The Truth of Everlasting Parenting Guilt
(parenting, n.): The
process of feeling guilt from the time a tiny human becomes yours to eternity
(per the dictionary of Ashlynn)
Being completely real? This parenting gig is no joke. People talk about adulting but there is nothing like parenting to make you realize adulting. What I mean is that parenting is hard
hard. Anyone ever beat themselves up? Anyone do it daily? It’s not easy and the guilt that comes with parenting is something else. You do a lot to prepare to become a parent, but guilt is the one thing that I didn’t realize would be so prevalent. There is this constant feeling of insufficiency—I’m never doing or being enough for my kids.
When we had our first child, we figured out what all the
fuss was about. We were so obsessed with
her that we sort of rushed into having a second child because it was Just. So. Awesome
. Now, I realize that is not everyone’s
experience (for real, if we had our third one first there would have been only one!). I found out I was pregnant with our second
baby and we were beyond excited. But
then the morning sickness, nausea, and exhaustion set in. And so did the GUILT
. I have memories of
laying on the floor with my eyes closed as a result of being so tired as I
tried to play with our, at-the-time, 1 year old. I felt she deserved more. I felt awful that a child who was not yet
even born was already taking so much of our daughter’s mama away from her. The nausea was real. The exhaustion was real. And the guilt was real. I wished we hadn’t
rushed into a second pregnancy so soon.
And because of that wish, I felt guilty for the new baby in our
life. He didn’t ask us to bring him into
this world. I felt like that baby
deserved better. The guilt was heavy all
around. Sure, guilt is a first world
problem—it’s not like I was unable to provide for these babies, and I was also
very lucky to conceive easily—nonetheless, the guilt of being an insufficient parent
can be destructive.
photo by Michele Feeley
Today we have three amazing children who bring one another
so much joy—they are best friends (although my 4-year-old asks pretty regularly
if we can sell his 2-year-old brother back to the hospital). BUT, come bedtime when we need to bathe,
brush teeth and hair, read books, etc., I start to feel each child is not
getting the individual bedtime attention they deserve and there is that guilt
again. At the same time, I know that if
they didn’t have one another, I would feel just as guilty. I have friends who have one child—some by
choice and some not. They are able to
give their kids the individual attention I worry my kids are not getting, but
of course, my friends still feel guilt about not providing a sibling for their
child. My point? It doesn’t matter what
we do, the guilt looms.
I’m still learning how to cope with this guilt so if you
think I’m headed toward an answer, I cannot offer that. What I do know, is that I do my best given
the circumstances which are at times, overwhelming. I know that my children could not possibly be
loved one more ounce than they already are. I know they are happy, safe, and
healthy. I know that it is normal to
occasionally lose my patience or miss a night of reading, and to go through the
McDonald’s drive through and maybe even get extra fries instead of apples or
even—gasp!—a ROOT BEER! I will say that
in addition to knowing that these things are normal and inevitable, one of the
things that helps me find peace with the guilt I feel is that my own parents
felt this same thing. To this day, I
think my parents are the best parents two lucky kids could ever ask for. I had no idea my parents were constantly
questioning themselves asking if they were working too much or if they were
making enough money to do the fun things we wanted to do as a family—if they
were balancing it all effectively.
Knowing that they, too, felt this guilt while bringing my brother and I
up to believe they were the single best parents anyone could ever ask for gives
me some solace. My own parents could
occasionally lose their patience, let us drink a Cream Soda, or give themselves
a hot second rather than laying with us until we fell asleep and somehow my
brother and I still think, as we always have, that they are the single most
amazing parenting couple that ever existed.
I never in my life felt they were insufficient although I know they were
always in a state of questioning this as are my husband and I. In short, your kids likely think you are the
best parent ever so give yourself a break and try to occasionally celebrate your
wins. As a family you managed a day to
lunch and the movie theater? That’s a
win! Did you survive a day at the ski hill with all three kids while the
husband was out of town? Heck yeah! Go girl—that’s a win. Accept it.
Revel in it. And maybe go to bed
because you’re likely exhausted.
about the author…
Ashlynn is wife, mom of three littles, and Visiting Assistant Professor of English at Rocky Mountain College. She is an introvert who is uncharacteristically social and loves family, learning, travel, animals, and all things Montana.
featured photo by Michele Feeley