Have you ever felt parenting shame? Picture this. You’re sitting in the middle of the living room. On a floor with toys strewn about and yesterday’s Gold Fish Crackers crushed into the carpet. Your oldest is crying because your middle child won’t stop licking him. The baby just finished eating after crying since 2am. And then proceeds to vomit all over you. But that’s ok because you haven’t showered in 3 days anyhow.
You can’t remember the last time you saw your best friend. Adult conversation has become more than a perk. But it’s an ongoing, deep-rooted need that you can’t seem to find time for. Tears well up in your eyes. And the parenting shame fills your chest as you question every decision that lead to this moment. “Why did I ever decide to have kids?!”
And then the oldest scoops the youngest up and tries to teach her his favorite game as your heart melts and a freight train of guilt slams into your gut.
I Know You Don’t Hate Your Kids
A lot of us have been there. And I’m sure you may feel parenting shame over these kinds of thoughts. But there are a number of parents who feel this way about their children. And it’s not that they regret the kids themselves. Nor do they hate them in any way. But rather, these parents are just feeling overwhelmed with the responsibility parenting brings. And it is hard to see that the stress and chaos will pass in time. Some even regret the decision to have children in the first place. And I know, hearing those words can bring up a plethora of emotions. Emotions that are difficult to navigate. And feelings that seem to tear you apart sometimes. Parenting shame isn’t pretty.
But You Aren’t Alone in Your Feelings
There are a number of parents feeling the same. Yet are too afraid to speak of what they are feeling. Which is why we want to break down this topic of parenting shame today. And try to release some of that guilt. Let’s think of this in a new way. It’s a “I shouldn’t have had kids” feeling rather than “I wish I didn’t have kids” one. There are some parents that knew they never wanted kids. But perhaps they were swayed against their gut instinct by their partner, friends, family, or even society. People handle their stress differently. Sometimes what looked all sorted out on paper ends up being completely different in reality.
This notion doesn’t make a parent bad by any means. It doesn’t mean they don’t love their child any less. Or want the best for them. But rather these parents are self-aware enough to realize that something in their own life has changed dramatically since the child (or children) came along. We must always take heart to nurture all aspects of self at all times. When we neglect one area, our whole world becomes off balance. When kids are involved, it makes it very complicated to maintain our other roles: friend, son or daughter, sister or brother, etc.
The Judgement of Others
There’s a reason we often keep things to ourselves. The world is an extremely judgmental place. No matter the subject, there will always be someone who disagrees with your point of view. Especially when it comes to children. To most, kids are seen as a gift. They are precious, pure, and full of wonder. Yet when we say we are struggling emotionally or we feel we aren’t sure we should have had kids, people’s reactions can turn sour.
And that’s not even the worst part. When we reach out for support when we are struggling, it seems like no one has any sympathy. We are blamed for having kids in the first place. And for not knowing how to handle the things on our plate. We are told we are taking on too much. And that we are trying too hard to have it all. It’s no wonder that many parents fall into mental illness at some point in their children’s lives.
Parenting Shame, the Familiar Feeling of Guilt
Shame and guilt can lead to a number of thoughts and mental states. It can feel like you are in a deep, dark hole and without help, you’ll never get out. Many say it feels unnatural and horrible. And sadly, can affect parenting in a very negative way. It’s heartbreaking, as many parents feel that their child deserves better than them.
But This Is More Common Than We Think
According to health and wellness website HealthGuidance.org, feelings of resentment or regret towards children are not all that uncommon. Jessica Valenti, author of ‘Why Have Kids’ believes there needs to be less taboo around the topic of those feelings of being overwhelmed or not wanting our children, particularly among women.
She wrote: “[We need to prepare] parents emotionally and putting forward realistic images of parenthood and motherhood. There also needs to be some sort of acknowledgement that not everyone should parent — when parenting is a given, it’s not fully considered or thought out, and it gives way too easily to parental ambivalence and unhappiness.”
So, What Can You Do to Navigate Parenting Shame
For many, parenthood means putting aside your own identity. No more Tuesday night yoga classes or Friday nights at the bar. Perhaps this means no more reading for pleasure, long Sunday brunches, or exotic vacations. Your life tends to grind to a halt.
If you’re able to, try to find time for yourself again. Even if it’s a half hour of meditation, reading, or a walk in the park to clear your head. Work with your partner to make sure each of you are still able to enjoy the things you used to. Compromise so you can each return to hobbies without finding resentment toward the other. Reach out to your support group. Try your best to be vulnerable and open with them about your struggles.
We’re Here for You Too!
If you still feel as though you are lost in this cycle or as though your support group doesn’t understand, we hope you’ll contact us. Our trained therapists and counselors are here to support you in any way you need. The thoughts regarding parenting shame may still occur. But together, we can figure out how to cope and deal with them accordingly. We can help you work on effective communication and coping methods to help you with those negative thoughts and emotions.
Connect with us in either of our locations in the South Hills of Pittsburgh. We are currently accepting a limited number of new patients, so check out our videos to learn more about how we can help you navigate parenting shame.