It’s easy to see how mothers and fathers alike suffer from a continuous tinge of child-related guilt. Parents who work and parents who don’t – no-one is immune to it.
If most working parents are honest with themselves, they’d agree that with Monday morning comes a big sigh of relief. You pick up your bag, kiss your little darlings good bye and head out the door to work. Freedom! At work the prospect of chasing your toddler around trying to get them dressed, wiping sticky finger swipes off the walls, washing endless loads of bottles or wrestling whinging, tired children is a distant memory. You can sip quietly on a cup of tea and have adult conversations without frequent, high-pitched interruptions.
Shakil Ahmad from baby brand Krayons says that there are a couple of catalysts that set off parental guilt.
1. Leaving the child with a carer to return to work
2. Relying on television at ‘difficult’ times of the day – like bath time!
3. Feeding the child convenience or junk food
4. Reprimanding the child at any time.
“Every parent suffers from it, and there’s no real solution bar giving yourself a break,” says Ahmad who works on the 80/20 rule in his household. “I try to stick to limited television time, limited junk food and distraction-over-discipline 80% of the time – it’s more realistic to know that you can’t be perfect 100% of the time. Then when you slip for 20% of the time, you don’t have to beat yourself up.”
Ahmad says that scheduling one hour of every work day to really bond with your child also helps him relieve guilt of leaving his kids between 7am and 6pm each day. “I allocate an hour of my time to bath my kids every day – it’s a special time for just us where we chat, play and enjoy the time together. There are limited distractions and I make sure that I leave my work issues, and my cellphone outside of the bathroom.”
Instead of focusing on what you might be doing wrong – focus on what you know you’re doing right with your kids, and do more of that. Remember that the best thing you can give them is the gift of your time. Undivided time.