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Guilt, Anger, Fear, and Forgiveness in Parenting

The truth is, it stops us from having a full relationship with our children. It isn’t just the ideal of being the perfect mom or parent. It is the guilt, self doubt and un-forgiveness we have toward ourselves as we parent our children.

Women who work outside the home feel guilty that they are not spending enough time with their children, and at-home moms feel guilty for any moments of me-time. We all have guilt about lapses in discipline– not doing laundry in time, or any of the thousand little transgressions that can easily make a mom believe that she isn’t good enough.

When I worked on my documentary, Beyond Right & Wrong, I travelled around the world meeting people who refused to let guilt, fear, and anger ruin their lives. The people in the film met great tragedies with resilience and strength. The mothers in the film are my heroes.  They taught me that anger, even anger at ourselves, can get in the way of moving on. They stopped blaming themselves, and grew past their anger at the men who had killed their children.

My own children have grown and flown out of the nest, but I still wonder if I could have done things differently. Could I have taught them to be more disciplined?  Would they have turned out differently if I had been different? Do they have the life skills they need? Did I protect them too much… or did I let them risk too much?

We moms stay up at night asking these questions, wondering what we could have done better. I was traveling abroad when one of my girls started her period, I still feel that I should have been there when that happened, totally disregarding the fact that I had spent more than a decade totally devoted to her and her sister, and not much else.

Its only when I stopped thinking I could have, would have, should have done that something opened up between me and my children and deepened our relationship. It’s the little things that we think we should have done that come in the way, not the big things. If we can forgive ourselves our little errors of the day while our children are with us our relationship with them changes and we are not stuck in the guilt of the moment.

If the women in Beyond Right & Wrong could forgive the people who killed their children, then surely we can forgive what we think are our little transgressions as we raise our children. It is only when I realized that my holding myself to a very high standard of parenting, even after my children were grown and gone, was preventing me from having a full relationship with them, that I could create self-forgiveness in parenting.

Our children will sometimes make unhealthy choices… as children and as adults. It killed me when I first found out that my daughter smoked cigarettes, and I beat myself up about it. Ridiculous as this may sound, I thought if I’d been more controlling, she would have never smoked.

But this kind of thinking cut me off from being in a fuller relationship with her. Instead of genuinely enjoying interacting with my daughter and building our relationship, I was judging… her but even more so myself, and to stop this I needed to forgive myself so I could focus on my wonderful daughters and not my anger towards myself for not being the perfect mom.

 

Guest Post From Lekha Singh

Fine-art photographer Lekha Singh’s work offers insight into the human condition around the world. She contributed photographs to National Geographic’s The Other Side of War: Women’s Stories of Survival and Hope, and her photography books include Call to Love: In the Rose Garden with Rumi, Bhutan, and Pop-Up Pianos. She also executively produced the documentaries Midway and The Square, which won three Emmys and was nominated for an Academy Award. Singh produced and co-directed the documentary film Beyond Right & Wrong: Stories of Justice and Forgiveness, for which she received Cause Brands’ 2014 Snowball Influencer Award.

Lekha Singh

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