Nobody tells you that when your long-awaited child arrives, born with it is a deep sense of guilt. It buries itself within your chest, and will remain with you always.
Even those of us who are confident that we are generally good parents still carry this guilt. It twinges when we recall times that we lost our tempers and raised our voices. It rears it’s ugly head when we must tell our toddlers that mummy can’t play right now, mummy’s busy. When we look back over our children’s lives, it reminds us of all of the things we did wrong.
I tend to believe that this guilt, although uncomfortable, can be a positive thing. It forces us to examine ourselves as parents, and motivates us to do better in the future. It doesn’t allow us to overlook our raised voices and less-than-positive words to our children. It helps us to learn and grow in our roles as parents, and steers us towards the right choice. It is this guilt that makes us good parents.
Sometimes, it is easy to believe that others are judging and criticising us for our parenting choices, especially if you feel insecure in the decisions you’ve made.
However, I personally believe that our greatest critics are ourselves. And this is no wonder given the world we live in. Up to date information and a diverse range of differing opinions and theories are available at our fingertips via the internet, and although this is helpful, it can cause us to over-examine things at times.
Take this as an example – I am a babywearer. For the first 7 weeks of Squish’s life, he spent pretty much all day in the sling. He didn’t ride in a pushchair until he was 2 months old, and even now his pushchair use is sporadic. However, I don’t feel judged for carrying my baby everywhere – on the contrary, I feel judged for NOT wearing him on the rare occasions that he goes in the pushchair instead of the sling. This is simply down to the fact that I am well aware of the benefits of babywearing, and want only the best for my child. It’s easy to forget that not everybody is as passionate about natural parenting practices as I am, and that there are very few (sane) people in the world who would accuse me of being a bad mother purely on the basis of how I choose to transport my child.
And you know what? I used to feel ashamed when buying formula, too (my oldest son was combination fed). At the checkout I would have to suppress the rising urge to inform the shop assistant, and anybody else who happened to be within earshot, that I was in fact breastfeeding almost entirely. And I’ll bet for damn sure that those people couldn’t have given a rats backside how I was feeding my baby.
It’s something I am working on. Yes, I am guilty of making snap judgements about others – aren’t we all – but I correct myself immediately and remind myself that there is a multitude of possible reasons why people make the choices that they do, and quite frankly, it is none of my flippin’ business anyway. Who the hell am I to judge? And I’ll bet that most other mothers feel this way, and go through a similar thought process as I do.
The moral of the long, rambly story – Guilt is not a bad thing, in moderation. Own your decisions, own the cards you were dealt, learn from them and move on – and when that nasty, self depreciating voice arises in your mind, dismiss it and remind yourself that you are, in fact, a good parent. After all, if you weren’t a good parent, you wouldn’t care.