Are Your Parent Guilt Feelings Getting In The Way Of Your Performance And Day to Day?
One of the most common conversations I have with every high achieving parent is about the burden they feel carrying this constant guilt when it comes to parenting their children. And I usually tell them that just like everything else in life, there are strategies to allow ourselves to enjoy doing what we do, and still have an effective plan to give our children the attention they crave and deserve. I often feel that while we live a modern life and our current reality demands so much of our time as individuals, we still have expectations of ourselves as parents that we have been taught and conditioned to think is the "correct"way. Most of those are based on an era that has so long passed that I would consider them so irrelevant. This is not to say that there isn’t some wisdom to get from the old, but it’s important for us to know what we should keep, what we should update to fit our modern times, and what we should delete altogether.
As a high achiever parent myself, I know exactly how that feels. Staying true to my high achieving personality, I meticulously read and researched about this topic, and through my own experience bringing up baby Ayla with my high achieving and high performer wifey, I came up with some guidelines that I am happy to share with you in the hopes of making this journey of parenting as rewarding for you as it is for your child. So here we go...
1. Fill your cup before you give from it.
As a parent, you are like a cup. You give so much from this cup to so many sources. This cup doesn’t get filled up on its own automatically, although so many of us are under the impression that it does. We go about our day doing everything to our maximum capacity, and then get to the end of the day, Netflix, chill (i.e. switch off or zombie out!) and then eat and sleep... and repeat. Thinking, that by doing this we are actually regenerating and waking up ready to take on the challenges of the next day. Unfortunately that’s not quite right.
We need to parent from a filled cup, therefore we need to do something that goes against what we have been taught traditionally, which is to take care of ourselves first and foremost. When I speak to parents about this, they always look at me like I’m crazy, asking them to be selfish and look out for number 1 first. Yet if you change your perspective and see yourself as a cup, it makes total sense to fill your cup first before you give people from it, or else you will be giving from an empty cup, until there is nothing to give from anymore...
There is no selfishness in loving yourself first. This is the most adult and responsible thing to do. To be able to give to your best ability, you need to be at your best. It’s very simple. When we’re on a plane, why do you think that they ask us to put on the oxygen mask first before we help our own children and others?
2. Parent Consciously
I follow an amazing psychologist called Dr. Shefali Tsabary, author of The Conscious Parent (@doctorshefali on IG) who very early on made me better understand a concept that I was pondering for a very long time. You know that moment when you have this thought: "OMG, I am becoming my Dad, or my Mom!" This remark is usually not mentioned in glee. It is usually mentioned in shock, because you realize that you are behaving unconsciously in a way that used to annoy you so much growing up with a parent that used to behave that way around you, and all of a sudden you are doing it to others, most probably to your own child. Why does that happen?
What’s happening is that you are acting out how you have been conditioned to behave. See, the reality is, we are all walking around like programmed robots. We have been programmed to think, act, react and feel a certain way according to the environment we grew up in. Hence, that epiphany of us reflecting our parents’ actions and reactions. However, this knowledge is an extremely powerful tool to always be aware of your reactions around your children. Ask yourself this: are you reacting this way because you want to, or are you reacting this way because somewhere along the line you were taught that this is how it’s supposed be... The more you catch yourself in a reaction phase and analyze the situation through that lens, the more you will be able to take a step back before you "react or lash out" and be able to choose how you deal with the situation. And guess what? The more you do that, the less guilt you will accumulate from reacting unconsciously to a certain situation.
One question you can ask yourself as a conscious parent is : "am I responding to fill an unmet personal need? Or am I really listening to my child with no judgement and understanding what they are trying to communicate to me?"
3. Quality vs Quantity
This rule can apply to so many things in life, food, exercise, work...etc. So why can’t we apply it to parenting? The top commodity for a high performer, and the rarest, is time. There’s only so much to go around. This is a reality of the modern times. We can’t escape from it. If we try to parent with the old perspective that our children need all of our time, we will only crash and burn with the emotion of guilt.
Instead, let’s apply the rule of quality over quantity. Quality time will not only fulfill your children’s needs, it will also fill your cup, and can neatly fit into your busy schedule, just like any other task. A task that you love doing, and that your kids will come to anticipate and appreciate as a time of undivided attention. Not only that, but you will also prepare them for real life. They will come to understand how to depend on themselves, interact with others, be patient, and be resilient. They will also see a parent and a role model that has mastered the art of managing time and has the ability to love themselves first and serve from a full cup. Isn’t this what we need to ultimately do? Give them a role model to model their lives after? And wouldn’t you rather have someone be with you (REALLY BE with you) for a defined amount of time, rather than be with you for a longer time without really being present?
Schedule time with your children, be consciously available, with no judgements, no preconceived expectations, switch your mobiles off or keep them away, no work, no friend, nothing but undivided attention, and unconditional love. And see how things will change. You might be surprised that your kids will actually have their fill very quickly and want to move on to more exciting things (yes you are not the most exciting thing in the world lol)
Just ask yourself, what are the best memories you’ve had with your own parents? Does the amount of time factor into that, or the quality of time spent more important and vivid?
4. It takes a village!
In the old times, it took a whole tribe or set of families to bring up children. So much "parenting" was divided equally between the members of the tribe. So don’t feel any guilt or shame to allow your children to experience being away with the grandparents, their cousins, uncles and aunts, or even with their friends (if you know they are safe and loved). Even carefully hiring a nanny to give you a break every once in a while doesn’t make you a horrible parent, as long as there is trust and respect.
We are led to believe that it is a cardinal sin to leave our kids alone. I view it differently. It’s crucial for them to learn some independence and get to know their family and understand the family structure. To feel the love of grandma and grandpa and other family members. To grow up around cousins or friends who are like family.
Let’s face it, it's also an amazing way for you to get some time to refill your cup (yes we keep going back to that...)
5. Make decisions for the main unit, not the individual.
My wife and I agreed early on in our parenting journey to make decisions for the whole family unit and not one individual person. So decisions like vacations, sleep training, house decor were made taking all of us into consideration. I see many parents change their whole life and structure it only and all around their children, and then along the way lose themselves in this environment they’ve created, lose their independence, and ultimately their joy and freedom within this dynamic and end up being resentful and depressed.
Make your decisions and choices for the benefit of all, and you will find that the whole will be so much more happy and everyone will adapt to a beautiful environment based on acceptance and understanding, rather than selfishness and self preservation.
I hope this has given you some things you can assess within your own your parenting journey, and as always if you have any questions or would like to discuss anything in particular please reach out to me. Because, why should we live our lives parenting in guilt and fear? Shouldn’t these be the best times of our lives? Shouldn’t we be enjoying our children and their presence in our lives?
Our children chose us for a reason, so let’s give them the experience they deserve, and allow ourselves to enjoy them and see them for what they are, the best teachers we will ever have.
p.s. If you or anyone you know would like to watch a video about this topic please check out my IGTV Instagram Live video here.