The Madeleine Brand Show for June 27, 2011

Does guilt make you a better parent?

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What makes you feel guilty as a parent?

Worry and guilt may seem like a one-way trip to therapy for your child, but Teresa Strasser says her guilt about being a working mother motivates her to be a better parent. Strasser is the author of "Exploiting My Baby: Because It's Exploiting Me" and she joined Madeleine to confess her parental guilt.

"If you're able to let go of your guilt, this is not for you," says Strasser, but "telling me not to feel guilty is like telling a plant not to photosynthesize." Her analogy: "The guilt I carry is like a heavily soiled diaper."

Strasser's a 1-year-old son keeps her constantly on edge. She says she worries, "I'm too fun, I'm not fun enough; I'm working too much, I'm not working enough."

At one point, Strasser was thinking about Gordon Gekko's famous line from the movie "Wall Street" that "greed is good" and that it works. She started thinking, "Maybe guilt is good. Maybe it works."

"Guilt actually motivates me to do a lot of things that are good," she says. When her kid was up all night sick, she did everything in her power to make him feel better, and her efforts started to work. "Guilt inspired me to go to extremes."

Guilt also helped her find the best school for her son. "I visited every daycare, and I found a really good one, because my guilt made me go back time and time again."

Strasser thinks guilt has had a positive effect in her life. "I think overall it's made me a better mom, and I think it's made me a better person." She adds, "It's going to help me little by little fix things about myself I don't like."

Strasser says she'll try to correct the wrongs of her own parents and not visit those on her children, but knows she will introduce all new wrongs.

When her son was running around at Universal Studios, she started thinking about getting a leash for her kid. She says she felt guilty about that, but thought that she'd also feel guilty if he runs out in front of a car and she didn't have him on a leash.

She says there's discomfort in guilt over being a good parent, but "Within discomfort is something good, is maybe something great," and an inspiration to do better. Strasser joked about the physical toll of her worrying: "You should see my stomach lining. It is just eaten away."

- Madeleine Brand & Mike Roe


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