Motherhood: you birth a baby and leave the hospital with mysterious mesh underwear, a squirt bottle and your entitlement to a lifetime of guilt. Well, at least it can seem that way these days…
Were the birthday party decorations and party favors Pinterest-worthy? Did you get to the basketball game early enough to get the best seat and did you make it to every game this season? And while you’re at it, are you being a powerful “Lean-In” role model for your daughter at work? And then there’s shaming from other parents and social media.
The “mommy guilt” epidemic? It’s a real thing!
These are questions our parents did not have to ask themselves. They had work, errands, friends and commitments to get on with and didn’t seem to feel guilty if we just came along for the ride. They didn’t see it as their job to constantly amuse or play with us. Let’s put it this way, they weren’t “extra” about everything. They didn’t feel guilty, so why do we, when our generation is objectively spending far more time with our children than our parents did?
Well, you shouldn’t. With all the parenting shame out there, it’s not a bad idea to keep a few tips handy, sort of an “In case of emergency, break glass” sheet to pull out if you feel unnecessary guilt creeping into your life.
Repeat after me: “Happy parents are good parents!”
This is a simple and yet, far too overlooked concept. Parenthood is hard. It’s a joy too, but it’s full of ups and downs and challenges. Parenthood shouldn’t be proving you’re a good parent by depriving yourself of joy just to please your child. As a parent, your fulfillment—at work, at home, with your partner, with your friends—contributes to you being able to be the best parent to your children.
Speaking of work, why should working parents feel guilty about providing for their family? Tip: Be proud that you’re putting the bread on the table and ignore those that say “working full-time must be super hard!” Your personal happiness literally translates into your being a better parent. Put your oxygen mask on first!
Hello, it’s 2019.
Don’t let yourself be judged by 1950s-era parenting standards. I could write forever about all the biases out there when it comes to images of being a good parent. Up above I said there’s a lot of parenting shame, but the fact is—there’s mostly a lot of MOM shaming. Still in this day and age, we live in a world of double standards where men and women are treated differently in the public arena. For example, my husband gets praised when people find out he’s the one who picks up the kids from school. But if you and your partner share responsibilities at home and at work, that’s actually doing your children a good deed—being good role models for them by not espousing double standards or reinforcing dated gender stereotypes.
Mommy and Daddy can share the load at home and at work and balance things to make sure it all works. Our children have seen Mom and Dad do stints as stay at home parents and have seen both of use take the lead in taking over the finances. My children don’t think only Mom should be home. In fact, when I started my own company, they told me I was “bad-*ss” (I wanted to frown at their language but couldn’t). Take that, parent-shamers.
Letting go is good for them.
I read an article recently about how much of a positive impact it can have on children when you attend every sports game—that’s right, every game. We all love cheering on our kids, whether it’s watching them score the winning goal or even pushing themselves in a sport that doesn’t come naturally. But it’s their sport and their journey and while a parent’s support is certainly important, it’s not everything. We can also sit out a game and should occasionally. Believe it or not, sometimes it’s even fun for kids to celebrate with the team afterwards without Mom tapping her watch and saying it’s time to go. And more importantly, it can also reinforce the idea that sports it’s about doing their best, for THEMSELVES. Sports shouldn’t be about making their parents proud or having the same high school baseball career that Dad did.
Giving your kids a little freedom reinforces that. Now, no one wants their ten year old sneaking off to New York City on the train alone. But as your kids get a little older, letting them manage things ON THEIR OWN like getting to practice or games on time, packing their own lunch, solving conflicts with friends, breeds independence and self sufficiency—which is exactly what you want. It doesn’t mean you’re not an involved parent. To the contrary it means you are raising strong, supported and independent people.
Don’t overthink it.
If you feel the guilt creeping in, ask yourself these questions—are they loved, happy, are their needs met? That’s really what it boils down to at the end of the day. If you can say yes to those questions you’re doing a good job.
Trust the research.
And if spending too much time at work is still on your mind, the data says that adult kids of working moms are happy and high achievers at work. So don’t worry about the naysayers!
There’s a lot of noise out there to distract parents today from perhaps the most important tip of all: listen to your gut. You know your children, their needs and your family better than anyone.