Motherfest: Parental guilt is the pits
Some parents have less guilt than others, but guilt and parenting stick together like peanut butter and jelly. Ironically, it seems especially prevalent in parents who, on the grand scheme of things, have little reason to feel guilty. Funny how that works.
There are lots of reasons why good parents feel guilt. It's a high-pressure world -- blah, blah, blah -- and we all want to do everything in our power to somehow ensure our kids are safe, successful and, above all, happy. On top of all that, inevitably, we see some of our own "flaws" in our kids, and are quick to beat up on ourselves for being less than perfect.
Case in point: I am a person who emotes. I laugh a lot, cry when I need to, yell, sing, yodel -- you get my point. Before I was a parent, this was brought to my attention many times. Some people really appreciated my gregariousness; others felt it's overwhelming or thunder stealing. The fact is, for better or for worse, I am Italian and Russian, living in a predominantly Polish/German culture where people value emotional control and "being polite" more than my loud, quick-to-interrupt family does.
Hence, it's no surprise that my boys are very expressive. They have exceptional verbal skills, but both have their share of emotional outbursts. Supposedly, we are decades past the belief that kids should be seen and not heard, but let's face it: A sweet, quiet kid is still much preferred in public than an animated, loud one. And the pressure to have a sweet, quiet kid is definitely out there.
As I watch my boys pretend to be monsters and dinosaurs in the grocery store, burst into tears at the ice cream shop, and laugh way too loudly inside the movie theater, I am happy they aren't emotional robots, but I feel for them.
They will, most likely, stick out like I do. Hence, the guilt thing.
Amy Baskin is a Milwaukee mom with three children, ages 11, 7 and 5. She says she struggles with guilt all the time, mostly because her kids are growing up without a father. She says separating from her husband was the healthiest decision for everyone in the family, and she doesn't regret it, but sometimes still gets down on herself.
"How are they going to know how to be in a partnership when all they see in me, struggling to make ends meet?" she asks.
Baskin says she talks to her kids about the situation, and tries to model "team work" with other family members. But this doesn't squelch the guilt entirely.
"I still think, sometimes, I should have stayed with their dad, just so they were part of a 'traditional' family," she says. "If they don't have good relationships when they're grown up, I know I'll blame myself."
About a year ago, I read something that made me feel a wee bit better about the guilt issue. It said that kids are, basically, on their own path, and that their parents guide them and -- of course -- deeply influence their journey, but that ultimately, they are destined to be the people they are going to be. Phew.
It's not that I have become a lazy parent since reading this, but I did let myself off the hook, just a little. The most important part about parental guilt is not to let it be all consuming, and to recognize it's a bit self-righteous to think we parents have THAT much control over anyone, even our own children.
Sure, my kids are loud and sometimes down-right obnoxious, but who knows what they'll be like as adults. Maybe they'll learn, like I did, how to channel their oceans of emotion, or maybe they won't. The point is, I am who I am, and I'm basically doing a good job as a parent. It's not like I'm teaching them obscene gestures or bringing a flask to the Open House -- and I shouldn't waste time feeling guilty. Right?
Becky said: I think some of the commenters missed the point of the article. At no point did the author say she does not take responsiblity for her role as a parent. As a matter of fact, she said it seems the good parents are the ones who question if they're good enough. I think the point of the article is to give yourself a break when you ARE doing everything a "good parent" does and your child misses the mark a bit. You can't control everything.
Thomas said: Re: Bonnie. Your saying suggests that parents take no responsibility for any actions on the part of their child. If a child has not learned respect, discipline, or control, then the parent should indeed take the blame. It is their responsibility to raise the child and provide the greatest input towards their education (both formal and informal).
Cozen Beguile said: The problem with the kids today is that the parents are too soft and lazy. If you feel guilty for correcting bad behavior, you are doing something right. Bad or rude behavior needs to be corrected immediately! How else will children learn social skills? Parenting is never a part time job. It is a full time responsibility that comes with having them. For the life of me, I do not understand why High Schools don't require mandatory parenting classes. PEACE!
Bonnie said: Molly, Remember this. "I will never take the credit for my children and I will never take the blame." Very easy to deal with any quilt if you keep that in mind.
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