Parenting is a minefield of guilt, but it comes from a place of love and can be turned into a powerful teaching tool according to parenting expert Mark Le Messurier
Parenting writer, Liz Walsh
The Advertiser, Saturday June 8, 2013, p17-18
I did nothing more than shut a door. But it set her off. My 18 month old daughter threw herself backwards and started banging her head on the floor; tears pouring from her eyes, tortured screams echoing down the hallway.
I stood above her, undeterred.
"Florence, my darling," I said sternly, "you can tantrum all you want, but mummy will not open the door."
This went on for half an hour - it was torture; for the both of us. But eventually, I calmed her down. We read books and cuddled.
Hours later, I opened the door and there it was: her favourite teddy bear.
Oh, God. I'm a horrible mother.
I dissolved into a puddle of guilt: "Oh, baby, I'm so sorry, I didn't know."
Every parent says the same thing: the moment your child is born, life changes forever.
It was a blur of sleep deprivation, nappies and routines in the beginning but then parenthood settles into a wonderful world of firsts: first smiles, first laughs, first steps, first words, first holidays.
But accompanying that comes a host of other first: tantrums, public spats, bloody injuries.
And with that comes the guilt. Parenting is a minefield of guilt: Am I doing the right thing by my child? Am I doing the right thing by my partner? Am I doing the right thing by myself?
MIX 102.3's breakfast co-host Jodie Oddy is on maternity leave after giving birth to her third child, Summer, two months ago.
She agrees that guilt is a non-stop assault, starting the moment you become pregnant, continuing through all aspects of parenting decisions; not buying environmentally friendly nappies, not breastfeeding long enough, working too long hours.
"Food is a big one," she admits. "But I think anytime with peas and corn in it is nutritious." (Although, she admits to giving her 21 month old daughter Payton well-timed doses of Freddo Frogs and red cordial to avoid public tantrums.)
Guilt hit Oddy hard when she returned to work after having Payton. A listener wrote in to the station and said simply: "Jodie shouldn't be back at work. She should be at home with her baby."
Her eldest daughter Taylor, 12, is sometimes equally unimpressed with that decision. "Being a working mum means I don't get to do much volunteering at Taylor's school and I don't always get to her school's special events,"Oddy says.
She's even stopped asking me to come because she knows I'm tied up most mornings. One day we were having a bit of an argument and she said to me; "You don't help in the canteen, you don't do netball, you don't do anything'. It made me feel horrendous, but being a working mum means you show your kids that they can do anything and be whatever they want to be."
Maybe, but I'm still racked with guilt-inducing moments.
Here's just a selection of my moments:
Oddy and I are not alone in our guilty moments. After surveying parenting friends, there are plenty of others in Adelaide with burgeoning lists of offences.
Here are some that fellow parents and friends of mine confessed to:
SA based parenting expert Mark Le Messurier says guilty parents should worry not! Thank you, Mark!
He says: "Our children are our greatest test in life; they press buttons that nobody else can," he says. But it's important to remember, he says, that our children are as blessed to have us as we are to have them.
Mark Le Messurier and Bill Hansberry have just written a new book -Raising Beaut Kids: Recipes for parents on when to say 'yes' and how to say 'no'. It is coming out in September this year.Mark says that, generally, parenting guilt comes from a place of love and should be used as a 'teacher'.
"We must remember that children are robust and we can use these situations as wonderful lessons to learn to be better parents."
Really, it all comes down to what a wise parent once shared with Mark;"I think happy kids can eat baked beans daily and what they remember isn't the baked beans, it's the love, leadership and relationship we gave them instead."
Mark Le Messurier's PARENTING TIPS