Death by recent studies
It's easy to feel guilty or confused by conflicting studies and opinions.
Scrolling through Twitter, I came across this headline from Time magazine: “Breastfeeding, birth order and spanking are all early influences on children’s IQ”. Before deciding to click on the link, I felt immediate guilt. The guilt that comes with reading certain articles which begin with words like “The results of a recent study show…” While I was quite happy to carry on with my family in the way we always have, suddenly there appears to be a host of reasons why I’m either doing it wrong or doomed by nature to watch my kids fail. You could call it “Recent Study Guilt”.

Sure, there are some helpful tips out there and findings which can be utilised to constructive ends, but there’s just nothing helpful about knowing that the order in which my children were born is supposedly going to affect their ability (or lack of it) to cope with life.

My children are all relatively normal and happy. I can only imagine how it must feel for a parent with a child who has an attention deficit disorder (for example). The headlines must scream at them almost every day, “LATEST FINDINGS ON ADHD” or “NEW DRUG SAID TO CURE ADD”. Having been through the experience of trying to conceive, the Recent Study phenomenon is one closely related to fertility issues, too. I get a feeling of dread when I read headlines on new studies into Alzheimer’s disease, having lost two family members to it. One headline will suggest that drinking coffee will delay the onset of AD, while another will insist that it accelerates it. Despite both findings, I’ll sit there fretting (and drinking my coffee), feeling trapped.

Of course I want the best for my children, and I’d stop at nothing to find the best treatment for them if they became ill, and I’d visit as many specialists as it took to resolve something which was impeding them, but I’m also aware that even specialists have a limit to their expertise.

The point is, my children are not exempt from life or choices. They may be doomed by some of the decisions and lifestyle choices I made while they were babies, but I can’t reverse those things. Recent studies aren’t very helpful when it comes to retrospective parenting. It's ludicrous to feel guilt about the immutable.

I know many parents who feel immense pressure to utilise certain styles of parenting or implement a new “fail-proof” technique, and then still others who carry a burden of guilt for not making what people tell them were the right choices. Every day I watch as parents fight about breastfeeding vs. formula or natural birth vs. Caesarean, yet these fights don’t seem to convince anyone to change their opinions.

Raising your own kids in the style which works for you is always the best way. It may not appear functional to other people, but they don’t get to make choices for you.

I’ll continue reading the results of various new studies, and I may share some of them if they seem helpful, but intend to do so without feelings of failure or guilt, especially about things that have happened in the past over which I now have no control.

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

Do you ever feel guilty as a parent?

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