Posts tagged #guilt

Forgiveness

Forgiveness Mama Pyjama

Last night my husband and I had a flashback moment that hit us both for six and left us baffling to comprehend how we managed to survive the first three years of our son’s life. He is an amazing, intelligent, empathetic, sensitive little boy…but he was really, really hard work. Last night he showed a small example of the behaviours of old…and it was a really confronting and overwhelming moment.

In those early years I screamed a lot. Desperate, wits-end, sleep-deprived, slightly psychotic -screaming. Sometimes it was like nothing would get through to him. He’d just wig out and there’d be nothing in the world I could do to get through to him. Not holding him. Not talking calmly. Not distracting him. Not yelling at him. Not disciplining him. Not comforting him. Not coaching him. Not bribing him. Not offering him options. Not ignoring him. Nothing. He’d just scream and scream and scream. All hours of the night; for hours on end; every day of the week.

Suffice to say by the time three years had elapsed, I was one VERY tired and beaten down person (and obviously so was my husband). My fuse was short, my temper quick, and my ability to keep perspective was limited.

We thankfully found some information and tools that have really helped us to deal more effectively with our beautiful boy, and things are light-years better than they were…but I often (if I’m honest, several times daily) feel pangs of guilt, remorse and resentment towards myself about my “inability” to deal with him more effectively during those early years. In short – I have not forgiven myself.

Looking in from the outside, I’d tell myself that I was doing the best I could and all things considered I was doing a good job. I know my family (who saw glimpses of our life from the inside) would support me, and understand, and tell me they were proud that I didn’t fall in a complete heap. But the “me” that talks in those quiet moments of reflection, says otherwise.

So what do I do? Well, I’m doing everything I can to make it a better “now”. All we have is this moment, we can’t go backwards, we can only move forward. So I want to afford myself the same forgiveness and understanding as I do others. I want to focus on what I did right. I was exhausted. I felt like I was drowning… but I managed to keep my head above water, hold down a solid job, smile (mostly), keep my marriage together, and attend to my child’s every need. I never neglected him and I never stopped loving him. I always picked myself up and started again. No matter how tired, overwhelmed, scared or unsure…I got up and I did what needed to be done.

I’m not saying there weren’t times when I did the wrong thing. Of course there were – I had some real lose cannon moments. But forgiveness isn’t about condoning bad behaviour or forgetting the lessons that are born in those moments. We don’t have to passively accept that that’s just the way things went down or be happy about it. But we can seek to separate the person  from the behaviour  and know that we are all fallible human beings who make mistakes or who aren’t always equipped with the necessary tools to handle the situation better. Forgiveness is about the person - not the action.

I need to take my own advice more. Let go of the guilt and self-deprecation. Forgive myself for being human. And in turn give flight to today with the lessons (not the remorse) of yesterday under my wings. I truly hope, if you feel like me, you’ll do the same… xo

Have you struggled with forgiveness?

Guilt

"  I find the accused - GUILTY!"

"I find the accused - GUILTY!"

“Didn’t enroll your child in swimming lessons by 6 months of age?” Guilty.  “Forgot to pack a jumper in their daycare bag?” Guilty.  “Didn’t get up and attend to crying newborn even though partner was with them?” Guilty.  “Enrolled them in daycare, and returned to work?” Guilty. “Had a bad day, took it out on the kids?” Guilty.  “Left them with their doting grandparents overnight to spend time just with your partner?” Guilty.   “Complained in full knowledge that you are blessed with a healthy child?” Guilty.  “Screamed like a mad woman, spit flying, face burning, because child wouldn’t stop whinging?” Guilty. “Spent night out with friends having a drink and letting your hair down?” Guilty.  “Left the TV running for a solid 8 hours because you just couldn’t be bothered?” Guilty. “Gave your child chips and nuggets three times in one week?” Guilty.  “Forgot that teething gel helps when they are teething?” Guilty. “Didn’t take them to sports, dancing, ‘Rhyme Time’, playgroup, ‘Move to the Music’…” Guilty.  “Forgot their 18 month check-up with the clinic nurse?”  Guilty

Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. GUILTY!

Since becoming a parent, it is almost like ‘guilty’ has become a constant state of being.  Like an uncomfortable undercurrent that bubbles along in your stomach somewhere beneath the digesting food.  Most of the time, I’m feeling guilty about my shortcomings as  a parent.

Other times the guilt is reflected from the preconceptions of what it means to be a successful modern mother. And sometimes it's attached to things that are completely out of my control – like the weather, or something someone else said or did. The guilty feeling comes and goes but mostly just comes; sometimes warranted but usually completely unfounded.

So, if it is largely irrational and unproductive, what purpose does it serve and why do we keep letting it control our state of mind?  Here’s what I’m doing to try and stop the guilt from controlling my life...my success rate so far isn’t terribly high, but it’s a good start ;).

Cut yourself some slack – You’re doing the best you can.  Sure, sometimes you fail miserably and end up feeling like the most negative raving lunatic on the planet - but most of the time you’re doing a cracking job (particularly for someone who is sleep deprived and dedicating almost every waking thought to the well-being of their children).  If your kids are still alive at the end of the day, consider that a win ;)  I’d be willing to bet that even on a ‘bad’ day, your kids still would have laughed on at least a dozen occasions.  Kids are resilient, and they generally seem to get over things quickly.  Stop beating yourself up for something you did or said a week ago.  Chances are they forgot about it ten minutes after it happened.

If the guilt serves no purpose, let it go – You can’t control everything and everyone in your kids’ lives. As much as you want to protect them from life’s unpleasant moments, we need to allow them to experience all facets of life in order to grow and develop as a person in their own right.  They will survive – after all, we did, didn’t we?
If the guilt is productive, don’t push it down – harness it.  Use it to better yourself.  Use it as a trigger for addressing whatever it was that evoked it in the first place.

Accept that time alone is necessary for your health and wellbeing – Don’t allow yourself to feel guilty about taking a little time out to do the things you enjoy.  If you don’t nourish your own passions every once in a while, you won’t have the energy or desire to do anything other than just get through the day.  Squashing your own wants and needs all the time serves no purpose other than to teach your children that it’s ok to let go of your dreams and to stop seeking new experience and personal growth.  Fair enough, if you were to put marbles into jars for time spent doing things with/for your ‘kids’, ‘partner’ or ‘self’, if there were more marbles in the ‘self’ jar than anywhere else, perhaps you’d need to rethink your priorities a little.  But I’d hazard a guess that this would not be the case for any of you.

Let other people do things for your kids – Feeling guilty about letting the kids spend alone time with their grandparents sounds ridiculous when you write it down, but the fact is we do.  We feel guilty because we’ve somehow got it in our heads that we are the only ones that can offer our children exactly what they need.  When you say it out loud, you realise how much of a martyr you sound like!  Kids need their grandparents, their mothers, their fathers, their aunts and their uncles to help guide and support their developing personalities.  Admit that we are not the only people with something to offer, and allow others to step up and take part.  Let go of the guilt on this one because it is straight up irrational.  If these people want to be actively involved in your children’s lives, chances are they have bucket loads of love and life experience to offer them.  In setting yourself free from this guilt you’ll find you can nurture your other relationships in the process, as well as help raise more socially aware, independent and well-rounded children.  They’ve been telling us for decades that “it takes a village to raise a child”… perhaps we as parents need to turn on our ‘listening ears’ and take heed of this advice!