No matter how much we do for our children, many caregivers still experience parent guilt, the feeling that we’re not doing enough or aren’t doing the right things for our children. If you’ve had these feelings, there are steps you can take to help you cope and heal.
Whether we’re scrolling through social media or talking to family and friends, we constantly face pressure to be the perfect caregivers. This can lead us to set unrealistic expectations for ourselves, which can increase feelings of parent guilt when we don’t meet those expectations.
Sometimes, parent guilt is short-lived, based on a specific event like when children stay up later than usual. This kind of guilt typically passes after a few days. Long-term parent guilt is when feelings of shame and insecurity continue to build over time without relief. Over time, it can negatively affect caregivers’ physical health, mental health, and productivity.
If you’re feeling parent guilt, try to take some time to heal and cope with these feelings. For some caregivers, it helps to start exploring when feelings of parent guilt are strongest. Try keeping a journal nearby, and make a note when you feel a pang of parent guilt in your gut. Once you figure out what’s causing it, you can start to make small changes to help prevent those feelings using some of the following ideas:
If guilt comes up around the expectations you’ve set for yourself as a caregiver, ask yourself if they’re realistic. Try to refocus on what’s most important for you and your family, and let go of the other things.
Do your best to avoid comparing yourself to others. Social media, in particular, can make it seem like others are parenting perfectly. If your parent guilt gets worse when you’re on social media, you can mute any accounts on your feed that cause feelings of stress, shame, insecurity, or anxiety.
Remind yourself that you’re doing your best and that there’s no one right way to parent. The best caregiver for your children is you. Reading a motivational quote can be a great way to start the day. At the end of the day, write down all the ways you loved and cherished your child. Refocusing on how you support your children—rather than the things you could have done differently—can help shift your mindset.