right there! A lot of your parental guilt, too, probably stems from not being able to engage with your children as often and as completely as you believe you should. We live in a society where most parents have very many responsibilities besides raising their kids, yes, but we also live in an era where the idea of a child-centered family in which your sprouts' every need "must be met" is more popular than ever. Those two facts are entirely incompatible, and guilt can result.
What's the answer? In my case, right now, the answer is that I do not have to feel guilty for telling my son that he can talk to me later but not now. I'm working to make money for my family, and what's more, I'm working to find intellectual fulfillment, something that's nothing to feel guilty about either.
Parental guilt can result, too, from factors now entirely beyond your control. Perhaps your child has medical issues, perhaps they were bullied at school, perhaps you can't provide for them as well as you'd like, or perhaps your relationship broke down and you feel guilty over a less-than-ideal relationship with your child's other parent. Guilt can have its place, to be sure, but when you're talking about things you can't change, it can be empowering to reframe feelings of guilt as feelings of regret or sadness instead. Not only can you feel a lot better when you do this, you may also find yourself being a more fun, more relaxed parent.
You are, like your child or children, an imperfect human. Feeling guilty over things you can't change can play a very destructive role in your parenting — something that, if you're guilt-prone anyway, may just "guilt" you into changing gears. Parenting may just be the hardest job on Earth, the most high-stakes job around, but realizing that "your best is good enough" can be an incredibly positive experience.
Feeling guilt over past decisions that you can, of course, also no longer change now, is a variety of this kind of guilt. Try telling yourself that when we know better, we do better — and you do know better now. That's a good thing, not a bad thing! You could instead be doing the same thing, after all!
Without being as emotionally healthy as you can be, can you be the best parent you can be, the happiest person you can be? If you have come to the conclusion that the answer is "no", extend yourself the same compassion you would have for your child if they messed up, and move on.