Embracing Imperfection: Letting go of parenting guilt a step at a time

I finish lunch and head to the kitchen only to find that H has left his plate and bowl unwashed in the sink. Again. 

It’s been many years now since we began the practice of washing up our plates and bowls on our own. All of us remember to do it. All of us, with the exception of H. He just won’t. 

Once again, my favourite guilt trip comes to haunt me – had I been a full-time working mother, my children would have been more independent.

I promised myself that I’d parent with love – which I most often succeeded in doing, though I have to admit, there certainly were occasions when the twins made loving them really difficult.

And discipline – which wasn’t easy for me because I’m not a naturally ‘strict’ person but some things are so ingrained in my DNA that I succeeded in becoming a disciplinarian, at least when the children were young.

And patience – which I failed at on a lot (and I mean a lot lot) of occasions.

At each step of my journey, I gave parenting plenty of thought (perhaps more than I should have). Always with an eye on how my actions/inaction now, will affect the kind of adults the children turn out to be.

And so I ploughed along getting them to clean their rooms, make their beds, say their namastes and thank yous, to chip in with household chores. I tried to teach them to be punctual and empathetic, to value hard work and to value money, to treat others with kindness and on and on and on.

It’s daunting, this whole task of parenting, by the sheer number of things that need to be taught.

I see chaotic cupboards and messy rooms. I see dirty bathrooms and piles of clothes on the bed. I see their books left open on their tables and shoes that are never in the shoe rack.

I see the children expecting me to be available all the time. The constant calls of, ‘I’m hungry, what can I eat?’ or ‘Can you help me find my book?’ or ‘Where do we keep the stapler?’ or ‘Can you type this out for me?’

And I wonder, yet again — 

Would it have been different had I been a full-time working mother? 
Would they have been better off left alone? 
Am I presenting them with the right role-model, specially for N?

There really are no clear answers.

Perhaps they would have been more independent and self-reliant. Perhaps they would have learnt to be better problem-solvers. Perhaps.

However, there are things they would have missed out too.

When I see the connection I have with them, the open and easy conversations we have about supposedly ‘taboo’ topics, when I see H becoming more empathetic and N more daring, I know my presence has made a difference.

I know how far I can push them and exactly when I need to pull back. I know when they need help and when they need to be left alone.

I know all of that because I have been close to them and invested in them, physically, mentally and emotionally.

So here’s my epiphany of the day:

We might have great expectations from ourselves as parents and from our children, but perfection is a mirage

A perfect parent, a perfect child, a perfect situation even, just doesn’t exist. Share on X

Because we are all imperfect.

And here’s my second epiphany of the day:

Guilt is an unavoidable part of parenting. Share on X

This isn’t just about being a stay-at-home parent or a working parent. This is about every choice and all choices we make. The choices will have some good, some bad fallouts. We have to learn to accept the bad with the good.

And we have to stop being apologetic about it.

Much easier said than done, I know.

The only thing to do then is to minimise guilt by avoiding the over-thinking trap (hard as it may be), by talking to and sharing experiences with other parents and above all by having a life outside of parenting.


I am writing at the BAR for the prompt ‘Great Expectations’.

One Reply to “Embracing Imperfection: Letting go of parenting guilt a step at a time”

  1. Reading your post has set me on my own (over)thinking trip. I have battled in the context of your epiphanies.
    Coming to the question of how things at my home would have been different if I had been working. The answer is I could not have managed both. I neither had any role models to look up to nor any positive support system to lean on to. The elderly ladies had so much of a problem with my devoting time to reading and writing until a few years ago that even from afar they would keep pestering me to stop all that stuff and dedicate my life to bachha paalna single-mindedly. I know, I know what I am talking about here is not related to this post.
    The biggest parenting guilt that I have is I have passed on my brokenness to D in some ways. I have to reaffirm that I may have faltered but my intentions were good all along in the process of raising him.

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