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Can you parent without guilt?


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#1 diary~dad

Posted 11 May 2010 - 10:31 AM

The Guilt Trap
By Joseph Kelly


The wonderful thing about being a parent is there is always something to feel guilty about.  For example, if I have a glass of wine with dinner will this turn the girls into alcoholics?  If I let the kids watch ABC Kids will they become obese? And just by having kids have I, Joseph Kelly, personally ruined the environment for everyone else?

In fact, the list of parental-guilt-inducers is endless.  Am I feeding the kids the right foods?  Is it wrong to tell Frances I will sell her to Gypsies if she doesn't clean her room?  Are my genes responsible for Rita's thick eyebrows? Have I made the right decision letting Maisie dress herself (hot pink top over hot pink skirt over hot pink stockings)?  Actually I know the answer to that one and I’ll burn that outfit one night when Maisie’s asleep.  

The point is as parents we don’t have to go far to feel bad.  And usually the steps needed to resolve the guilt involve huge behavioural adjustments that either eradicate or modify years of learnt habits and responses.  This is very hard to do.  Fortunately there is a shortcut and it is available to all parents: buy stuff.  It seems that no matter what you are feeling guilty about, the free-market is happy to provide you with a product that will sooth your aching conscience.

For example, I was recently feeling guilty about my family’s carbon footprint.  After researching the topic I quickly realised there were quite a few practical things we as a family could do.  I could sell my car and catch public transport into work.  I could install solar panels on our north facing roof and harness the sun’s rays to produce power for my carbon emitting flat-screen TV.  Or, finding all of these solutions too hard, I could wander down to the bike store and purchased a tandem trailer to drop the girls off at school.  Sold!  Now the one day a week I had reserved for cycling into work involves me towing the girls for their morning drop off.  Guilt abated with minimal change to my old habits.

Likewise I began to feel guilty that the girls didn’t spend nearly as much time outside as I thought they should.  I have a very idealised recollection of my childhood, but I’m convinced we spent the bulk of our time out in the front yard or riding up and down our street on our bikes.  My girls, by contrast, have to be forcibly pushed out the door to get them to play outside.  In attempting to address this guilt head-on I learnt that there were many ways I could resolve this issue, such as sitting outside with the girls while they played, building a cubbyhouse or even getting the girls involved in some gardening.  All of which involved me altering my behaviour in order to get the girls to alter theirs.  Or, I discovered, I could drive straight to the sports store and buy a trampoline and a swing set.  Now if the kids don’t play outside the blame rests not with me but the designers of the play equipment who failed to make it engaging enough to lure Maisie and Frances outside.

Whichever way you look at it there is a constant supply of stuff to meet the screaming demands of parental guilt.  How to buy your way out of spending 60 hours a week at work is the real challenge.

Have you got a highly tuned guilt-to-purchase receptor? Is guilt the most powerful motivational force in parenting, or is it a by-product of love? Can you parent without guilt?

#2 Obesa cantavit

Posted 11 May 2010 - 10:39 AM

Of course you can parent without guilt. If you trust your own judgement and are happy with your decisions, then vola! no guilt.

As for using guilt as an excuse to purchase. Blah, only if you are that materialistic/shallow rolleyes.gif

#3 Gurt

Posted 11 May 2010 - 10:44 AM

"guilt to motherhood is like grapes to wine" — Fay Weldon

I am guilty of having the Mummy guilts blush.gif

#4 Luli28

Posted 04 June 2010 - 09:40 PM

I feel guilty about drinking wine while trying to conceive (well, not at the same time, but you get what I mean)..

I guess the guilt starts much earlier than I thought...

#5 Wini4Charlotte

Posted 22 June 2010 - 04:19 PM

First of all, I love reading your blog!!

Yes, i feel guilty about everything, from being too strict, being too soft, give her too much to eat, too less to eat, spoil her too much with toys, etc etc etc. The list goes on. Ah~~ now i know how to solve my problem.. buy more books and enrol in training classes!

#6 diary~dad

Posted 22 June 2010 - 05:06 PM

Thanks Wini4 Charlotte, I'm glad you like the blog.  Good luck with buying your way out of parenting guilt!!!

#7 TK421

Posted 30 July 2010 - 10:49 AM

I sometimes feel guilty if I wrongly rouse on him for something I thought he was doing that was naughty, but he wasn't actually doing it or was doing something else. I just apologise and explain that I thought he was doing something else. I think we sometimes question our decisions, which is perfectly natural as parents, as we feel our way through.

I don't think shopping is a good way to assuage guilt. Besides, kids are pretty adaptive and if they don't particularly mind, then why should we? I'm pretty sure that as a kid, I spent a bit of time outside but also a lot of time inside as well, and I turned out mostly normal (debatable topic with my wife).

#8 R2B2

Posted 30 July 2010 - 11:28 AM

QUOTE (Jip @ 30/07/2010, 10:49 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I sometimes feel guilty if I wrongly rouse on him for something I thought he was doing that was naughty, but he wasn't actually doing it or was doing something else. I just apologise and explain that I thought he was doing something else. I think we sometimes question our decisions, which is perfectly natural as parents, as we feel our way through.

I don't think shopping is a good way to assuage guilt. Besides, kids are pretty adaptive and if they don't particularly mind, then why should we? I'm pretty sure that as a kid, I spent a bit of time outside but also a lot of time inside as well, and I turned out mostly normal (debatable topic with my wife).


...We dont need guilt to participate in the "guilt shopping" he looks at us sweetly, and we are sold to the latest "thing" he wants,lol.
I'm not sure im so much of a "guilt" shopper, but I certainly indulge him more often then is needed.
Although,I agree we did spend more time out the back/front playing as kids...it was fun, there were always other kids to kick about with, and it sure beat being indoors all day...not sure what kids aversion to it these days is... perhaps with things like Wiis and playstations they dont feel the need to be outdoors... thank god we got a good one who doesnt spend all day on gaming consoles Tounge1.gif



#9 dorkalicious

Posted 13 August 2011 - 03:03 PM

The guilt comes with caring about your kids & striving to be a good parent.
Any parent who hasn't felt some guilt at some point is lying or not trying hard enough.




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