Parenting comes with no manual, despite the millions of books written on the subject. Normal everyday life happens and sometimes it doesn't go the way we planned it. There are mistakes parents make which are beyond cringe-worthy and the guilt that comes with the uh-oh's can be devastating to some.
There are two specific incidents where my months-old daughter got hurt because of stupid parenting mistakes I made. She is 10 years old now, but I still cannot think about those incidents without rolling the muscles in my back and hanging my head in shame. The first incident involved her falling out of a small rocking chair and she hit her head — hard — on the television. Her wails broke my heart and I cried nearly as much as she did. The second incident involved bath time. I was so busy trying to keep her up straight in the tub, I failed to notice the rinse water began running too hot. Again, devastating.
I have done other things as well. I am sure I will do more wrong in the future. We refer to these feelings most often as "Mommy guilt," but daddies sometimes feel guilty, too. As a parent, especially a first-time one, you have to learn early in the game to let go of the guilt before it eats you alive and changes the course of your child's life.
The Downside of Guilt
Parents who feel guilty tend to overcompensate for their kids. Parents make a mistake, their kid gets hurt, they feel guilty, and the kid hits the jackpot. Extra toys are bought, extra food is given, and the children begin to catch on pretty quick. They may be too young to intentionally take advantage, but you certainly do not want to set the stage for raising a spoiled brat.
Getting Out From Under Guilt
1. Use your guilt for good. It is natural to feel bad you caused your child some unintentional distress, but don't allow those feelings to linger or make you a basket case. Take a moment to mourn the mistake and then get prepared to move along. Consider there is some benefit to what happened in that you can learn from your mistake. In all likelihood it will not happen again the way it went down this time.
2. Forget about perfection. Realize upfront that you will make mistakes. Perfection doesn't raise good children. It's the process of learning and growing that will create your child's foundation. If the guilt is really overwhelming, you might need to dig a little deeper to find out why you feel so guilty. It may be that you are using guilt so you don't feel scared or other related emotions.
3. Ask for help. It may be time to enlist the help of family and friends you consider good role models to help out. Having someone outside of your home to vent to when needed can provide a lot of relief. Being wrapped up in your family life sometimes makes you forget about the real world.
Get away for a while and recharge your batteries. Have dinner with friends, see a movie, do something you enjoy to unwind. Whatever you do, don't feel guilty for taking some time for yourself. The stronger you feel as a person, the better you will be as a parent.