The Secret Guilt of Parents: Celebrating the Start of the School Year

The Secret Guilt of Parents: Celebrating the Start of the School Year

As summer winds down and the scent of freshly sharpened pencils fills the air, a peculiar mix of emotions takes hold of many parents. Alongside the familiar pangs of melancholy at the passage of time and the nervous excitement for their child's new academic journey, there's another sentiment that often remains unspoken: relief. It's a kind of quiet gratitude, an exhale, a moment of thinking, "I finally have some time to myself." And accompanying that relief, like the shadow to sunshine, is guilt.

Why Do Parents Feel This Way?

The reasons are manifold:

  1. Society's Ideal of Parenting: Our society tends to champion the ideal of the ever-present, ever-sacrificing parent. We see it in movies, read about it in books, and scroll past it on social media feeds. This portrayal can weigh heavily on parents, making them feel as though any desire for personal time or space is selfish.
  2. The Intensity of Modern Parenting: The idea of the "helicopter parent" is well-documented. There's a push to be actively involved in every facet of our children's lives. Summer, with its lack of routine, can exacerbate this feeling.
  3. Work and Home Blur: With more individuals working from home, the line between professional and personal life has blurred for many. Parents juggle meetings and playdates, reports and craft sessions. The start of school can mean a return to some semblance of normalcy.

    It's Okay to Feel Happy

    There's a simple truth that needs to be iterated: Wanting some time to oneself doesn't negate the love one feels for their children. Parents are multi-faceted individuals with a myriad of needs. And while caring for one's child is paramount, self-care is also essential. Children benefit from well-rested, mentally healthy parents.

    What This Guilt Teaches Us

    This sense of guilt is not necessarily an enemy. It's an indicator of profound love and care. It shows that parents are deeply invested in their children's well-being. Instead of shoving it aside, we should acknowledge it, sit with it, and then remind ourselves of the bigger picture.

    Embracing the School Year

    There are ways parents can transform this guilt into positive actions:

    1. Celebrate Milestones Together: Instead of focusing on the relief of having free time, parents can direct their energies towards celebrating academic and personal milestones with their kids. It’s a way of being present.
    2. Quality Over Quantity: Rather than feeling guilty about having time alone, parents can ensure that the time spent with their children, especially after school, is quality-filled. Board games, heart-to-heart talks, or just cuddling on the couch can make moments special.
    3. Engage in Self-Care: Parents can utilize this newfound time to rejuvenate, whether it's by picking up a hobby, engaging in physical exercise, or simply resting. A happier parent often leads to a happier home.

      In conclusion, feelings are complex and multi-dimensional. It's essential to recognize that parents, like all humans, have a range of emotions, and it's okay. As the school bus drives away and a sigh of relief is breathed, remember that it's a natural part of the parenting journey, guilt and all. And sometimes, acknowledging our vulnerabilities makes us stronger and more compassionate caregivers.



      Katie Novak
      Owner, Mother, Advocate, Feminist


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