# Sometimes I feel like a shitty parent. Am I the only one?
If you asked me in 2004 whether I would feel like I knew what I was doing as a father by 2020, I honestly would have said “yes”. If not an immediate yes, then at least an “I sure hope so”, or possibly an enthusiastic “maybe”. Yet here I am, with a 15-year-old daughter and feeling, at times, like an utter failure.
Let me start off by saying I am not asking for your sympathy concerning how I’m feeling. Realistically, I know that, as a parent, I’m not an utter failure. Most of the time I feel like a mediocre father at best. I cycle between trying to discern whether I am a bad parent, or worse, a shitty one.
And then, there are the rare occasions in which I dive, headfirst, into the depths of the parenting abyss and come to the conclusion that I am the worst parent ever. Or, at least, the worst parent in comparison to any I have known.
Every now and again, there are instances in which the stars align, and I feel like I know what I am doing. I am not simply a decent parent, but perhaps a "really good dad" who goes above and beyond for our child! Those moments, however, are infrequent and fleeting.
I understand the psychology at play and how comparing myself to others is futile and usually leads to false conclusions, but, to my own dismay, I find myself doing exactly that.
What makes this even more frustrating and confounding is that I know the research on guilt (opens new window). Rather than helping us change our future behavior, guilt does the opposite by rewarding the part of the brain that seeks gratification. Our brains fall into this weird paradox of feeling guilty about being a bad parent, and then rewarding this emotion, thus reinforcing us to feel more guilt. How am I supposed to overcome my guilt if I am being rewarded for it?!
With that being said, when I am not mired in guilt, I am able to be more realistic about my parenting skills. Instead of looking at any negatives, I think about all the positive elements I contribute to our daughter’s life. I keep our daughter safe and healthy. I make sure she knows she is loved and cared for, regardless of the situation. I support her during times of need and celebrate her successes. I try to “show up”, and as a parent, just showing up seems like a large part of the battle.
Despite how much I want to be a good parent, I find myself wondering if I am on the “bad parent” side of the spectrum? It’s not a question I can necessarily google and find an immediate answer for, but it did make me think; do other parents feel the amount of guilt I feel? Do other people think they are also terrible parents?
What about you?
With my curiosity in tow, I jumped down the rabbit hole and explored the internet to see if others felt similarly. Turns out there are a lot of people in the same boat asking these questions and having these feelings.
If you don't believe me, here are the results for some basic searches:
- "Feeling like a bad parent" = 254,000,000 results
- "Am I a bad parent" = 671,000,000 results
- "Parent guilt" = 64,000,000 results
Frankly, that’s a lot of searches about feeling like you’re a bad parent. Is it possible these feelings are not only common but….normal?
As I read different articles and found multiple online support communities, I saw the magnitude of parents posting about their own guilt. Both moms and dads, alike, harbored feelings of failing at parenting.
But, for each parent posting their misgivings, there were hundreds, if not thousands, of others responding with words of encouragement, empathy, and compassion!
It is always uplifting to know that you’re not alone yet, heart-wrenching to see just how many of us are feeling this way.
Why do so many of us well-meaning parents feel like such failures? What can we do to change our feelings and behaviors? Instead of answering these questions, being that I am searching for guidance myself, I would rather point you to one article that made a lot of sense to me. I hope you find it both useful and, if you feel as I do, comforting.
I hope you never feel like a bad parent. We are all trying our best and figuring it out along the way, but if you do, just know that it’s ok, it’s normal, and you’re most definitely not alone!
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If you're not in crisis but would like to connect with an online counselor (through our partnership with Betterhelp), please use one of these links:
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