How to get over your fear of being a bad parent

Parenting isn’t easy, and whether you’re a soon-to-be-parent, new parent, or a seasoned mom or dad, we all have struggles and challenges. Sometimes, you just have a really bad day and might think you weren’t cut out for all of this parenting stuff, but there are ways to overcome this fear and guilt.

We tend to be our own worst critics, thinking we aren’t very good at being a mom or dad. “I think I’m not the only parent who thinks that. In my experience, I think that’s one of the enemy’s greatest ploys—to convince you that you’re no good and that you’re messing up and that there’s irreversible damage that you’ve done,” says Rich Lamm, blogger at thegrumpydad.net, husband, and stay-at-home dad of 5 children. “So that’s a constant battle for me, especially growing up I didn’t have the best father figure and being a dad I had to figure out things for my own. So, when I mess up, if I lose my patience or say something that I really regret, that’s kind of reminiscent of the things I had experienced and that really beats me up.”

No parent is perfect, and Lamm says that owning up to your mistakes is important. “They can tell that I feel guilty or I’ll apologize—that’s the biggest thing I try to do, I try to just be open and honest with them and say, ‘Hey, I feel like I made a mistake. I’m sorry.’ And they’re so loving, they come up a give me a hug, ‘No, Dad, it’s okay.’ They’ll put it on themselves: ‘No, Dad, we were being naughty or we were doing this and that,’ and I say, ‘No, that’s not an excuse—I should have never acted like that.’ And they’re the first ones to say, ‘Dad we love you. You’re a great dad!’ That’s really nice and it really makes you humble.”

Even if you have made some big mistakes and haven’t been the parent you are called to be, it isn’t too late. “I was praying and saying … ‘Help me be the father that you want me to be.’ I had the realization that every boy wants his dad, whether he’s a young child or an old man. They want their dad, they need their dad. And I was thinking, my boys will never turn me away because I’m closing in on 40 and I have a really bad relationship with my dad, I haven’t talked to him in a long time, and I want him to call me and try to make things better. And so why wouldn’t my sons want the same for me?” Lamm says it’s never too late to apologize and try to do better.

Prayer is essential to being a good parent. “The best father-figure we have, of course, is God our creator … God is there, He’s present,” says Lamm. He turns to God and St. Joseph daily with open and honest prayer to help guide him in fatherhood.