I'm so "guilty" of this (sorry, had to). I think comparison, fear of judgement and judgement of self is a huge contributor to the guilt we feel as mothers (and parents). We want what's best for our child and we're willing to sacrifice our own mental health to provide this.
The thing is, YOU ARE what's best. You, being you, is what's best for your child.
There was an interesting blog post that I read whilst pregnant about things we say we'd never do before we became parents. On my list was never using packaged food, letting Cadence watch TV until she was two years old and using over the counter pain relief and other drugs.
Well, Cadence doesn't watch any TV - but I could buy shares in Rafferty's Garden.
I tried so hard to make my own food. I really did. Even before she was born, I found recipes for baby led weaning and purees. I organised ice cube trays and mashers... Then when the time came, I was so sleep deprived I hardly had time to feed myself let alone a small child. My first attempt at feeding Cadence some homemade pureed pumpkin didn't go as planned (see how I avoided using the phrase "was a failure"?) She disliked it with every ounce of her being. She even cried. No joke - I've got it on video. But pumpkin was the only thing I had in the freezer. After all, I'd read that you should introduce one food at a time. I WAS SO PREPARED.
After that, on an empty stomach (apart from cold coffee and medication), I went to the supermarket. I stood in front of the baby food section and read the back of almost every packet. I didn't even know what I was looking for. It's almost as if I expected to read the words: "POISON - not for human consumption". My eyes were welling up with tears. I looked around, assuming anyone who was watching would be judging my capacity as a mother. And then I remembered what a good friend had told me while I cried about having to give formula top ups months ago:
"fed is best"
Indeed, fed is best.
Still, when I caught up with my mother's group for coffee, I would pour the contents of the pouch into a tupperware container - hiding my shame.
It went on like that for a while. I would use pre-made pouches as a base and add fruit, vegetables or grains to thicken until I got a stash of homemade food in the freezer. I still wasn't sleeping. I was exhausted. I couldn't carry that guilt around any longer. I was treading water as it was and as I started to drown, I released the guilt - and suddenly, I was able to swim.
Fed is best.
But that's not the only thing I feel guilty about. Has she eaten enough? Is she drinking enough fluids? Should I breastfeed before I offer solid food? What if she doesn't like it? Should I make her something else? I am being manipulated if I make an alternative? Am I starving her if I don't? And that's just solids! I could go on and on about naps, breastfeeding, bedtime, stimulation and bathing. But I won't.
If you are struggling with a similar guilt, consider this:
"Using pre-made foods leaves me more energy to spend time with my child and care for myself - I enjoy spending time with my child and taking care of myself".
"I can choose how I feel about my parenting choices - and I choose not to feel guilt".
"My parenting choices are worthy of acceptance. I am worthy".
"I am the best parent for my child".
"My child loves me".
And last but not least: "fed is best".
Do you feel guilt as a parent? Come up with your own affirmations and repeat 10 times at every meal/snack time. If you struggle to come up with your own, consider the supportive advice you would give to a friend if they were feeling guilt about something.