They say that guilt is a useless emotion. It is basically the feeling of having done something we should not have done, or omitted to do something we should have done.
When you are a parent, guilt is ever present. Whether it is a message in your own mind and measuring yourself against a yardstick you created, or messages you see in the media, or underhanded comments from well meaning or otherwise persons.
I again reiterate that an instruction booklet would come in handy. I can guarantee that even with the instruction booklet, I’d find something to feel guilty about.
I was brought up in a different country by very strict parents. My parents had both been raised to value education, and tertiary education at that above all else. Having both been born into families of blue collar workers, they both wanted us to have a degree, and this was to be the be all and end all in our lives. Without a degree, we would not only disappoint them, but would be impoverished failures of humans.
I grew up believing that anyone without a degree was a sucker and a burden on humanity. Loser.
As I grow older, observe and mature, I realise that nothing is ever black and white, and that times and places change situations. There are an infinite number of permutations and combinations of careers, and reasons to do one or the other. The number of factors which determine success, or even the definition of success, are endless.
Success. Does it mean making money? Being happy? Making a difference in someone else’s life? Leaving a mark on those you love?
I think we are all in charge of giving our lives the meaning we want them to have. We have that right.
No one should ever dictate what we do with our lives. I think as parents we can make suggestions, provide opportunities for exploration, and then take our hands off. Completely off.
I have constant feelings of guilt over the opportunities I could have provided, or over the generational trauma I exposed my children to. It comes down to what we have control over. Very little other than what we do every day.
I have control over what time I get up, what I do with my time, how I behave, and how I drive my life forward. That’s it. Everything else is completely out of my control. What other people think, feel or do is not up to me.
And that includes my children. They have absolute control over what they do. I can only provide support, whether it is practical, financial or emotional. But what they do from now on is up to them. Their circumstances are completely different to mine as I grew up. They are affluent people in a developed country. I did not have that luxury. And with those opportunities come other problems that I did not foresee. Being helped can be a hindrance. Letting go is a recurring theme in my life. Allowing things to play out. Feelings to pass, weather to change, things happen as they will.
I used to fight everything and try really hard to change things and influence what happened. I can’t. It has made me stressed and anxious, and at times completely overwhelmed me. I am opting to be more of an observer, watch and wait.
In relationships, career, and every day life.
I used to obsess over my weight. Watch it daily and then infinitely change things in order to alter it. Since I started just watching it, I have noted that sometimes it changes for no reason at all. Usually hormones. And nothing I do changes that.
Nothing I did would have altered the children I got or the relationships I have ended up with. Of course I can make other choices for myself now. But back then, those choices were the right ones. I made them for myself at the time. And so they were right.
There were probably people sitting back watching me fall over and disagree with those choices. But they were mine to make.
So as I parent adult children, I watch and wait. I support, and learn to shut up. My opinions, wishes, hopes and dreams do not matter.
I have done my dash. Everything from now on is their destiny to own. It is my responsibility to be present and supportive, provide my opinion when asked, and shut up the rest of the time. Because I want them to own their choices and be proud of them. I want them to achieve success on their own terms.
I will work on my guilt in the meantime. It is a moot point. I cannot change what I have already done. It is done.