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Understanding Parent Guilt

I’ve never fully understood the term ‘parent guilt’ up until now that is. I’ve learnt that it is indeed a very real emotion and is by far of the most most hardest to learn how to work through. Parenthood often comes with the expectation (or perhaps your own expectations) that every waking second of your day must be spent with your child. That was our first feeling. Sending Little Man to nursery a few months after coming home felt rather alien to us and almost like we were already making time for us where we should perhaps be opening more time as a family. The reality of is that Little Man going to nursery gave him the stimulation he needed that we could not provide him with, and it gave us just that little bit of downtime for us to recharge. They were our very first feelings of parent guilt.

Nine months on we still experience parent guilt and now know that feeling will never really go away. Often when I take time out for myself I feel guilty that I am spending time on myself when perhaps I should be focussing time on Little Man, or to allow my husband to take time out. The most important lesson of all is that it is most important that you give your child the best of you, not what’s left of you. Parenting takes it out of you some days and that’s the exhausting reality of it. So it is imperative that time is taken for your own self-care to give yourself time to recharge and re-energise. This sadly has affected many of us due to the affects of Covid and not being able to do a lot of the things that we would often do to help us take time out for ourselves. It’s been a steep learning curve to understand that we all have to take time out to do something we enjoy to give everybody a break. You give your all each and every day and you’ll soon burn out.

Parenting alongside working part-time has been a juggling act that’s for sure, but it has been somewhat easier now Little Man has been busy 3 days a week at nursery and Forest School. Rewind to last Summer and we were both running ourselves into the ground. We felt that we had to be focussed on Little Man at every moment. That is not achievable and is no good for anybody, so we slowly started taking time for self-care which allowed us to have that much needed time for ourselves and as a couple. Now that we have both seen the positive affects of self care alongside parenting, we are very learning not to feel guilty, but that is easier said than done. We have only encountered life with Little Man under lockdown or tiered restrictions so going back to a ‘normal’ life is going to be a new experience for us all, but we believe this will give us a better balance and more time for self-care. As well as for Little Man having his own self care too - it’s just as important for him as it is for us.

So we’ve popped together a short self care list which we hope you’ll find helpful and perhaps before long you’ll be able to tick all of them off the list!

  • Watch an episode of your favourite programme

  • Enjoy a hot drink - that is still hot when you drink it! (or even better, meet a friend for a coffee)

  • Exercise / gym

  • Listen to your favourite music

  • Bake

  • Chill out in a hot bath

  • Go shopping - retail therapy

  • Take the dog for a walk

  • Meet/phone a friend

  • Go out with your spouse/partner

  • Get an early night

  • Watch a film

  • Get your hair cut or nails done

  • Massage and/or Spa Day

Tips for Little One’s Self Care

We were given this advice from a Community Nursery Nurse who was helping us for Little Man’s sleep and we could see the positive effect this had on him. It is often referred to as ‘attunement’ or ‘attending’.

For ten minutes, Little One leads the play time - whatever that may be. You let them lead without any intervention. This provides the child with focussed time on them and what they want to do. Even if perhaps you feel as the adult they are not doing it right, or it is wrong - do not correct them. We saw positive affects from this very quickly and Little Man grew to really enjoy this time. For instance they may want to draw a person but may not put things in the right place - let them do what they want to do. If they include you or want you to draw - do as they want you to do.

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