How Stay-At-Home Parents Can Deal With Guilt
It’s logical to expect stay-at-home parents who are 24 X 7 with their children to spend lots more quality time together. But the reality lies in the famous proverb, “The grass looks greener on the other side of the fence.” In fact, spending all the waking hours with their child often does not translate into time spent on games, activities and doing things together. As a result, even stay-at-home parents suffer from guilt similar to that experienced by working parents.
As parents, we want the best for our children. To achieve this happy arrangement, we might take the big step and quit our jobs to become the perfect parent, or so to say, a stay-at-home parent. But, despite this huge sacrifice and adjustment that we make to accommodate a child’s bringing up responsibilities, we often struggle with guilt. And, since we have quit our jobs to be with our children, this can result in guilt and frustration, when we realize that our purpose is defeated.
All parents experience guilt: It helps to know you are not alone and that all parents experience varying degrees of guilt but for similar reasons. According to a survey conducted on 1,300 parents for the book, Mommy Guilt – Learn to worry less, focus on what matters most and raise happier kids, 96 per cent admitted to having experienced guilt at some point of time during their difficult, yet rewarding, parenting careers. They attributed losing their tempers with their children, lack of family time and financial compromises as the most common reasons for this negative emotion.
Guilt affects parenting: To bring up happy children, parents must be confident of their parenting skills. However, if you experience guilt, this shows that you are unsure of your parenting capabilities. If you feel that you yell too often at your child, or lose your temper when you should be tackling the situation with more restraint and patience, it’s a signal that you need to change your parenting ways.
Tips for Dealing with Guilt
Re-focus to enjoy parenting: Re-focus on why you took the step to become a stay-at-home parent, suggests Cheryl Gochnauer, columnist at Homebodies.org and author of Stay-at-Home Handbook. To re-focus, just hold your child close to you for a few moments. It will remind you why you took the decision in the first place. Remember, children have erratic demands. They often get cranky and crave your attention. You could be in the middle of preparing a dish when this craving occurs. Instead of yelling at your child, and regretting it later, turn off the gas. The dish can wait while you spend a few moments playing with your child.
Avoid being the perfectionist: Homes with children don’t stay clean for long, asserts Cheryl Gochnauer. There’s no point in feeling guilty about a messy home and getting annoyed with your child for messing up after you have put the room in order. It’s natural for children to mess up. Instead of aiming for perfection, set realistic goals that accommodate little children and are oriented to their natural instincts, rather than designed to meet grown-up’s standards, suggest Gochnauer.
Be prepared to let go: Lisa Tawn Bergren, author of Life on Planet M, reminds us that bringing up children can be difficult. “We gain ground and then lose it, we re-establish that ground and then lose it again,” explains Bergren. You must be willing to let go of some things. Set a schedule that is flexible. Schedule playtime, responsibilities and learning, but don’t expect it to follow in sequence. At the end of the day, it’s important that all three are accomplished. It should not matter which one came first.
Discipline without guilt: Good parents too lose their tempers, but good parents handle their anger and don’t take it out on their child. You’re bound to experience trying times and get angry with your child, but you’ll never feel good after yelling at them or beating them. As a hands-on parent you run the risk of taking your child for granted. To prevent this, spend some time alone away from your child. When you return after your “me-time”, you’re more likely to enjoy your child’s company and be more patient with them.
Be a role model: Remember, your child is constantly observing you. If you hit your child when you are angry, they will react in the same way when they feel frustrated. Your child will grow up believing that hitting is justifiable. Instead, when you feel disoriented and you are losing control, walk away. It helps to take five minutes cooling-off time. With composure regained and a better frame of mind, you react in a more reasonable and appropriate manner, less likely to result in remorse and guilt later on.
Deal with financial guilt: You might experience financial guilt for not bringing home a pay cheque. This could lead you to question your decision to stay at home and wonder whether you could provide your child a more comfortable life with more fun activities if you were working.
Working parents might compensate for time spent away from their children with expensive gifts, but children quickly lose interest in them. Try this yourself. Give your child an expensive gift and an option to play house-house with you. Chances are higher that they will choose the latter.
To do away with financial guilt, consider taking up a work-from-home job. In this way, you contribute to the family income and can monitor your child. You’ll also be able to provide for your child’s extra-curricular needs.
If you consider the money consumed on going to work, such as travel costs, wardrobe, eating out and socializing, you’ll realize that ultimately very little made it to your bank account. Lastly, you’ve taken a commendable decision to become a stay-at-home parent. Guilt should not stop you from enjoying the rich and rewarding experience that comes with parenting your little cherub.