The Parent (Guilt) Trap

Who here has felt guilt in being a parent? Guilt about working too much outside of the home? Working out of a home office or home-based business? Not working, and feeling like your contributions aren’t as important to your family as those that might be a source of income or otherwise providing for your family? I know it’s a loaded concept, but I would bet that 100% of you, no matter your gender, work, or family make-up, have felt guilty about something related to parenting at some point on that journey. If you haven’t, then maybe you shouldn’t read further…..

Did we lose anyone? (Didn’t think so). More and more parents these days have to work at some point to ensure that there is food on the table, Play-Doh to grind into the carpet, and enjoyment to be had. Many are able to find what works for them through home-based businesses, MLM, and part-time work that coincides with their childrens’ school schedule. Others still are able to stay at home and not work for pay, but are proudly the Chief Household Officers of their homes and families, essentially running it like a business. Unless you are independently wealthy, you have probably felt the pangs of guilt that accompany being a parent, even to those children with fur. Constantly questioning, did I do enough? Did I make the right decision? Did I succeed in sneaking in enough fruits/vegetables to make sure my kid doesn’t get scurvy? (Yarrrrgh!)

I would imagine that any good parent would question most things. And you and your parenting partner (if your family is led by two or more caregivers) often disagree with what is best. As a mom, part-time counselor, and full-time business owner, I have struggled with what ratio of work to life/parenting balance is best. Mostly it was out of necessity (for my sanity and bank account) to work part-time, and not work too much to have my paycheck go to daycare costs, but damn if I didn’t have catastrophic guilt about it when maternity leave ended and my child was going to be taken care of by people that didn’t know how my child liked to be held, played with, or the things he enjoyed listening to or watching. I still feel guilty at times that it’s  best for me to work part-time right now, when I could be bringing in more money, and therefore helping our family to get out from under ginormous student loan.

But, I think this ratio is what works best for my family right now. I have a fabulous partner to share many responsibilities with, despite our varied viewpoints on when things are “completed.” My husband also has guilt, as he wants to be a 100% dad, a 100% husband, and a 100% employee. But we have realized that adding it up to 300% doesn’t work mathy-mathwise. (Right? I usually leave the complex math up to the engineer.) So, some days you fall short. Waaaaaay short. Others, you NAIL IT! And most days, statistically speaking, you do just enough. We all want to be great at something, and for many of us with children, furry and otherwise, we want to be the best in that area. Some days it just isn’t in the cards. Some days you’ll yell (gasp!); others you’ll be sick and Cars 3 and Mary Poppins will be on repeat while you recharge. But when you feel good enough to do something awesome, do it! And if you weren’t able to give it a go, try again another time.

With social media, your ‘grams, Snaps, FB, and other platforms, parents try to so hard to appear perfect, and I’m calling BS. I tell my clients that if they saw me out of my work drag, they would either think I’m homeless or wouldn’t recognize me at all (Thank you Mom Buns and yoga pants!). But, it’s because I’m not trying to impress anyone, win a pageant, or show everyone how sparkling clean my house is. Por ejemplo:

Could be worse, but could be better. Don’t let the guilt get to you. The fact that you are feeling guilty means that you are trying. Maybe you aren’t succeeding in the ways you’d like, or maybe you are allowing the fakers on FB/Pinterest/YouTube to get you to thinking that they have it all. What they don’t show you most of the time is a true DITL, because if they did, it would be toothpaste dribble on your shirt, fighting with your 2 yo to wear pants, or the tantrum that ensues when the rechargeable vacuum dies (also, who knew my child would LOVE vacuuming so much?!). Whether it’s grace, a break, or woosah, give it to yourself. Go on pinterest, fail at making a DIY bath bomb, use your kid’s bubble bath, and take a time OUT! Without guilt.


(Courtesy memegenerator.net)

This common analogy is the one I share with my clients most frequently – the oxygen mask on an airplane. Flight attendants provide this very important information before each and every flight, and you need to apply this to your life at the start of each and every day. If the plane depressurizes and the oxygen masks fall from the ceiling, you:

A) Use it like a speed-bag and punch it as fast as you can
B) Not know what it is because you were playing Candy Crush during the instructions
C) Wonder, if I don’t see oxygen flowing, should I really trust that it’s there
D) Put it on yourself before you help someone else…

The answer…D! You must #treatyoself before you are capable of serving others. This is in ALL aspects of life, not just parenthood. Is it a great excuse to get mani-pedis every weekend? Only if your wallet and childcare providers (paid or unpaid) are available. But things like sipping hot coffee, taking a long shower, reading a book that you want to read that has more than a 5 year old’s vocabulary, exercising without having a child attached to you, losing yourself in a Pinterest rabbit hole, and actually having adult fun time (you pick your poison) are all forms of “oxygen”. You don’t feel guilty when you breathe, do you? Your breath doesn’t deplete another person’s chance at obtaining oxygen, and nor should your own self-care.

So guilt, you’re on notice.


(Courtesy of Giphy.com)