It started when he pushed into my stomach causing incredible heartburn. There were times when he wouldn't stop crying and I couldn't figure out how to calm him. There were other times when he would intentionally do the opposite of what I asked.
I would get angry. Sometimes I yelled. This was especially true when I was tired, hungry, or unwell.
And sometimes I felt guilty about feeling that way – about yelling. Sometimes I felt ashamed.
There have been other times when my son got hurt, when he was upset, sad, or scared. There were fevers. There was vomit. There were times when someone was playing around, and it was too much for his introverted empathetic personality.
And I wanted to comfort him. I wanted him to feel safe and secure, but I couldn't protect him and sometimes, I couldn't comfort him enough. I felt like I could do more, and I would beat myself up for not being the perfect parent.
The Judgment Spiral
And in a society where judgment of others is encouraged, it's easy to judge ourselves.
I should have been more…
I could have been better…
If only I did more…
But the moments when we sit in those feelings of not enough, of judgment, we shackle ourselves to the past. We sit in those mistakes, regrets, resentments, and grudges, and the feelings send us down a spiral of despair.
And with all the advice columns about how to have a healthy pregnancy, of how to be the best parent, it's easy to send ourselves down that spiral.
I'm going to let you in on a secret – no parent does it all “correctly.” There is no such thing as the “perfect” parent, just as there is no “perfect” person. We all do the best we can with the knowledge we have in the life we're living.
What I Do
This is something I teach my students and it's also something I do every day which has transformed my experience of parenthood and life (so I know it will help you!):
1.Notice when you feel badly about something – guilt, shame, or regret in the now.
2.Take a breath and acknowledge the feeling.
3.Say aloud or in your mind, “I forgive myself for [insert action]. I was doing the best I could at the time. In the future, I will [insert desired action].” Alternatively, you can say, “I forgive myself. I was doing the best I could in the life I'm living.”
As a bonus, think about a way you can transform your current action into something positive. You can also forgive yourself for past regrets, guilt, or shame in a similar fashion. This can have an even bigger impact because often we let the past sit and fester (which can cause us even more difficulties!).
About the Author:
Alexis lives in Southern California with her family. She is a classically trained artist, with a BA in Peace and Conflict Studies and an MA in Global and International Studies. Between writing, speaking, and chasing her kid, she paints, sings, and dances. Sometimes Alexis does it all at once.