I’m not Catholic, but I am a mother. I’ve been one for almost as long as I’ve been an adult. And on Mother Guilt, I’m an expert. I’m valedictorian of The College of Mother Guilt. Look around: there’s so much to feel guilty for. There’s a veritable smorgasbord of guilt-inducing situations. What I’ve learned, through trial and error—mostly error—is guilt is counterproductive. At least as it relates to child rearing.
Herein, some practical examples of guilt-inducing circumstances that need not be.
Let’s say you shop at Whole Foods. You buy all-organic, non-GMO, grain-free paleo unicorn steaks. Meanwhile, at school, your 13-year-old is inhaling a Twinkie. Did you know a Twinkie has a shelf life of like 45 days? Yeah. You’re welcome. But here’s the thing. Even if your teenager is eating Twinkies by the box, he’s not going to die. Probably. So let sleeping Twinkies lie. Keep buying the other good stuff, stop feeling guilty, and he’ll come around. Probably.
There is a whole host of things to feel guilty about in this category. Does your child have a phone? Should they have a phone? Should they have a data plan with said phone? Should it be unlimited data? Should they watch TV? How much TV? Oh my god what if they are watching South Park? Should they have an Xbox? Oh my god what if they are playing Call of Duty on the Xbox and turning into a homicidal maniac?
These are all good things to consider. I’m not suggesting you shower your children with electronics. I’m just saying ease up on yourself. If your kids have a phone/TV/Xbox/iPad and they have decent grades and are generally pleasant human beings, then you’re probably doing okay. There are a lot of hills to die on in parenting. Too much TV is not the end of the world—just the end of you being able to locate the remote. Also, statistically speaking, the homicidal maniac thing is highly unlikely.
(P.S. While on the subject of gadgetry: I’ve lost sleep over the porn I know my teenagers can readily access. Which brings us to…)
Carl’s Jr. commercials would have you believe that only bikini-clad women eat hamburgers. There is sex, violence, and generally questionable behavior everywhere you look. Have you seen Criminal Minds? My word, at least one person is murdered in every episode. There’s no easy answer here. Unless you lock your kids in a closet, you really can’t prevent them from seeing all the awful (and also wonderful) things in the world. Disconcerting, I know.
Since you can’t stop them from seeing questionable material, just talk to them. Feeling guilty about all the horrifying things they may witness isn’t going to stop it from happening. Talk to them. Don’t look the other way. Tell them that there are horrible things in the world and then tell them the truth about the things.
Parenting is hard. Like really hard. Layering guilt onto the already difficult task at hand is just cruel. Don’t do that to yourself. Anyway, you need the extra time to find the remote.