PARENTS

Drop The Parental Guilt (You're Doing A Brilliant Job)

19/08/2014 16:26 | Updated 20 May 2015

Mother with daughter (6-11 months) in living room

As parents we are under more pressure than ever to live up to an unrealistic ideal of parenthood, from signing our babies up to music and yoga classes to feeding our toddlers purely organic diets.

As a result, many are of us are left feeling we are always somehow falling short.

Juggling work and childcare - and struggling with the soaring costs of raising a family - means few of us have the time, money, or energy, to make home-cooked meals every day or to spend entire afternoons engaged in active play with our children.

And this is where bad-parent paranoia comes in. Convinced we are failing, we assume others are judging us in the same way, and put ourselves under further pressure to 'get things right'.

But good parenting is not about getting it right. It's about unconditionally loving your children and doing your best to make things work - however chaotic things might get along the way.

Here are some of the most common guilt-trips for modern parents and why we need to let ourselves off the hook...

"My toddler loves TV"

In an ideal world – the one you read about in glossy lifestyle magazines – we would spend all our days foraging in the woods, baking organic cupcakes and reading books with our kids.

But those magazines never show you the bit where mummy's busy scrubbing bean juice off the walls or trying to get a washing load done (because there isn't a single item of clean clothing in the entire house) or turning the place upside down to find that missing Croc (which somebody put in the vegetable rack).

And those are the exact moments when the small screen can save your family from meltdown.

Press that magic red button and for five minutes (Chuggington Badge Quest), 10 minutes (Baby Jake), or 15 minutes (Postman Pat) and peace is restored.

In the time it takes Mr Maker to whip up a model rocket, you can have the dishes washed, car packed, dog de-wormed and be ready to do something altogether more stimulating with your children.

Of course, TV should not be treated like a childcare substitute. But it is a brilliant short-term distraction – and it's educational, too. So unless your ten-month-old is staring at the box for several hours a day or your toddler has developed a penchant for Breaking Bad, give yourself a break.

Verdict: Not guilty!

"My three-year-old still has a dummy"

Some would have you believe dummies are the devil's work and a sure path to bucked teeth and a lifelong speech impediment.

But let's get some perspective here. We're talking about a toddler sucking on a small rubber teat – not a cigarette.

Although evidence does suggest prolonged use of a dummy can have an effect on dental growth and speech development, the NHS Choices website states, "Dummies won't cause permanent problems as long as the habit stops by the time your child gets their second teeth."

For those still worried about inhibiting speech development, it suggests: "Discourage your children from talking or making sounds with their thumb or a dummy in their mouth."

Of course, nobody wants to see their child walk through the school gates, toting a dummy. So if you do want to ditch the dodi, try one of these techniques.

But don't be disheartened if they don't work just yet. Babies don't respond well to pressure – your little one will kick the habit in his own good time.

Verdict: Not guilty!

"I switched to formula!"

When it comes to providing the perfect balance of nutrients for your baby, we all know that 'breast is best'. Nobody would argue against the merits of breast milk.

But breast milk and breastfeeding are two different things and the latter is not always that easy.

There are plenty of places you can turn to for help if you are struggling with breastfeeding, such as online articles, your midwife, health visitor, GP, drop-in breastfeeding clinics, lactation specialists.

But if you've exhausted all these avenues and you're still having trouble, remember this: it is not your fault and this is not a sign of failure.

The longer you breastfeed, the more benefits your baby will reap. But the first few days are the most crucial in terms of vital nutrients.

Breast is only best when it not as at the expense of your baby's health – such as if he is not gaining sufficient weight – and certainly not when it as at the expense of your own mental health.

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A happy mum is a happy baby, so make sure you are making the right decision for you and your baby, not to appease the other mums in your NCT group.

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Modern formula is supported by decades of scientific research, packed with vital nutrients and makes a perfectly viable substitute for breast milk.

Verdict: Not guilty!

"I count down to my child's bedtime!"

Flopping down on the sofa once the children are all tucked up in bed (large glass of wine optional, but highly recommended) is one of the highlights of a busy parent's day.

Selfishness? No. Self-preservation? Yes.

Appreciating the time you spend without your little ones is just as important as appreciating the time you spend with them.

Parenting can be stressful, demanding and exhausting, so time off from the role is just as important as time off from any other job.

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Holding on to your identity, as a person – not just as a parent – will help you to be the role model your children need.

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Consider your child-free time a vital opportunity to recharge your batteries so you can be Supermum again tomorrow.

Whether you're enjoying the chance to watch DVDs that aren't made by Pixar, or leaving Grandma in charge while you head out for a romantic dinner, you have earned this time – so enjoy every minute.

Verdict: Not guilty!

"I haven't potty trained my toddler yet!"

Pushy parents might have you believe otherwise, but those who potty train their children early are not better parents than those who wait – and nor are their children more advanced. So don't be tempted to join in the unspoken race to tick off this tricky milestone.

"In truth, mastering the toilet has nothing to do with brainpower," says Pediatric Urologist, Steve Hodges MD. "Parents who wait until later to train their children aren't treating babies as 'stupid' and neither are they lazy; they're wisely allowing their child's bladder to develop in a healthy manner."

Waiting until you are absolutely sure your child is ready to move into this new phase will make the potty training experience are smoother and more painless one for you and your little one.

Hodges suggests that children who are potty trained early are more likely to 'hold things in', which can lead to constipation, resulting in more accidents, bedwetting and even urinary tract infections.

Verdict: Not guilty!

"Sometimes I lose my temper with my toddler"

We all know the best way to deal with toddler tantrums, is to react in a calm levelheaded way. But keeping your cool when your little monster is throwing the mother of all hissy fits – or throwing something at your head – can be challenging for even the most laid-back parent.

Children are cunning little creatures and know exactly how to push your buttons. Add this to a stressful day at work or a bad night's sleep and it's easy to let anger and frustration get the better of your good intentions.

Occasionally losing your temper doesn't make you an ogre – it simply makes you a human being.

And it won't do your child any harm to be reminded of the fact you're only human, from time to time.

Besides the occasional loss of control can help you to see things from your toddler's point of view. There's nothing like screaming, "Will you stop screaming every time you get frustrated!" at the top your voice, to put your toddler's tantrums – and your own anger – into perspective.

Instead of beating yourself up about an angry outburst, see it as a warning light. Your patience is running on empty so now is the time to refuel (see above).

Hand the baton to your partner or nearest childcare support at the first available opportunity and take some time to decompress and regain your composure.

Verdict: Not guilty!

Do you feel like a bad parent? Tell us about your guilty moments in the comment box below.

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