A few nights ago I watched an interesting piece on 60 minutes regarding redshirting. This is the act of holding your child back from kindergarten if they have a summer birthday. Lily was born on June 22nd, so Morely Shaffer had me glued to the tv to learn more. In theory, if your child were among the oldest in their class it would give them an advantage both academically and socially. An older kid would be more of a leader and not a follower. Supposedly an older kid would be smarter because the age gap would allow your child to gain more knowledge and be better prepared.
This whole piece had me yelling at my tv (something that happens quite often and my husband thoroughly enjoys). This small flame that constantly flickers inside, that most parents always carry, intensified. This flame I’m talking about is the constant feeling of guilt.
Parents are constantly worrying about providing the very best for their child or making decisions that will benefit them now or in the future. But the guilt that comes with making those decisions is the pits.
The sources of guilt seem to be never-ending. Stay at home moms feel guilty for not being able to contribute financially. Working moms struggle with not being able to have enough time with their child. Guilt over using formula. Guilt over allowing your child to watch some tv. Guilt over giving your child sugar too early.
I struggled with the decision to quit breastfeeding. I hated breastfeeding in public and with feedings spaced every two hours I felt enslaved to it. I wanted to step up my workouts to lose all my baby weight, but my milk supply would decrease when I worked out. I felt guilty because I thought I was putting my weight loss over Lily’s nutrition. Guilty over the cost of the formula. Guilty because some of my friends would have loved to breastfeed but either worked or couldn’t produce milk.
To me it seems that some decisions are easier to walk away from than others. I have less guilt over letting Lily watch some Sesame Street than when I stopped breastfeeding. There is no manual for first time parents….gosh do I wish there was! Every child/parent/family is different thus deciding on formula vs breastfeeding, public school vs. private, and redshirting or not is solely up to the parent. But feeling guilt over making those decisions is universal and inevitable.
Some of you might think this is the postpartum talking and it’s not. I’m a realist (or try to be!) and I recognize I will have guilt my whole life as a parent. Learning how to deal with it is the issue. Learning to accept the decisions I make and move on and not dwell on them and play what ifs is crucial. I want Lily’s perception of me to be a positive one; that I am decisive and confident. I don’t care if she can make out that I have guilt from time to time…I am only human.
As a first time parent I think it is key to have people in your life that you can count on and my husband, family and friends are beyond supportive. Every Friday I get together with a few amazing women for playgroup. Playgroup is a sounding board where we all share our crazy first time parent experiences and bond over dirty diapers, tantrums, wine and all our feelings of guilt. Knowing that others are experiencing the same makes me feel normal.
Having friends that have experienced the same tough decisions and can offer advice helps. My girlfriend started a small private group on Facebook of women who just became moms and now there are about 250 members! Any posts about guilty feelings is matched with multiple sympathetic, helpful and kind replies. So if you are in the setting where you don’t feel like you have a physical support group, there are many online forums that can be helpful (Read this and get advice or vent here).
Is there a solution to keep from feeling guilty all the time? I don’t know I’m still learning to be a parent myself. What I do is remind myself that I am doing the best I can and try and cut myself some slack.
Lily just turned one so I have plenty of time to mull over the redshirting predicament and maybe I will or maybe I won’t have guilt over the decision. All I know is I’m going to keep screaming at the tv for giving me yet another potential situation to have a guilt trip about.