Being a parent feels like the hardest job in the world. Desperate to get things right, you read all the parenting guides. Listen to all the parenting advice.
It helps to an extent, but it also leads you to become hyper-aware of the impact that you could have on your child... and in creep overwhelming feelings of pressure and responsibility. You start questioning everything you do and find yourself stuck in a cycle of 'mum guilt'. Dads: I know you feel it too!
It's so common, but we don't have to live with it. I am here to tell you why you can start to let go of that parental guilt.
Your child is who they are
I know that so many parents worry about every move they make as a parent. Worrying that every decision will have a huge impact on their child. Each reaction will impact their future development. Blaming your past choices and parenting for things that your child is struggling with. Maybe they are struggling with their reading or have a meltdown when you leave them at nursery. Did I not read enough with them? Did I mollycoddle them too much? It's all my fault.
What I am here to tell you is that your child is who they are. They are born with their personality, strengths, and weaknesses. Much of their development will unfold how it is meant to. No matter what you do. Yes, we can be the “fertiliser” for our children to help them reach their potential. But we can’t fundamentally change their flower! Don't take on too much responsibility for who your child is... They’re growing into themselves. And you’re there helping them every step of the way.
You cannot "break" attachment
Many parents also worry that they might have somehow "broken" their attachment with their child when things go askew. I want you to know this: Attachment just doesn’t work that way.
It can’t be broken or even altered by imperfect moments here and there. So, how does it work? What is Attachment Theory (according to Bowlby & Ainsworth), in a nutshell?
As children, we form blueprints in our minds about how we can best understand other people, predict how they will behave, and judge how we should behave with them. We also form blueprints about how we can best understand ourselves.
We do all this based on long-term, overall patterns of human, imperfect interaction with others, in particular our caregivers.
We use this blueprint to guide us throughout our lives.
It makes no sense that we would constantly change it based upon momentary blips - it simply would not do the job.
The key aspects of a secure attachment relationship are: Do we feel loved, overall? Do we feel safe, overall? Are we given the chance to be understood, overall?
For most of us, we would probably agree that we meet these attachment needs for our children. I cannot stress enough that if you are reflecting on your attachment relationship with your child, you are likely to be so loving and attuned to your child already. Even if you had a tricky start with your child for any reason, we now know that attachment relationships change and grow over time, over lifetimes.
It's essential to be Imperfect
Perfect parents don't exist. Rather than striving for perfection, let's all embrace being a 'good enough parent'.
Being a good enough parent is about doing the best we can for our children, but allowing room for real-life mistakes and having realistic expectations of ourselves. Our children need US, they don't need perfect.
In fact, not only does it not matter that we get things wrong, it matters that we DO. Healthy child development needs parents who demonstrate how to be a human.
When we get things "wrong", we can always repair with our child. In doing this, we demonstrate that it is normal to make mistakes; we show how to regulate our emotions; how to resolve conflict; and how to take responsibility and apologise. Above all, it shows your child that your relationship is strong enough to withstand tricky moments, and can grow from them.
By accepting our humanness, we can start to let go of the guilt that often comes with parenting, and really enjoy our relationship with our child.
Thank goodness. So what now?
Feeling guilty all the time as a parent does not need to be the norm. You don't need to feel so exhausted and full of self-doubt, honestly. It's time to take a step to escape.
The Guilty Parent Club is here to help you feel more confident, calm, self-compassionate, and joyful... whilst rediscovering who YOU are too.
If you think it's time to embrace being an imperfect parent - Join our Club!