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October 6, 2021 | Caroline Rowett

The Journey to Ditch Parental Guilt

Our guest blogger is Caroline Rowett. Caroline specialises in supporting parents. With women managing the balance of work, home and family we often feel torn. Her wise words on dealing with the guilt that can arise are well worth reading.

Ask most mums if they feel guilty and the answer is usually a resounding YES! Feeling guilty has repercussions not only for how we are with our child but for our health and wellbeing so it’s worth taking time to get interested in it.

Firstly, it’s important to know that guilt is going to happen from time to time no matter what you do differently. It’s an emotion that we humans are designed to feel. The question then is not how do we make it go away, but what do we do with it when it pops up?

I think it helps to look at guilt as something to be curious about. If we pay attention to it, it will reveal things we might like to change or priorities we might like to shift in order to get the best results for ourselves and our family. See it as a handy warning light flicking on and get interested rather than ignoring it and hoping it will go away.

Are you feeling guilty about a particular incident? Try to think of the offending incident in truthful terms rather than the terms we often use to beat ourselves up with.

Perhaps you are feeling guilty about how little time you’ve spend with your child recently because of other commitments. Rather than thinking ‘I’m a terrible mother, I never spend enough time with my child.’ Say ‘I’m feeling guilty because yesterday I didn’t spend enough time with my child.’ Perhaps ask ‘What could I do differently tomorrow?’ and ‘Is it true I’m a terrible mother simply because I didn’t spend enough time with my child last week?’ When we look at specifics rather than the disaster our mind has imagined there is often quite a disparity. In my experience, the reality is generally less of a car crash!

Notice how being curious about a specific incident helps us consider a solution to the cause of our guilt. If I’m feeling guilty about not spending enough time with my child yesterday, what could I do differently tomorrow?

It may also seem surprising, but your mind is able to believe two opposing things at once so there is no need to try and get rid of unhelpful thoughts. You can have the thought ‘I’m a terrible mum, I never spend enough time with my child.’ at the same time as ‘I must be a good mum, my kids really love me.’ Getting into the habit of finding the guilt-inducing assumption and then finding one to counterbalance it is very helpful to shift feelings of guilt. We’re often told to ‘let go’ of unhelpful thoughts but it is much easier to diminish their hold with a more liberating alternative thought than to let them go.

Feeling guilty simply helps us to identify things that need to change. It’s that nudge we need to get curious, to find what’s causing it and what we need to do to shift it. It may simply be to be kinder and more accepting of yourself and acknowledging that you are already doing your best.

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