Blame it on social media and the rise of competitive parenting. From the never-ending focus on how to raise the healthiest, smartest, most athletic and well-adjusted kid, to the onslaught of overly staged snaps of what appear to be perfect families, lunches, and, well, lives, it seems the child-rearing bar is constantly being raised. And none of us are immune to its effects.
Understanding parent guilt
Simply put, parental guilt means different things to different people—and the reasons for it are as varied as parents themselves. For some, guilt surfaces when a notable kid-related milestone is missed, while for others, not having the time to create nutritionally rich meals can cause it to rear its ugly head.
The common thread? We all feel it, and yet most of us assume that others don’t—at least, not to the degree that we do. We mistakenly believe that other moms and dads have their lives completely together and that not only do they not experience guilt over parenting challenges, they don’t experience the challenges in the first place.
Facing the reality of parent guilt
In a word, this self-reproach is insidious. And if left unchecked, it can permeate every area of parenting, blowing the most trivial circumstances out of proportion. The good news: You can start to deal with the guilt by acknowledging it.
Voicing your feelings to a friend or partner can help, because you’ll likely get the validation you need, as well as helpful suggestions for changing your mindset. As for reducing guilt when it comes to your family’s nutritional wellbeing (while still incorporating kid-pleasing staples), there are myriad options available. The key is finding products that will put your mind at ease. For example, Maple Leaf has removed all artificial flavours, colours, preservatives and animal by-products from their Natural Top Dogs to contain only natural ingredients and premium meat so you can offer your kids food they love while shutting down your inner critic at the same time.
How to handle “perfect parent” pressures
Let’s be honest: Parental guilt will always be a thing. So rather than berate yourself for not meeting impossible-to-attain standards, learn to shift your focus to what matters.
Start by deciding that societal expectations and family pressures don’t dictate your behaviour. Despite what your Facebook or Instagram feeds tell you, children don’t need us snapping photos of every milestone or achievement to become secure, well-rounded adults. Yes, your children are hugely important in your life and should know it, but the pervasive idea that you must make them the epicenter of every day doesn’t benefit anyone.
Next, lower your bar. The “great parents” acclaimed by our culture don’t actually exist, so do yourself a solid and stop trying to emulate these fictional beings. Instead, remember that there’s really no right way to be a good parent, so do your best to laugh, snuggle and play when you can, while also keeping your expectations of yourself—“You’re working too much, you’re not cooking enough, you’re not spending enough time with your family”—in check.
Parent guilt can be a…good thing?
Yes, really. That nagging nudge that your child is on their tablet too often or spending too much time with a not-so-great friend or is overly concerned about their body? That’s a bonafide parental guilt benefit. Another positive side effect? Mom or dad guilt can force you to take a long, hard look at your parenting approach, giving you the opportunity to teach your children the importance of apologizing and asking for forgiveness when it’s called for; it can even compel you to tweak your disciplinary style as needed.