Feeling guilty when you are parent is something that seems to become second nature. You just can't help yourself! Very often it's the little things that will rack you with guilt, sometimes (but rarely) it might be something big. This 'big' thing might not be your fault - but as parents we tend to view everything through our 'parent goggles' which don't allow us to see things clearly at times. So the question is, when this guilt strikes and it strikes big time - what can we do about it?
Whatever the cause of the guilt, the obvious answer is that we must forgive ourselves. This is of course easier said that done. I have found from my own experience that no matter how many times someone tells me that something is not my fault - I will not feel better about it until I have forgiven myself. This is something that I have to do by myself and in my own time. I am not saying that you should not listen to anyone else and wallow in your guilt. Quite the opposite, in fact talking about how you feel will help with healing. But sometimes it is hard for other people's reassurances to get through the parent goggles.
I told a story in my last post about how I returned to university when my baby was four and half months old, as I was feeling very isolated and needed something to do, and put him in childcare. I also talked about the guilt that I felt and how this had only increased over time. Although he enjoyed it at first, he increasingly became unhappy there (resulting in more guilt) and we have recently pulled him out (resulting in slightly lessened guilt.) It has been a very up and down couple of weeks but after everything that has happened, I feel that I have learned a bit more about how to lift the parent goggles.
In terms of my own situation, I am trying to look at it as a learning experience. I am not perfect and there is no such thing as a perfect parent (although this can be a difficult concept for parents to accept.) Children, as the saying goes, don't come with an instruction manual and all we can do is our best in the given circumstances. So instead of beating ourselves up over the mistakes that we have made (or believe we have made), we should try to see what we can learn from the situation. What can we take from this experience and use to fuel our parenting more positively in future? In my case, I know that I probably should have sought out help for how I felt in the first few months of my baby's life. I also know that placing him in childcare so early may not have been a bad thing, as he is a very sociable baby and although he was unhappy at the end, he used to enjoy it. Forgiveness can also come from trying to see the positives in a situation. Yes, my child has been pulled from childcare, but this has given me a chance to become his primary caregiver again, which is something that I have been considering a great deal lately and to begin re-exploring the world with him. Through doing this and spending quality time with my baby, I am hoping to find healing. This quality time and healing is what will ultimately lead to my forgiving myself.
It is important to accept that as a parent, the goggles through which we view life will never truly come off. We are naturally conditioned to protect our children and do what is best for them; putting their wellbeing ahead of our own. As a result of this, we will always find ways to feel guilty - big and small. The road to forgiving ourselves begins and ends with our children; taking the lessons that we have learnt and applying them so that we become more enlightened parents and ultimately enjoying our time with our children. It is through them that we can heal.