Am I Bringing Shame On My Family - by being a single parent?
There is no shame in bringing a child into the world - and loving that child, and wanting the best for them.
Q - I feel like I’ve committed some sort of crime in my family by becoming a single parent. It’s not like I’m the first woman ever to bring up a child without the dad around. My family say they love my daughter, yet I can feel their digs and veiled comments about me having made a big mistake by picking the wrong man (he left when I found out I was pregnant), and deciding to keep her and bring her up by myself.
My brother and sister are at university, but that was never my ‘dream’. When my daughter is older I’ll get a part-time job but for now I want to be there for her. Why do my family try to make me feel ashamed for letting them down?
A - There is no shame in bringing a child into the world - and loving that child, and wanting the best for them.
You have not brought shame onto the family – that isn’t possible. Shame is a personal thing that can't be passed on like an infection!
They may feel disappointed, and even angry, that you aren't making decisions and living your life as they would prefer you to do - but you are not obligated or responsible for meeting their expectations.
Shame is a very powerful emotion. People feel shame when they feel rotten and somehow defective at their core. Shame makes us emotionally implode and feel less of a person - in our own eyes and, we imagine, in the eyes of others.
Trying to induce feelings of shame in someone - by criticising or denigrating their integrity, competence, character or personality - is a method of emotional manipulation and abuse.
So, I hope you can see and agree that having a baby is not something to feel ashamed, or guilty, about.
For clarity - guilt relates to having done something wrong, which has harmed someone. A bad action rather than feeling like a bad person.
Your family may need more time to adjust to your current situation, and having some heart-to-heart conversations will help.
Share your concerns, thoughts and fears with one another - and agree to all pull together to give your daughter a loving and happy childhood, free from any misplaced shame, guilt or regret.
I hope that you can keep your family close as your daughter grows up - as long as they can show both of you unconditional love. Having one or two loving and reliable male relatives around will also be good for your daughter. Perhaps one day she will have a father figure around too.
As you rightly say there are lots of single parents these days – including single dads!
Remember to take good care of your own needs too, and make each day one of smiles and gratitude for the precious gift of your child.
Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy) - MIND HEALER & MENTOR
www.maxineharley.com - where you will find a FREE e-booklet on how to be the best mum you can be – which I call an ‘OPTI-MUM’ (c)