Every good mother has at some point felt that miserable tug, tearing all so painfully at her heart, insisting that she could have done better, replaying all the ways she went wrong, over and over again until she is sitting in a pool of her own misery, crying and telling herself that she is not a good enough mother and that now her child would be ruined because of what she has done or failed to do. It’s called parental guilt.
Parental guilt is very real, happening all so frequently and sometimes over the littlest of errors like letting your baby sleep in a full diaper, over cooking her pap, not being able to tell that she was rejecting her bottle because of the nature of the teat. The list is inexhaustible.
But however big or small a mistake you’ve made, here are ways to help you deal with that guilty feeling:
1. Understand that you’re still learning. No parent is all knowing, even with the best of intentions, one is bound to make mistakes and that is okay. So instead of letting your guilt incapacitate you, focus on what it has taught you, reminding yourself that you’re still learning and this is just one new lesson added to your book of knowledge.
2. Accept your mistakes for what they are. So your baby slept in a diaper of her own poop and now she has rashes spread across her bum, well, that happened! While you cannot go back in time to change it no matter how terrible you feel, you can embrace your mistake as a flawed moment of your being human and let it go.
3. Make immediate changes. Ongoing guilt and self-punishment will weigh you down without fixing the problem. So channel your energy into changing the cause of the guilt. For example, if you are beating yourself up for working long hours and missing out on your children’s lives, maybe it’s time to cut down on your hours and create a healthy family and work balance.
4. Perfection is not a thing. Every parent you know is struggling with one thing or the other. No one has it all put together because no one is perfect. Therefore, cut yourself some slack and stop beating yourself up. Do your best and leave it at that.
5. Replace your thoughts. The more you think about it, the larger the situation magnifies in your head. So make the conscious efforts to push those bugging thoughts aside. Replace them with thoughts of positive reinforcements.
6. Forgive yourself. You deserve to be soft with yourself, to have self-compassion towards your very being. You made a mistake but that is what it was, “a mistake” so go easy on you. You’re only human.