You hear people talk about “mom guilt”–the feeling that moms get for not being perfect, not measuring up to their own impossible standards, or the impossible standards they think other moms have. Of course, there’s dad guilt too–all good parents feel like they’re falling short, like they’re not doing enough, like they’re not good enough.
This guilt is good in one sense–certainly there are selfish, oblivious parents that don’t think about this or their kids much at all. But other than as a signal that you care, parental guilt is not much good for anything.
Does imposter syndrome make you better at the office? No, it takes your eye off the ball. It’s almost egotistical in its insecurity, convincing a person that everyone is thinking about them. Parental guilt is like that. It doesn’t make you any better at an already tough job. Your kids hit you enough–literally and figuratively–do you really need to add self-flagellation?
Seneca talks about how the mark of progress in philosophy is being a better friend to yourself. Well, as a parent you’ve got to do the same thing. A friend holds you accountable, can speak truth to you–but they do this with kindness, they do it with encouragement. They like you. They support you.
A person who makes you feel guilty, who criticizes you constantly, who tells you you’ll never measure up, that you’re screwing up? They’re not a friend. They’re not someone you’d ever want to be around your kids. So why are you letting them live in your head? Why are you doing it to yourself?