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Parenthood and guilt go together like snot and toddlers. They are inseparable. They give you a large bag of guilt when they hand you the baby at the maternity hospital and you get fresh bags of it right through. My children are adults now and I still feel it. I was talking to a friend in the weekend about the play house he is making. As he described the multi-level high tech marvel he was creating, I got a very familiar surge of guilt and inadequacy. My kids never got anything as flash as that. All they got were fridge cartons that I’d pinch from the skip behind the shops. (Actually, they make great playhouses). I also hammered a few pieces of wood into a tree and tried to tell the kids it was a tree house but, really, I was ashamed of it.
I guess people think that because I work for The Parenting Place I must be some super parent. Well, I’m just glad you don’t know my kids because if you put a call through to them they would tell you the truth. I sometimes think my main role here at The Parenting Place is as a bad example. I am just glad that I have a postgraduate degree in hypocrisy that allows me to tell other parents what they should be doing while being aware I’m not that flash myself.
Here’s some tips to cope with guilt. First up, you don’t have to be perfect to be a good parent. If your kids feel safe and loved, then you have done 90 percent of your job. The rest is just a bonus. Secondly, you always know when you stuff up but you don’t often get to see other parents making a mess of things. Believe me, everyone blows it occasionally but they do it in private where you can’t see them! If you are a parent who makes mistakes, you are part of a big club. Thirdly, there are some very good parents who have awful children. Actually, I feel guilty at enjoying that little fact, but I am human.
Maybe if I am a bad example I can still be an encouraging one – I scraped through as a mediocre parent and yet my kids have turned out fine. They still talk to me. A long time ago a guy called D.W. Winnicott said, “The sound instincts of normal parents lead to stable and healthy families”. He invented an idea called ‘good enough parenting’. Do you know what? You’re probably good enough.