Updated: Dec 27, 2021
Parenting. The one part of life where there are no truly right answers, yet mothers-in-law, friends, podcasts, and everyone else in society feels the need to weigh in and tell you that you are doing it wrong. Meanwhile, you aren’t sleeping, the laundry is piling up, and some days there is no end in sight.
There is so much guilt and shame with parenting. Am I being the best mom I can be? Am I keeping a clean enough house or having the kids eat healthily enough? Am I yelling at my kids too much? What should I do?
Then comes a major decision such as switching schools, moving for a new job, or admitting your child needs help like therapy. Suddenly you are gridlocked. Nothing seems to be the right choice. Every choice has drawbacks or hurts. How do you know that you are making the right choice?
In those moments, there are ways to help yourself feel you made the right choice so you don’t have this weighing you down every moment or being intensely anxiety-provoking.
1: Connect to someone supportive (who supports your mission and your confidence in parenting)
BEWARE! This must be someone supportive, who believes in your purpose/mission or shares the same values. If they don’t value therapy, they may not be the best one to go to when you are deciding if your child needs therapy. If they tend to be negative, they may only make you feel negative or regret your decision.
The best people to go to in moments like this are those who can admit when they have made mistakes in the past with their child, laugh at mistakes with you, or can listen and let you figure it out without too much-unsolicited advice or platitudes such as “it’s okay,” or “don’t worry.” You have every right to worry and to think out major parenting decisions.
2: Trust Your Gut
There’s a gut feeling deep inside you guiding you to where you want to go with this decision. Some even call it the “Knowing.” Whatever you call it, reach inside and have that feeling help you. Remind yourself that no one knows your child as you do. No one else knows their favorite brand of cereal, their face when they are concentrating, or an easy way to make them laugh. You know them best and you know what the best decision is for them, even if it doesn’t seem like the most winning or easy decision at the time.
3: Talk To The Guilt And Shame
Oh, the guilt that is involved with parenting. Did you know that guilt and shame can be a symptom of certain types of mental illness, such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD?
Therefore, dealing with guilt and shame is a must. One great exercise is to write down your guilt or shame thoughts. Then write down rebuttals or say out loud rebuttals to those thoughts.
So if a guilty thought was “I should be able to make this decision.”
A rebuttal could be “I can make this decision, I am just taking time to think it out.”
Talk to the guilt and the “shoulds.” Write them down or talk to someone about them. We wouldn’t tell someone else they should do something so why do we tell ourselves? If you find yourself as a mom struggling with guilt and shame and trying to be a good mom while having depression, click here.
4: Reminding Yourself That You Aren’t Going To Be Perfect
Parenting deserves grace. There are parents out there who never parent and somehow have great kids and parents out there who do everything and somehow have intensely challenging children. There are no perfect parents.
This is a great place for a mantra such as “I’m still growing up and deserve grace” (yes, at any age you are still growing up). Or “I am the best mom I can be. My purpose is to be myself as a mom.” This is also a great time to embrace the imperfections that life has and that if you make a mistake, you can still most likely change your course or practice positivity and gratefulness. There are always positives in any bad situation.
5: Be Confident In Your Parenting Decisions
Your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all linked--and they influence your child.
Example: If you think switching schools is a bad decision, you may feel unsure and not confident about that decision, and may say things to your child such as “if you don’t like this school, tell me immediately and we will pull you out!” Or “I’m so nervous about your school, this is such a big change. Oh, I hope it turns out all right.”
Your child picks up on that fear and nervousness. They begin to act unsure and thus go to their new school terrified and worried all day, and then hate it.
If you felt confident, you would tell your child you know this is a big change but they can handle it. They would go to the new school knowing that they can handle it and would have a much different day.
Parenting does come down to how we manage our own mental health and sometimes faking it until we make it.
BONUS--PSYCHOLOGICAL IMMUNITY EXISTS AND ANY DECISION IS THE BEST DECISION
Good news--as humans we typically misjudge how bad we will feel and for how long. We have the ability to change our feelings and make happiness, even in some of the toughest of circumstances. Our psychological immune system helps us handle unexpected situations and come through happier and having made the best of a bad situation.
So even if you have a tough parenting decision that feels like a no-win situation, remember it is about your ability to show positivity, to trust your gut on these decisions as you know your child, and to reach out to people who will remind you of what an awesome parent you are. If you are wondering if it is time for family therapy or if you can continue to DIY it, click here.
If you are looking for help feeling confident in your parenting decisions, Mary Willoughby Romm is a licensed professional counselor in the state of Virginia who provides online therapy for Willow Tree Healing Center. She enjoys transforming the lives of women, college students, kids, tweens/teens, and families through providing communication strategies, coping skills that work, allowing a safe space to be heard, and actively working towards helping you with your challenges. She is certified in Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (ages 2-7) and Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, counsels substance abuse in teens and adults, and practices Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy.
Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to explore working together.