Whether I’m talking to parents who live in Maryland and DC, or people across the country, there’s a common thing plaguing all of them-
As a birth and postpartum doula, one of my missions is to let parents know that they can let the feelings of never being enough go.
So today I want to share with you 5 things I know about guilt:
1. Guilt is only productive when you’ve done something wrong.
The purpose of guilt is to cue us into when we’ve done something wrong- if we’ve violated our code of ethics, hurt someone, or not done our best, then feeling guilty makes sense. We should try to make it the situation right, and learn from our mistake. That’s being a good human.
2. Guilt is not the same as shame.
Shame is not about what we do, but about who we are. It comes from a place of believing that we’re not good enough. Shame says we aren’t worthy of love, that we’ll mess our children up, and that there’s no way for us to do right by our families. Shame isn’t useful, and shame holds us back.
3. Not living up to a parenting ideal is not a reason to be ashamed.
Ideals are not real. Real parenting means being given the impossible puzzle that is a small human who is dependent on you, and figuring out how to care for them. There are no scriptwriters or photo editors or re-dos on real parenting. And so, sometimes, we’ll mess up.
That’s something that you’ll rarely see on a curated instagram feed. No matter how many books and blogs you read, you can’t stop yourself from occasionally doing the wrong thing.
But that’s okay. Making mistakes, feeling guilty (not ashamed) and then using that guilt to guide us to how we can make things right is an important lesson, for ourselves, and our children. Making mistakes means you’re out there trying, and that’s a GOOD thing.
4. You don’t have to listen to people who shame you.
And I mean it. They might be your friend, they might be your family member, they might be someone that you look up to. They may love you and your kids very much. But if they don’t believe that you’re good enough to raise your child well, and they don’t trust your decisions, then you can tell them that their opinion is not needed.
5. You’re a good parent, and letting go of guilt over things you can’t control, and especially of shame, will make you even better.
You might be wondering how I can say, without ever having met you, that you’re a good parent. How can I believe so much in a stranger?
Well, people who don’t want to take care of their children aren’t surfing the internet for doula blogs. They aren’t worrying about whether they’re going to be the very best parent that they can be. They aren’t searching for resources to do better.
And no matter what, we are all better when we act with the belief that we’re worthy of good things. That’s the kind of belief that you can pass on to your children, and it will improve their lives too. It will make your whole family kinder, wiser and more generous.
So, in case no one has told you today, I know you’re doing your very best. And you shouldn’t feel guilty about that. You have nothing to be ashamed of, and I bet your kids are lucky to have you.