Letting Go Of Guilt
The Peaceful Parenting Newsletter
A free e-mail newsletter from Naomi Drew
You are a child of the Universe, no less than the moon and the stars;
you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the Universe is unfolding as it should.
We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future.
George Bernard Shaw
Only those who do nothing make no mistakes.
Happy New Year to all of you! May we each begin this year with good health, a sense of hope, and the growing knowledge that we all have the capacity to create peace in our own lives and beyond.
Some months ago I asked what you would like me to focus on in future newsletters. When I received the following note, it struck a deep chord in me, as I suspect it will in many of you. Take a look:
*Could you write about guilt about being a toxic parent, the feeling that somewhere along the way I have hurt my older girl, pushed her away when the new baby arrived, needing all my attention. Am I ever make to up for those mistakes? The fact is, that while I accept my younger girl wholeheartedly, without any effort, loving her for just being there, I am unable to do the same for my older child, who embodies for me all the things that irritate -- all those things I have problems accepting and coping with in life myself.*
* * * * * * * * * *
How well I remember feelings guilt myself. For me it was over never having enough time to do it all, and being too harsh or too quick to yell.
Feelings of guilt were as much a part of me as my right hand, and it was many years before I could unclench their grip. What finally helped me do it were two realizations:
- Each day is an opportunity for change, and we CAN do things differently if that is what we are committed to.
- One can be a good-enough mother without having to be a perfect mother.
Perfect mother. We all have that image- the one who never yells and cooks great meals every night. The one who always finds time to attend PTA meetings, class trips, and any event her child is involved in. The one who is always patient and who likes her children no matter what they do. Her kids turn inevitably out perfect because she did such a good job.
That mother was not me. I was a mother who loved her children fiercely but imperfectly. I yelled when I was angry, got grouchy and overwhelmed fairly regularly, and rarely had the time to attend PTA meetings. I was a single mom for many years who tried to do it all but fell short too often. Yet my kids turned out great and lead happy successful lives. My imperfect way of doing things did not wreck them, nor did they wreck the deep and loving bond we have always had.
So if you are an imperfect mom who harbors some guilt, join the club. Guilt is the most widely-held emotion mothers feel, along with love. We have an image of the way things should be -- then we have the lives we really lead. Somehow reality never seems to measure up. But living with the every-day realities of parenting is part of being human.
Guilt is a very wasteful emotion. The only positive purpose it can serve is to enable us to see what regret doing so we can have the opportunity to change it. Consider for a moment that this could be possible without the drain of guilt. Now read on to find out how you can let it go.
Love and blessings to all of you,
GOOD-BYE TO GUILT
Are you ready to let go of your guilt? Willingness to do so is the first step. Yes, you may be doing things you wish you could change, and you can change them without using guilt as a motivator. Allow change to be motivated in the following ways instead.
1. Start with self-acceptance. You do not have to be perfect. No one is perfect, even the mothers we think really are. Every one of us is imperfect because that is what it is to be human.
Accept your own humanity. If you have done things you feel guilty about, make a vow to change them -- and know that you can. The first step is by accepting your very human flaws and remembering that they are as malleable as clay. Trust that you can change what you wish to change.
2. Take care of you. By doing so you will replenish the well others drink from. Ask yourself what you can you add, subtract, or change in your life that will enable you to nurture yourself a little bit better. Be deliberate about discovering what it is, and then do it. It will enable you to have more patience with your children and to enjoy them more.
3. Accept your children with their flaws. They do not have to be perfect either. And know that none of them are, even Susie next-door who gets nothing below an A and plays three instruments. I have known many Susies, and they each had flaws beneath the veil of perfection. Love your children for who they are and focus on the love you have for them more than the flaws you perceive.
The mom who wrote the note above was onto something important -- we often dislike in our children traits we resist in ourselves. Certainly, we all want our kids to be kind, well-mannered, and decent. Accepting their imperfections does not mean putting up with bad behavior. We can teach our children to be kind, decent, and well-behaved while accepting that they may not be brilliant or popular. The best gift you can give your child is the right to be who he is.
4. Make amends if you feel you have done something wrong. Apologizing teaches an important lesson to our children: that we all make mistakes, and no matter how old we are it is important to take responsibility for them. This is a far better route than holding onto guilt and inwardly berating ourselves.
5. Create a vision of how you want things to be based on reality, not perfection. What kind of life do you want to have with your children in the time you have to raise them. Remember, the time you have with them is finite. Now, not tomorrow, is the time to create the the kind of relationship you envision creating. If you can conceive it, you can achieve it.
What qualities do you want your children to remember most about you and about their childhoods? Write them down. Let go of perfectionism while you do this -- it will not serve you. Allowing for your humanness and theirs, how do you want to create this time in the history of your lives together. You hold the brush in your hands. Paint a mental picture.
When I did this as a single mom, I realized that what I wanted most was for my children to feel loved, to believe in themselves, and to have a strong bond with me and each other. And in spite of all of our imperfections, that is exactly how it turned out. Somewhere along the line I decided to forgive myself for things I felt guilty about and focus on the good things I did. There were actually many, as I am sure there are in your case.
6. Remember that every day is an opportunity for change. You have the power to create your relationships the way you want them to be. It takes intentionality, commitment, and belief in yourself -- all wonderful attributes your children will absorb through your modeling. Trust yourself to make it so.
Enter this new year with a greater degree of peace by letting go of guilt and embracing your parenting with a deeper acceptance. By the way, I would love to hear your responses to this issue. Please take a moment to drop me and e-mail if you can.
Hope and Healing/Peaceful Parenting Events:
Jan. 8, 2002. Peaceful Parenting workshop and signing. Cambridge School, Cambridge Rd. South Brunswick, NJ. Call 732-297-2941 for time and details.
Jan. 15 Austin, Texas. Creating Peaceful Classrooms - Teacher Workshop. Lake Travis United Methodist Church. Call 512-266-2250 for details.
Jan. 16- Austin, Texas - Peaceful Parenting workshop and signing, 12:00 - 1:00 PM workshop. Lake Travis United Methodist Church. Call 512-266-2250 for details.
Jan. 16 - Austin, Texas -Creating Peace in Uncertain Times, workshop and signing, 7:00 -. call 512-266-9877 for details.
(Lake Travis United Methodist Church is at 1502 RR 620 North, Austin, Texas 78738 )
Jan. 21 and 28 7:30 - 9:00- Peaceful Parenting (a two-session course, books will be available for signing) Hillsborough Township Municipal Building, Hillsborough, NJ. For details call 908-369-4313 ext. 125
Jan. 23 - Peaceful Parenting Workshops in Ohio (Cleveland area) Cuyahoga Heights. IBM lunchtime workshop, PTA workshop at night. Contact email@example.com for times and details.
Feb. 4 - 7:30 - 9:00. Peaceful Parenting workshop and signing- Town Center Elementary School, Scudders Mill Road, Plainsboro, NJ . Call 609-580-6500 for details.
Feb. 8 - 10:00 a.m. Creating Peace, Hope, and Healing. Workshop and signing. Saraswati Yoga School, New Hope, Pa. Call 215-862-4520 for details.
Feb. 11 - St Paul, Minnesota. ALERT Peace Educators Conference, Talk and signing. 4:30-7:30 p.m.
Feb. 12- 1:00 - 5:00. Minneapolis, Minnesota Peace Educators Conference. Peacemaking Workshop. E-mail LBLAKE@smumn.edu for location and details.
Feb. 13 - 11:00 - 2:30 Talk (books available for signing) The Annual Nobel Peace Prize Festival at Augsburg College (Augsburg College, 2211 Riverside Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 554540). E-mail LBLAKE@smumn.edu for details.
Feb. 13 - 7:00. Book Signing - The Red Balloon Bookstore, Saint Paul, Minnesota. Call 651-224-8320 for details.
Feb. 19 - Highland Park, NJ. Peaceful Parenting workshop and signing sponsored by Highland Park PTO. e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Feb. 23 - 10:30 pm. Creating Peace, Hope, and Healing workshop and signing. Brothers of Israel synagogue, Trenton, New Jersey. Contact email@example.com for details.
Feb. 27 - Camden County College. 9:45 - Keynote speech to Camden County peer mediators and advisors.
If your organization or school would like to schedule a workshop or speaking engagement, you can reach Naomi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Naomi Drew is the author of four books, all available through LearningPeace.com:
Peaceful Parents, Peaceful Kids (Kensington Publishers)
Learning the Skills of Peacemaking (Jalmar Press)
The Peaceful Classroom in Action (Jalmar Press)
Hope and Healing: Peaceful Parenting in an Uncertain World will be released in September of 2002 (Kensington Publishers)
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Copyright 2002, Naomi Drew, All Rights Reserved.
This content may be forwarded in full, with copyright/contact/creation information intact,without specific permission, when used only in a not-for-profit format. If any other use is desired, permission in writing from the author is required.
Love and Peace to All of You.