From the moment you announce your pregnancy, the advice and opinions about how you should parent begin pouring in… And that is just the beginning of the long journey of parenthood, where you will undoubtedly question your every turn along the way. But the truth is, there are countless different ways to parent, and nobody knows which is the RIGHT way. Nobody is truly an expert when it comes to parenting. Nobody has all the answers.
So why are we so hard on ourselves as parents? How many times since your child was born have you felt like you were doing it all wrong? If you are anything like me, the answer is far too many to count. But our babies are our everything, so as parents, we want to be perfect for them. We want to do the best job possible when raising our children. But nobody is perfect.
Living up to the high standards we set for ourselves, is nearly impossible. So we are left feeling guilty, practically every day for breaking the silly little rules we have set for ourselves in order to be the perfect parents. But who are we kidding with these rules and expectations? What good does it do us to fall victim to these ridiculous unobtainable standards?
At the end of the day, as long as your kids are safe, happy, and healthy what else matters? It’s time for parents to quit being so hard on themselves, and their kids, and just enjoy letting kids be kids. So, in my totally non-expert opinion, here are 7 common parenting guilt trips that it’s totally ok to ignore sometimes.
7 Bribing Your Kids
I think anyone who says they are above bribery to get their kids to do what they want is pretty much full of it. I mean, maybe there are a couple people out there who truly NEVER bribe their kids, but why? Don’t they know that bribery is one of our most valuable tools as parents?
Bribery is power. We, as parents, have the power to giveth and to taketh away.
You don’t have to bribe your kids with candy or money to get them to behave. You don’t even have to threaten to take things away if that’s not your style. But isn’t verbal praise for good behavior just another form of bribery?
Don’t get me wrong, I am NOT above the promise of ice cream after T-Ball if my son makes it through practice without throwing dirt and my daughter shares her baby dolls with the other little sisters. It works for us. (Sometimes).
You say you'd never do it, but then you wind up doing it
But I’ve seen the looks from other parents when they hear me remind the kids that there is a reward if they behave. I know I’m being judged by some. And in turn, it has made me feel guilty. Why do I have to bribe my kids to get them to do what they should be doing anyway? Where did I go wrong?
But that’s silly. Kids like ice cream, we would probably get it anyway, so I may as well use it as a bargaining tool to get something from them in return right? Right.
Bribery won’t work forever. There will come a day when it will take something a lot more expensive than ice cream to get my kids attention, so for now, I will use bribery and I will not feel guilty about it.
6 Allowing Your Kids to Use Electronics
It starts when they are a baby and the television catches their eyes. You will be judged for letting your baby watch television. But they love television and so you will try to limit their exposure and to keep everything educational but they will still judge, and you feel guilty.
Then they discover your cell phone and despite your best attempts to keep it from them, you find yourself downloading educational apps and games for the little ones because it is easier to hand it to them in the car than to listen to them scream in their car seat. So then you buy them their own Ipad, and you feel guilty because they want to play on it constantly.
Then your son sees his older friends playing video games. You’ve seen the headlines, you’ve heard that video games do nothing but breed violence. But when a handheld gaming device is all he asks for from Santa, how can you let him down? So you get it for him, minus the violent games, and you still feel guilty.
You think it's bad for them, until you see the benefits of using technology
But why the guilt? Times are a’changin folks! Technology is everywhere. Look at how far it has come in our lifetime. When I was a kid, the internet was new. I can remember getting our first desktop computer and waiting for the dial-up to connect. Now I do everything, including working for a living, online. I get paid and pay my bills online. Can you imagine what our kids will be doing on computers in 30 years?
I don’ necessarily thing it’s a bad thing that our kids are learning to use technology at very early ages. I see the looks I get when I hand a cell phone or tablet to my rowdy toddlers to quiet them down while we wait for our dinner at a restaurant. But I also know what looks I would get if I just let them run wild too. So, I just pick my battles.
5 Lying to Your Kids
This one is a tricky one. I know we are teaching our kids that lying is wrong and so it’s hard not to feel like a hypocrite when we aren‘t always truthful with them. But… sometimes it’s just so much easier to tell a little white lie to those sweet little faces. Shoot, sometimes, it’s for their own good.
It’s hard though, not to feel like a huge hypocrite when we preach about honestly and telling the truth, send our kids to time out when they are caught lying, and then turn around and tell them “sorry sweetie, the playground is actually closed for maintenance today” when we just don’t want to go.
I used to really struggle with this one. But then I realized that if I’m going to let my kids believe in Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy like all of their friends, then I’m going to have to tell some little white lies here and there. That’s when it got a little easier for me to drop the occasional harmless fib with my kids.
No one likes lying to their children, but sometimes you need to
And sometimes, in order to protect their innocence, they don’t need to know the truth. The world is a harsh and scary place so if I want to keep my kids in a happy safe bubble where nothing bad ever happens, I will for as long as I can.
One of these days they will figure me out and I won’t be able to fool them anymore. And then the tables will turn and they will start trying to pull one over on me. So I’ll go ahead and use the upper hand while I’ve got it.
4 Needing Some Time to Yourself
Once you become a parent, your priorities change for sure. As many of us know, it’s very easy to become so consumed in your role as a parent that you totally lose yourself. Your needs and wants are pushed to the back burner. Nights out, dates, girls weekends can easily all become a thing of the past- a time you fondly remember as “before kids”.
Many of us are fine with this, we are happy to spend every free second with our kids, and there is nothing wrong with that. But there are also those parents who NEED some time away from the kids to regroup, let loose, and relax from time to time. But all too often, taking time to ourselves comes with a whole lot of guilt.
In these cases the guilt trips can come from all directions- Your kids who hang on your legs while you are getting ready and beg you not to leave them, your friends who say they would love to come along but THEY just can’t leave their kids just yet, your parents who claim they never got a night out until you were in high school even though you remember differently.
"You" time is more valuable than you think
I can openly admit that I don’t take nearly enough time for myself. My “me time” consists of my prenatal appointments every two weeks, and the occasional grocery trip that I don’t bring my two toddlers along. Any other time, the kids are with me. I think I’ve gone out with the girls 3 times since having my son 4 and a half years ago and one time I cried at the bar because I missed him. I envy my friends who take well deserved girls weekends away and nights out. You go girls!
Being a parent can be exhausting. Everyone deserves some time off here and there, even from those sweet little angel faces who we love so much. Besides we know we’ll miss them the entire time and rush home to them afterwards which only makes it all the sweeter.
3 Raising Picky Eaters
I’m sure there really are some kids out there who love all vegetables and fruits, who will try anything you put in front of them, and who happily clean their plates at every meal. I’ve just never met one in real life.
My kids are the opposite. My kids ask for hot dogs and candy at every meal. They refuse to try anything new. The only vegetables my son will eat are corn and sometimes carrots if I bribe him with ice cream afterwards.
They love pepperoni and pizza but don’t you dare put pepperonis on their pizza, that’s disgusting. 3 times a day, at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, my kids and I face off in an all out war over cleaning their plates. I insist, they refuse, and at least one of us cries at each meal. I wish I were exaggerating.
It's tough when the only thing your kids will eat is not the healthiest choice for them
So when I hear the holier than thou moms bragging about their healthy, all organic, non-processed meal plans, I can’t help but roll my eyes. Because this is a fact, if it weren’t for frozen chicken nuggets, yogurt in a tube, and hot dogs, there would be days my kids would be totally content to not eat at all.
I try, I really do, to make sure they are getting whole grains, fruits, and vegetables every day. But there are some days that I just have to suck it up, swallow my guilt, and order them Happy Meals at the drive-thru. And wouldn’t you know those are the only meals that everyone is a member of the “Clean Plate Club”?
2 Not Loving Every Second
Being a parent is without a doubt the most rewarding and amazing job in the whole entire world. Children are blessings and gifts from above, nobody is going to disagree with this. But can we just be honest for a minute here? Parenthood is HARD.
I’ve been blessed to be able to stay at home with my kids. It’s something that I wouldn’t trade for all the money in the world (most days). But there are some days that I find myself sneaking off into the bathroom, shutting the door, and literally hiding in utter silence for just a few moments to myself.
Sometimes when I’m sitting at the lunch table arguing with my son for the millionth time to just pick up his fork and finish his waffle, I fight back tears wondering why he can’t just listen to me and put us all out of our misery.
Face it, sometimes your little angel turns into a little devil every once in a while
I spend countless hours of everyday repeating myself, asking for something to be done over and over, only for nobody to listen until I literally scream like a banshee. Then I feel bad and apologize for yelling at my sweet angels.
Then I feel like a total jerk for not loving every second of everyday with my precious babies. After all, so many women want nothing more than to be a mom. So many moms would love to stay at home with their kids every day. How dare I take this for granted? But I’m not. I promise. I do really love ALMOST every second of everyday with my precious angels.
I know all jobs have their ups and downs, and I’ll take stinky toddlers over stinky coworkers any day… But can’t I just whine about my job every now and then like everyone else without feeling guilty?
1 Doing Everything for Them
As parents we are supposed to teach our kids independence. It is our job to teach them the necessary skills to function in the real world. They need to learn how to do things for themselves, look out for themselves, take care of themselves.
But…sometimes it is just so much easier to do everything for them.
I know there are laid back moms out there who encourage independence and freedom of expression and let their kids choose their own meals, dress themselves from head to toe in whatever their little heart's desire, and set them free to create masterpiece art projects no matter how big the mess. I think these moms are awesome. I envy them. I’ve tried to be like them but I’m just not one of them.
I can’t help but feel like a lame mom when I see other moms posting pictures of their kids covered head to toe in paint. But my kids don’t know any differently. They are too young to realize they got stuck with a total control freak mom who does most of their projects for them and just lets them color a little at the end.
You want to feel close to them and love them, but you wind up doing more for them than you should
My husband hates that I feed our kids sometimes, he says they’ll never feed themselves. But he’s not the one who has to sit with them for hours pleading with them to finish their spaghetti. And I’m simply not naïve enough to believe that my kids will still let mommy feed them when they are in junior high, at least not when their friends are around.
Sometimes I give my kids choices when it comes to getting dressed. You know, I’ll choose two shirts that both match the shorts I’ve chosen and let them pick one. Isn’t that good enough? I just can’t let these crazy toddlers dress themselves however they want. When my son whines about what I’m making him wear, I tell him that he can choose his own clothes when he has a job and buys them himself, until then he will wear what I want him to wear.
However, in my defense I do let both kids wear their puddle stomping boots almost whenever they want. My 2 year old daughter pretty much lives in pink and green striped boots, even if they don’t match her outfit, so how’s that for laid back?!
I refuse to feel guilty for doing almost everything for my kids.
I pick up their toys after they make an effort to do it themselves. I feed them sometimes. I go with them to the potty even though they are both capable of going by themselves. I brush their teeth if they want me to. I carry them when they are tired. I do pretty much whatever they ask of me, because I’m their mommy.
They are my babies and they need me right now. If the past 4.5 years are any indication of how fast the next few years will go, than the days of them needing me will be over much too soon. So while I’m often feeling stretched too thin, overworked and underpaid, and downright exhausted now, I know that there will be a day that I will be left wondering why nobody needs me to wipe their butt or cut up their chicken and not know what to do with myself.
I just hope I’ve figured out a cure for baby fever by then.