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Parent Guilt and How To Create Change

woman sat in therapy chair looking anxious

The Antidote To Parenting Guilt

The other day I found a video on my phone from 2018 when my daughters were one and three. I was filming my reaction to my ex husband trying to get our daughters to sleep. All you could hear was screaming and whining and him getting more and more wound up and do you know what my reaction was?

I was laughing!

It was one of those if you don’t laugh you’ll cry moments but I’d be lying if I didn’t feel absolutely ashamed at how I responded back then. Watching it back now all these thoughts were running through my head “why didn’t I just go and pick my babies up” “why didn’t I go in and help my husband” “why didn’t I just lay next to them in the room and help them feel safe, soothed, secure?”

I had to take my shame story to my friends last week as I was feeling really guilty that I even behaved that way in my daughters early years. I was actually in disbelief at the person I saw in the video as that’s not the me now in 2023.

I started wondering about the damage I may have caused my daughter’s in their attachments and in their nervous system and I was beating myself up for not getting it right.

I reflected back on how we were always SO desperate to get our daughters to sleep and we would become really stressed out if they didn’t go to sleep on time. I know I’d do things differently if I had my time over and I wish I could go back and be the parent I am now.

Have you ever felt like that?

It was close friends who reminded me that back in 2018 I was going through a lot of stress in my life. My marriage was under a lot of strain, we had financial worries, two kids under two, I was training and setting up my parent coaching business and we had a lot of unhealed childhood trauma that was showing up in our relationship. It was evident we were living (existing) and trying to parent in survival mode so it made sense that we were so desperate for our kids to sleep so we could have a breather.

Our cups were well and truly empty back in 2018 and I would actually go as far as saying where even was the cup because I don’t even think there was a cup to fill!

We had never learnt to meet our needs as children so it was impossible to meet them now as adults let alone trying to meet our young daughters needs.

That’s the crappy thing about becoming a parent. Kids come into this world and hold up the mirror and reflect back to us all our our unhealed childhood stuff and we have the choice to confront it and do the hard work (whilst also doing the hard work of parenting) or we can run away, push it down, ignore it until it all becomes too much and we explode, burn out, get physically and mentally unwell and then have a disconnected relationship with our children that we also need to repair.

Talking to my friends about that video I realised that, yes I was under a lot of stress back then and there are plenty of things I absolutely regret however I acknowledge I’m also no longer in that place and the kids (now 5 and 7) get the best of me and their dad.

You see since then I’ve stepped further and further into my own healing. I’ve done inner child therapy, EMDR therapy, somatic experiencing therapy. I’ve had my own parent coach/mentor who I’d take my parenting concerns to and get help with and I parent now from an educated place. I understand brain science and development. I am more connected to myself so I am able to connect with my kids. I’ve learnt so much more about my needs, my nervous system and how to be regulated, so since 2018 I’ve made a lot of changes. I dread to think how I would be parenting now if I hadn’t educated myself and got support.

What I know to be true is there’s never any quick fixes. A lot of people in the parenting space want strategies, tools and techniques to eradicate their child’s behaviour but it doesn’t work like that. What I learnt myself was that it was never my children who needed to change, it was myself and I can hand on heart say I’m a much better parent since the parent who was living in survival mode back in 2018 and as much as I felt a twinge of guilt watching that video and needed to offload to friends, I deep down know that my daughters now get the absolute best of me.

This doesn’t mean that I’m perfect, no far from it. It just means I have a greater capacity to handle life’s challenges. I am able to model self regulation and emotional intelligence to my children. I am able to be present in the good and bad moments and I’m able to self reflect quite quickly on my own shortcomings.

I share more about this in a short podcast I recorded today. I talk about ‘how you can build more awareness in your parenting.’ I believe all of the answers are inside of parents, you are the expert of your child and you can do this one thing straight away to start creating change in your parenting. You can listen here: