As parents we tend to carry around a lot of guilt. In fact, #momguilt has 66k posts on Instagram, so just in case you were worried you were alone in this, rest assured you are not.
Guilt is a feeling which means it comes from our thoughts. Thoughts about all the things that we “should” be doing but aren’t or all the things we shouldn’t be doing but are. You know the ones.
While guilt is uncomfortable, it does serve a purpose for us. Guilt lets us know when our actions are not aligned with our values, standards, or beliefs.
When we encounter guilt we have a few options. We can change our standards, we can change our behavior, or we can keep both and continue in guilt. I suppose a fourth option is to change one of those, but continue to beat ourselves up for past actions.
Logically we can see that option 4 is pretty useless, since no amount of guilt or self-deprecation can change the past. Yet, so many people choose this option. Personally, I would recommend choosing option one or two.
To do so, you must decide which you want to change, your behavior or your belief/standard. You can do this by asking questions to help evaluate the standard or belief.
Do you like this value? Do you really believe in it? Is it helpful? Is it a high priority for you? Is it realistic? Is it worth the cost to try to meet it? Or, is it something you are comfortable letting go of?
These questions will help you decide if you need to change your expectations of yourself or change your behavior. Once you decide which of these two things needs to be changed, let the guilt go and move forward. Stop beating yourself up for it. The past is the past. You can’t change it so learn from it and move on.
Feeling guilty doesn’t change anything. It can’t undo the past. What’s done is done. It’s up to you to change the future.
Feeling guilty won’t make you a better parent or a better person. So give yourself permission to let the guilt go.