One thing you’ll see almost everywhere across the web is the idea of “mummy guilt”; the feeling that mothers get when they worry about what food they are giving to their kids, whether they are spending the right amount of time with them, or pretty much anything else.
But what you rarely hear about is the idea of “dad guilt”. Maybe this is because there are more mothers blogging than fathers, but I’m not sure. All I know is that it isn’t really talked about that much, despite it basically being the exact same thing. So, rather than splitting the topic into male and female, I prefer to just call it “parent guilt”. So, let’s look at what “parent guilt” actually is before we start to discuss how to deal with it, shall we?
What On Earth Is Parent Guilt?
To put it simply, Parent Guilt refers to the feeling that you, as a parent, are not doing a good enough job looking after and raising your child. This innate fear comes from within and never seems to go away.
As mentioned earlier, it can come in many forms, ranging from any of the following, to pretty much anything else about your child’s life so far;
- Am I feeding them the right food?
- Are they getting enough sleep?
- Are they getting too much sleep and not enough play time?
- Am I spending enough time with them?
- Am I showing them enough love?
- Do they get to go outside enough, or are they spending too much time indoors?
- Am I hindering their development?
And let me tell you, these are just some of the questions that can swirl around in your head. They have done for me since my daughter was born, and still do now. They won’t ever go away, and that’s something really important for us dads, or parents in general, to understand.
However, I found that it was especially prevalent during the first 18 months of my daughter’s life. Every day I would find myself second guessing everything I was doing.
I would rush home from work, always using Google Maps to try and find the quickest route to avoid traffic, to make sure I wasn’t depriving her of “daddy time” (and honestly, I wanted to make sure I could enjoy her company for as long as possible too). As soon as I got home, I would shovel any food that was easily at hand down my throat so that I could then jump straight onto the floor to play with her.
Everything I did was about her, and I still felt guilty. So whilst that little bit of this article was very “me” focused, the point was that no matter how much effort you put in, you’re still going to feel like it isn’t enough. That’s something all new dads need to be prepared for… And not just for yourself, but your partner too. They’ll be going through the exact same thing, so you need to be understanding and supportive of them as well!
So How Do We Deal With It?
That’s the billion-dollar question really, isn’t it? It’s probably also the reason why you’re still reading this article.
As mentioned above, the first thing you need to understand is that this constant feeling of guilt will likely not go away for years, if ever. So don’t expect there to be some “miracle cure” that will make you suddenly feel like you’re doing everything right. Even if you are doing everything right, you won’t feel like you are.
Once you’ve got that embedded in your head, then you start looking at ways to cope with Parent Guilt.
Accepting Yourself As A Parent
The first step is to sit back and look at yourself in the mirror. You are doing your absolute best, mentally, emotionally and physically, to be the best father you can. It’s really important to be able to accept that.
No matter how much you wish you could do more, you’re already pushing yourself beyond limits that you didn’t even know you had. From going to work with almost no sleep, yet still ploughing through the day, to holding yourself until you’re absolutely bursting for the loo just so you could spend time with your child; you are doing a great job.
Never Compare Yourself To Others On Social Media
This is a really big one and something I made the mistake of doing (as did my wife). If you have friends in real life or on Social Media who have kids – even if they are older than yours – don’t compare yourself to them.
When midwives say that every child is different, they aren’t just saying that. It is 100% true! Every single child will grow and develop in different ways, so trying to compare the development of your child with that of your friends’ is a pointless escapade which will just end up in guilt for either you or your friend. And the guilt will be just as equally pointless, as it stems from an unrealistic comparison.
Don’t Be Afraid To Make Mistakes
Because trust me, every parent does; especially first time parents. There’s so much you need to learn in such a short space of time, that you cannot possibly get everything right all the time (and definitely not the first time).
Mistakes will happen, one way or another. You simply cannot avoid that, no matter how hard you try. The point is to accept they will happen and not be afraid of them. Becoming a dad is a very steep learning curve, and everyone stumbles along the way. Just pick yourself back up and keep learning. Your child will appreciate it and love you more for it.
Understand That The Guilt Is Because You Care
There are definitely parents out there who don’t feel any Parent Guilt. And I’m sure you know the type of parents I mean; the ones who don’t really care or have any interest in their child. And no, I’m not talking about those with PND, as they will feel guilty about their PND, which is another aspect of Parent Guilt.
I’m talking about those who flat out don’t care about their child, and sadly, there are parents out there like that.
So, the fact that you are feeling Parent Guilt is actually a really good thing! It shows how much you love your child, and how badly you want to be a good parent for them. So being able to understand and accept that, can really help you deal with the guilt that you are feeling.
And That’s All Folks
Parent Guilt is a huge part of being a parent, and not something that will just disappear in a few months, if at all. But it’s really important to not beat yourself up about it. You feel Parent Guilt because you care so much about your child, and that can only be a good thing!