There are plenty of parent shamers out there.
But I don’t want to be one of them!
So much of what I write about in my blog is about helping busy parents to gather the information they need to make informed parenting decisions. It comes from a good place in my heart, with hope that what I share might be valuable to a parent today, tomorrow or 10 years down the road.
It is never meant to tell someone that they’re a failure as a mother. But just because it isn’t meant that way doesn’t mean that it can’t be taken that way.
Last summer, I wrote this post about the impact of stress during pregnancy after my very pregnant cousin questioned whether it was good for her baby to be experiencing the stress that came from watching a nail-biting softball game our husbands were playing in. I had already known that stress during pregnancy can have a negative effect on development, but her question really prompted me to do more research and share information with other expecting moms who may not be aware of the strong impact that stress has on the developing baby during pregnancy.
The article was one of my most popular posts since I began blogging each week about a year and a half ago. And I know why. Expecting moms are nervous about their growing child. They want to do whatever they can to protect their kid from the dangers of this world, even if those dangers exist inside the womb.
For these moms who have the ability to plan ahead, this post was helpful.
For other moms who didn’t have the ability to plan ahead, this post was not helpful. For moms who were reading about the impact of stress during pregnancy during the post-pregnancy period, this post may have caused guilt, fear, worry and anger. It basically said to these moms,
“Your child’s behavior/development etc. could have been your fault. You should have done a better job creating a safe environment when you had the chance. Now, the damage has been done and there’s nothing you can do about it!”
This SO was not the intent of the post, but I totally get why it would make moms feel this way.
Moms care about their kids. They want to do whatever they can do help make their life better. And when they read a post that says what they should have done in the past, they might become defensive, angry or feel guilty that they didn’t make better choices. They can’t change what happened in the past, so it might feel better to either get angry at someone for sharing the information or beat herself up for making bad choices.
Neither of these are helpful!
A mom once shared with me how upset she was with her choices during pregnancy. She shared that she made choices that she shouldn’t have and that she regrets them and worries that those choices have impacted the child that her child had become.
This mom was probably right. But after hearing her story I questioned how much better she could have done, considering the circumstances. If I were in the same situation, I probably would have made the same choices. She did the best she could with the information she had at the time, and I couldn’t ask anyone to do more than that!
So what do we do to step forward after we’ve done something that may have contributed to some deficits for kids? That’s easy. We do the best we can going forward!
If you developed bad habits during the first year of life, you shouldn’t beat yourself up over it, feel guilty and blame yourself for every little issue that your child has. You aren’t the first person to develop bad habits, for a variety of very legitimate reasons! Instead of beating yourself up, make a special effort now to teach more appropriate habits and make the most of the time that you have with your child now, regardless of what happened last year.
If you just got done yelling at your child and you feel totally guilty about it, don’t bury yourself in all the research about the impact of yelling at your kids. This won’t help you for this incident. It might help you for the future, but right now you don’t need to hear about what a bad parent you are for yelling at your kids! Instead, look into some ways to move forward after yelling at your child.
If you weren’t supervising your child appropriately or forgot to baby proof the house just right and your child got a little bit hurt, it happens. Kids get hurt and they usually come out better off because of it. Instead of wallowing in self-despair over the mistake and playing the “What if?” game, take some action steps to prevent it from happening again.
If you’re worried that your kid’s anxiety is because of something you did, read about the tips to help your child through the anxiety instead of beating yourself up about what you think you did to cause this anxiety. Tips to help with anxiety will make things better; worrying about what you did to cause your kid’s anxiety will only cause more anxiety for you!
What’s the moral? Parenting is hard and every single parent is going to make mistakes along this long journey of parenting (which lasts much longer than 18 years, by the way!).
Next time you read an article that makes you feel guilty about something that you did as a parent, know that everyone has been there. Each parent feels guilty for different things, but they all feel it at one point or another in their parenting journey.
But regardless of how normal this parenting guilt thing is, it doesn’t mean that it’s overly productive. Feeling guilty, sad, mad or any other extreme emotion does help us to achieve things in life. We feel embarrassed by our mistakes and dwell on them, and that dwelling allows us to take action steps. But there is definitely a difference between thinking about our mistakes to improve our skills, and over thinking about our mistakes to punish ourselves.
Don’t punish yourself. You don’t deserve it. Take this new information and roll with it, making yourself a better person and parent for tomorrow. And know that one day, 100 days and 1,000 days down the road, you’ll learn something new that makes you even better than you were the day before!