The thing is, before you have children you don’t really have to think about others so much. You just kind of do what suits you and that’s brilliant. Why should you live your life any other way? Here’s why: Because as a punishment for those care-free times you will be sentenced to YEARS of parenting guilt to commence almost as soon as your baby is born, or sooner if the crime is believed to be severe enough.
Mine started before. I obviously partied WAY too hard and enjoyed life just far too much pre-children. So my sentence commenced after a lovely brunch of poached eggs with my friends when I was around 6 months pregnant, when I suddenly remembered that you’re not ‘allowed’ to eat runny eggs while pregnant. I then proceeded to call my best friend and make her call her midwife mum to find out what the lasting damage would be to my unborn baby after my reckless and selfish behaviour. Since then I don’t think I’ve missed a day of guilt.
You’ll be given no advance notice of when your sentence will commence, it will probably happen at the most unexpected time.
The sentence will served by your very own self and topped up by well-intentioned (judgemental) onlookers.
Your guilty feelings will cover just some of the following:
- Childbirth – any form which is not ‘natural’ and without pain relief
- Not breastfeeding
- Breastfeeding for ‘too long’
- Using a dummy
- Any sleep training method
- Weaning ‘too early’
- Potty training ‘too early’
- Potty training ‘too late’
- Being a stay at home parent
- Not being a stay at home parent
- Using a Childminder, Nursery or Nanny
- Not being able to do the nursery or school drop-offs or pick-ups
- Missing key milestones
- Not stimulating your baby or child enough
- Over stimulating your baby or child
- Looking at your phone too often
- Feeding your baby or child ‘junk’
- Not allowing your baby or child a ‘treat’
- Wanting a break
- Taking a break
- Shouting too much
- Appeasing tantrums
- Not paying enough attention
- Not being great at any or all of the following: baking, crafts, den-making, make-believe and so on
- Not liking any or all of the following: baking, crafts, den-making, make-believe and so on
- Allowing your child to watch ‘too much’ TV
- Forgetting sun cream and hats on sunny days
- Forgetting waterproofs on wet days
- Saying ‘No’
Upon feeling guilt for any or all of the above, and most likely, for more than just the above, you can expect to relax in the knowledge that these guilty feelings have served no purpose whatsoever other than to make you question your parenting skills, which no doubt in reality are pretty damn good. As your child grows you will feel less guilty about some of the things above, but can expect these to be replaced with new areas for guilt, such as missing a parents evening or a football practice.
The only silver lining to be found in this lifetime sentence is that the fact that we’re feeling guilty and questioning our choices and abilities and thinking we’re terrible parents proves exactly the opposite. We care enough to think we could do better and to strive to do the best for our children. We are good parents, even if some of our choices are different to our friends, or those we’ve seen on social media.
If, like me, you often sit of a night wondering why you were so impatient with your child or why you didn’t take the time to prepare something more than fish fingers AGAIN for dinner or why you rushed the bedtime story, it’s time to stop! You try your best. You’re feeding, clothing, loving and teaching your child in the best way you can and that is enough. You’re enough.
Unfortunately the guilt will likely remain, but we do have the power to make sure the guilty feelings don’t outweigh the positive ones and thus reduce the severity of the sentence. We’re all doing just fine, and I think just fine is enough.