When I was about to become a new parent, I read. I read the books, the articles, the weekly updates and I will tell you that there are lots of things that these books and articles will tell you from the progress of the baby, what behaviors to expect in the first year, and what to do if you develop PPD. So naturally, I thought I was prepared. However, one thing I was definitely not prepared for was the guilt. Holy moly the guilt. I mean, where did this come from? Talk about being blindsided!
I was prepared (or so I thought) for the sleepless nights, the frustrations, the overwhelming and unconditional love. But I was soooo not prepared for the guilt. I have come to realize that I have felt this out-of-left-field emotion since the first few weeks of my first son being born.
It started with little things like feeling that I wasn’t engaging my baby enough, or feeling guilty for not taking enough pictures in his first few weeks of life. Later it turned into feeling guilty that he fell and bumped his head when he was learning to stand. I also felt guilt the first time I raised my voice because he bit me while nursing and it scared him and made him cry. The list keeps going, and keeps progressing as he gets older.
And then it started to come from different places. Seeing pictures of others and their kids out having new adventures made me feel guilty that we haven’t taken our child to do something like that. Seeing artwork proudly displayed by other parents made me feel guilty that I haven’t sat my child down and (somewhat forced) him to make me an art project to hang - P.S., my oldest kind of could care less about art, so that’s how I make myself feel better about that one! Oh, and of course there are the obvious sources of guilt from the articles and books such as, is he getting enough fruits and veggies? Is his bedtime early enough? Are we reading to him enough and exposing him to enough (but not too much!)?
Don’t even get me started on the second child guilt...I mean, how do you really make a 3 year old understand that it is not OK for him to bite or pull hair, but then tell him not to be upset at his baby brother who does the same things to him?? I feel so much guilt when I see the confusion in my toddler’s eyes when the baby gets picked up and tickled after he pulls someone's hair, or the dog’s tail, yet he got a stern “NO, we do NOT do that.” when he did the same thing after getting carried away while playing. It breaks my heart to think that he thinks he is the one always getting reprimanded. And as any parent of more than 1 will know, the obvious guilt at this stage comes from trying to divide your time and attention. Oi…
I often wonder if this type of guilt, sometimes referred to as Mom Guilt (but should just be a generic Parent Guilt) is new or worse for my generation? Did my mom, and the moms of her generation feel this much guilt? Or did they just know that they were doing the best they could and following their gut for what felt right for each child? I would like to believe it was the latter. No parent should have to feel guilty for the way they are raising their child as long as they are doing their best. So for now, I will take a page from my mom’s book and do my best to parent my kids while showing them my unconditional love.