Two words said by my 1 year old, when she accidentally knocked her juice from her high chair in a restaurant the other week.
“Mam, she said ‘Oh Sh*t!’”
Confirmation by my 7-year-old that my 1 year old had in-fact just said ‘sh*t!’
AND THE WORST PARENT EVER IN THE HISTORY OF THE WHOLE WORLD PANIC SET IN!!!
I couldn’t ever remember using those words in front of the kids for either of them to know how to repeat them. But here we were, mid Gyros, and my two little cherubs were pretty much chanting ‘oh sh*t!’ in a public restaurant.
Total exaggeration but that’s what it felt like at the time.
And so, the parent guilt set in and spiralled…
Kids are too young and innocent to be hearing swear words, I can’t believe I’ve been so careless.
How can I be careless around the kids?
Am I distracted when I’m with them?
Should I be more engaged and play with them more, do more activities, go on more trips, give them more attention?
Do they do enough out of school activities or play groups? Should our 1 year old be in nursery?
Does our 7-year-old feel a bit neglected by how much attention our 1-year old needs?
Why do I work full time? I miss school runs and pickups, probably milestones, I should be with them more!
I can’t go to the gym if I work full time that’s more time away from them!
I’m booked to go on a hen, should I cancel because that’s more time away from them?
We can’t have date nights, they’re with my parents too much as it is!
My parents do too much, this isn’t their responsibility, it’s ours, they have them A LOT of the time, they do everything for us, we need to do more!
Why is our house always a mess, we need to start cleaning up more and being more proactive with cooking, cleaning, washing etc.?
We should get a cleaner, no we shouldn’t get a cleaner, we should be able to manage! Everybody else does!
And that’s just a small snippet of the parent guilt I felt then, but if I’m being honest, I feel a large proportion of the time.
It can’t just be us though?
I decided from a young age I wanted to go to university and graduate with good grades in order to get a well-paid job. My family have always worked hard, so it was instilled in me from being little. I remember my Dad working long shifts in a factory and my Mam working and then coming home cooking, cleaning, taking us to sports activities, sorting pack lunches, food shopping, looking after my grandparents etc. We were a normal working-class family, but my parents worked so hard, all so my sister and I had the best. We had lovely family holidays every year, we were spoilt rotten at Christmas and Birthdays, we had nice clothes, all the latest gear etc. We had the BEST childhood any kid could ever ask for. And now as a parent I want to do the exact same thing for my kids. If I’m being honest, it is partly to set a good example, but mainly because I want them to have the best, like I did.
When I think of it that way it eases my guilt a little. I didn’t feel like I missed out in any way as a child, both parents working only had a positive impact. And I bet that’s the same no matter what environment you were brought up in, working/ non-working, working class/middle class. We all do our best and want the best for our kids.
My parents are still the best, I honestly don’t know what we’d do without them. We certainly couldn’t both have the jobs we do, the kids would miss after school activities, we’d spend a fortune on childcare, we’d never get a night off and probably wouldn’t eat a decent evening meal.
They are absolute lifesavers.
I also recognise that we are extremely lucky to have that support. Which then makes me feel even more guilty about how much we put onto them and how much time the kids are with them. However, the kids adore their grandparents, therefore, from their perspective this is quality time spent with people they love most.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, parent guilt, as much as it can be overpowering, is for the most part, pointless. Do the things we feel guilty about actually have a negative impact on the kids? Probably not! Every parent feels guilt, but everyone parents differently, so how can we all feel guilty? None of us are capable of being ‘The Perfect Parent’ therefore surely this proves guilt is just a by-product of an unobtainable ideal we hold in our heads about what being a parent is and should entail?
To me, I had the perfect childhood, I have the perfect parents, therefore the guilt is probably just desperation that my babies feel the same way about us as parents as I feel about my own.
Ultimately, life isn’t perfect, and neither are we, but we’re only here once and for a short time. So, I’ve decided, after my uncontrollable, guilty, overthinking spiral, that I don’t like feeling that way. Instead, I should just embrace how we’ve chosen to parent and make the most of it. I need to remind myself at times when I feel like this, that we’re doing our best. And rather than feel guilty, I’m going to try and enjoy every second with the them whilst they are little and adorable. Because before I know it, they’ll be 30 with their own kids worrying about the same things I’m worrying about now!
Oh, and I’ve come to learn that it was Mr Morris who 'accidentally' dropped the S word in front of the kids *rolls eyes* ...