Sometimes I think we’re our own worst enemies when it comes to parenting. Yes, it is wonderful when we set the bar high and aim to be the very best parent we can be, but it can also be incredibly damaging. I come across far too many parents who confess their guilt to me. They worry that they make too many mistakes, yell too much, don’t find joy in every moment, wish the days and nights away, regret having children, utilise screens too much, don’t play enough, didn’t breastfeed long enough, don’t feed their children totally wholesome food and so on….you name it, I’ve heard a related guilt confession. In fact I’ve never come across a group of people who are harder on themselves than those practising gentle parenting.
Yes, introspection and awareness of our flaws is a really important part of gentle parenting, but too many people let it get in the way, because they treat themselves so poorly. The irony that gentle parenting highlights children should be treated fairly, with empathy and respect is not lost on me when I think about how heavy some parents are on themselves.
I have made parenting choices that I am not proud of now and I would not make again if I knew then what I know now. I’ve also slipped up, many times, ‘in the moment’ and said and done things I regret. Everyone has, but I welcome my guilt for it teaches me to be a better parent. When we know better we do better. Life is about living in the now, parenting is about living in the now, not dwelling on what happened yesterday. If you don’t feel you have enough patience today, that’s OK, because tomorrow is a new day and everybody can change!
If you’re up for it, I’d like you to try something. For the next 7 days I’d like you to pay close attention to your thoughts. Every time you catch yourself feeling negative about your traits and parenting related qualities, I’d like you to stop and correct yourself. Remind yourself that you’re learning, you are doing your best and that you can – and will – be better with practice and a little self-directed empathy. Cut yourself a break, try to direct some of the nurturing you are constantly aiming at your children at yourself instead. If you’re an affirmations type of person, try repeating some of these to yourself when you feel most in need:
“I am still learning and I am doing the best I can”
“I am a great mum/dad”
“I can do this”
“Today is a new day, what happened yesterday is in the past, it’s time to move on”
“I am good enough as I am”
“Perfect doesn’t exist, real does”
“Today I will be kind to myself”
“It’s OK if I don’t know all the answers”
“We are learning together”
“All parents have bad days, some just hide them better than others”
“It’s OK to focus on my own emotional wellbeing”