Parental guilt? Stop being so hard on yourself!

 You know that parents can't be perfect all the time, but that might not stop you feeling bad when you work too much or yell too often. Here are some reasons why you should banish that guilty feeling

Whether you are a working parent or a stay-at-home parent, the chances are you've experienced 'parent guilt' of some form or another Here's some of the most common reasons parents feel guilty - and some good reasons why you shouldn't be so hard on yourself.

Guilt as a working parent

Working parents often feel guilty about their choices. Sometimes this comes from outside parties - whether family or total strangers - but more often it's self-directed. Here are some good reasons not to let it get to you. 

Working doesn't hurt them...

According to a study conducted by the University College London, there is absolutely no proof that going off to work (either full or part-time) has a negative effect on young children. In fact, being a role model in this way can have a positive effect. 

...and it's good for you

Working parents are also less likely to suffer from depression than their stay-at-home counterparts, a study has shown a study has shown. It's especially true in the case of lone parents, with single mothers reported as being fifteen percent less likely to be depressed if they work.

It's quality time that counts

When you're in the office or on the road, you're working. But when you're home, it's your opportunity to really give your child proper attention, and tune in to them. Quality time matters and not just quantity and children want to know that you're listening and paying them attention, so if when you are with them you can avoid always checking your phone or tapping away on the laptop, and focus on them then you can make the most of time together, present in mind and not just body.

The extra money helps

A little extra income makes everything easier and lowers stress on the family. Depending on your situation, and especially if your residual income outweighs the cost of childcare, it can make a lot of difference.

Childcare exists for a reason

No-one will ever replace you as 'mum' or 'dad', but if you can find childcare you can rely on and afford, and your child is happy too, then relax (or rather, go out and work!) - it's what working parents do!  

 

Guilt as a stay-at-home parent

Being a stay-at-home parent can come with its fair share of guilt as well. But you are doing an amazingly difficult and important job, and don't let anyone (especially yourself) tell you otherwise. Here's why you need to kick the guilt to the kerb. 

Childcare is exhausting

Most stay-at-home parents aren't sitting around popping chocolates in their mouths and idly watching Netflix all day. Being at home is hard work. Even if you're not also cooking or cleaning, watching and entertaining children is exhausting work, both mentally and physically.

Let to-do lists help you, not haunt you

Believe us, we know you've done a lot. The day goes by in a whirlwind of nappy changes, flying puree and wiping the counter clean about five times. You may not get to tick off any - let alone all - the items on your to-do list - but then, do remember, that most people in the office don't either. 

You're not superhuman

Just because you stay at home doesn't mean you need to turn into THE. MOST. PERFECT. PARENT. EVER! So what if there is a pile of laundry not yet done? So what if a mummy blogger makes her own soap or bread or children's clothes? Or another parent fills Instagram with perfect photos of their blessed offspring or wonderful day trips out? Or if making baby food from scratch fills you with dread? Stop. Check. Is your child safe? Is your child happy? You're doing fine!

Your contribution is priceless

Think about how much you do and what it would cost to pay someone else to do it. By staying home you may well be enabling your partner to work late, travel and fully focus on their job. That has financial merit. In fact, a study from Interflora suggested that the annual salary to reward a stay-at-home parent for their labours would be £172,000. That's around £100k more than an MP and well over £20k more than the Prime Minister. The figure is based on a forty-hour week, plus seventy-nine hours of overtime in roles such as teacher,  chauffeur, psychologist, housekeeper, head chef and personal assistant. 

 

Guilt that all parents feel

You don't always want to play

If you feel that most children's games are either exhausting or boring - or possibly both, well, you're not alone. Many parents dread the "Mummy / Daddy, will you play with me?" requests from time to time. Fret not; sometimes it's okay to make a cuppa, pick up the paper and leave them to play on their own. Dr David Whitebread, senior lecturer in psychology and education at Cambridge University says that playing with your children can actually stifle their creativity. They need 'child-led' playing. Still unsure? Well, why not try and suggest something you know you both enjoy.

You sometimes yell

So it's not the best way to go about things, but at last check you were human, and it happens. As long as it's not the predominant way you communicate with your kids and you're not saying anything cruel, it's probably okay. As psychologist George Holden of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas says, "A bit of yelling is good for kids. If you're angry at the child, it's sometimes okay to express that emotion so the child can learn to cope with negative emotion in other people."

You let screentime do the work

Are you buying yourself a well-deserved thirty minutes extra in bed on a Sunday morning? Is it the only way dinner gets cooked? As long as you're not leaving them for hours at a time and you make sure what they're watching / playing is appropriate, and they can't come to harm, then you're okay.

You give them sweets

If it's not their whole diet and they mostly eat well, what childhood about without there being an occasional ice-cream. Or two. Just make an effort to use sweets sparingly.

You get rid of their artwork or toys

You can't keep everything your child makes. And maybe shouldn't want to! Keep your favourites and then discuss with your child how you need to get rid of some. Take a photo of the work so you still "have it". As for toys and clothes, get your children involved: explain how they've outgrown them and how they can make another child really happy if you give them to someone else you know or donate them to charity.

And finally...give yourself a break

Being a parent is difficult enough without the added pressure of (usually self-inflicted) guilt.

If you have happy, healthy kids then whatever you're doing, you're doing it right.