Awareness of “parental guilt” or “mom guilt” as it’s sometimes referred to, is growing thanks to those willing to speak openly and honestly about the difficulties of raising a child. This feeling centers around the fear of not doing a good enough job raising your children or worrying about making the wrong parenting choices. Parental guilt makes it challenging to achieve a work-life balance and is especially tough on first-time parents. The emotional burden of having a baby for the first time can be challenging enough, but when you go back to work, you leave a piece of your heart at home.
There is no “one size fits all” approach to parenting. This rule also applies to the lingering thought that you can do more for your child and need to be there every second. What worked for me may not for you.
Here are three tips that helped me shake those feelings of inadequacy. They have led me to become more confident in my parenting skills and caused me to feel more connected to my son.
1. It starts with YOU
While my wife was five months pregnant, I was laid off. I felt hopeless and unprepared to bring life into this world. All of this left me saddled with stress at a time when I was supposed to be the happiest.
I was at the lowest point of my life, burdened with anxiety and depression. I began working long hours for little pay at temp jobs. I constantly worried that I wasn’t going to be able to give my son everything I wanted to. Continuing like this wouldn’t benefit me or my child, so I sought help from a counselor.
Deciding to see a mental health professional helped me work through my feelings and gave me a new perspective on things, which helped me make the most of my family time. I had to get myself on solid ground before I could be everything I needed to be as a dad and husband. If your situation isn’t this dire or life-altering, the advice still applies! Set aside “you time” each week (or as often as you feel you need) to do something like take a walk, read a book or binge your favorite show. A better mindset will help you become a better parent.
2. Think long term (and much longer!)
Working second shift after my son was born was very difficult. I was carrying a lot of guilt with me as I wasn’t around for playtime or bedtime. Getting adorable pictures while you’re at work can give you the motivation to keep going but can also be gut-wrenching at the same time because you’re not there to see it for yourself.
It’s common to be afraid to miss the “firsts” in your child’s life while you’re at work. It’s good to remember while you may not be there right now, you’re in this for the long-haul. There will be more “firsts” on the horizon. You’re out trying to provide a better life for your child and family and that is something you can be proud of. Parenting is a marathon, not a sprint.
3. Reduce screen time
There’s never enough time in the day as a new parent (or for anyone, really), so it’s crucial to make the right choices with it. You’re going to want to stay in touch with friends, share baby photos with your family or sometimes work might follow you home. That’s all fine, but I cannot stress this enough: put the phone down.
Instead of always trying to capture the moment, focus more on being in the moment. I’m not asking you to stop taking pictures altogether but remember the importance of experiencing everything through your own eyes, rather than your phone’s screen.
Other things, like scrolling social media and updating your family on your child’s every waking move, can wait. Let’s face it; you probably are looking to have less screen time anyway, right?
You’re doing great!
Needing to multi-task is unavoidable when you have to make dinner or throw in a load of laundry. Sometimes that trip to the store just can’t wait. It’s ok to let go for a bit. I still struggle with taking some time for myself, but it’s beneficial to give yourself a breather, physically AND emotionally.
It’s natural to have doubts about your abilities as a parent. Making sure you have a stable support system from friends, family or even professionals can help pick you up when you don’t feel confident.
Nobody loves your child quite like you! Focus every day on being the best you can be, love your child to the fullest and make sure to make every moment count. You’re going to be an amazing parent!