One day during high school, my English teacher announced that "one can never experience true guilt until becoming a parent". I cannot imagine why this statement would be pertinent to any study of literature, but, for whatever reason, it stuck with me. When I became a parent for the first time 13 years ago, I finally understood her prescient comment. As a working mother, there are always at least two voices arguing in my head. One makes a plea that I should be spending more time at home, while the other argues that I should be doing more to fulfill my career. I find when I defer to the latter, I am left feeling guilt and shame about not giving enough to the kids. The guilt does not stop there. How about those random moments when you discipline your kids and later wonder, was I too strict? Or when you are irritable after a long day and take it out on the innocent ones? There are so many opportunities to feel "less than" as a parent. Here are a few "hacks" to help you gain perspectives during those difficult moments.
Learn the "Good Enough" Theory. Dr. Donald Winnicot was a pediatrician who introduced the concept of the "good enough mother" in 1953. He took a softer approach than his contemporaries in his view about the role of parents. Dr. Winnicott recognized the need for children to realize that their mother has both good and bad qualities, and, in fact, a "good enough" mother is better than a perfect mother. He felt it necessary for children to experience their mother's limitations in order to separate and become individuals. This can be very comforting after you lose your cool with your kids. No longer do you need to shoot for perfection, you just need to attain "good enough" status.
Even the worst emotion is temporary. All emotions have one quality in common: they are whimsical and temporary. Next time your toddler has a tantrum or your teenager slams the door, remind yourself that this episode is not forever.. The very worst mood eventually turns. The sun always sets on a terrible day, and the darkest emotion is fleeting. No matter how bad something feels in the moment, it is only temporary. Your teenager will soon be asking your permission to do something. Your toddler will soon bemoan a bed time story. If you are baffled by your child's behavior, reassure yourself that you do not necessarily need to react in the moment. The truth is, it will end naturally on its own. You might be surprised how quickly things change when you drop your end of the rope in the midst of a tug of war with your offspring.
Learn to ask yourself three questions. When you are in a frenzied parenting moment, and about to let loose it on your child, ask yourself the following three questions: Does this need to be said? Does this need to be said right now? Does this need to be said right now BY ME? Sometimes these questions are just enough to help you focus and determine whether it is important to step into a quagmire, or just let whatever is happening end on its own (see above!) If you can honestly answer yes to these questions, then you are clearly dealing with an important issue, and your child needs to hear your opinion. Otherwise, remind yourself it is always better to be happy than right, and do not get caught up in an unnecessary argument.