Parents in Ireland Amongst the Most Likely to Feel Parental Guilt in Europe

New research has revealed that three quarters of parents in Ireland experience guilt when it comes to raising their children, with parents feeling guilty almost twice a day on average. This equates to an astonishing 55 times per month or 656 times per year.


The study, which was conducted amongst parents in Ireland, Portugal, the UK, the Netherlands, France, and Italy by leading name label manufacturer My Nametags, found that Irish parents are more likely to be afflicted by parental guilt than any other parents across Europe, with the exception of the UK.


Interestingly, Irish mums are more likely to suffer from guilt than dads, with women feeling guilt 27 times more per month than men on average.
The most common cause of parental guilt in Ireland is allowing children to have too much screen time, with nearly half of parents feeling guilty for letting their youngsters spend too much time on their iPads or in front of the TV. This is followed by not spending enough quality time with their children (42%), losing their temper with their children (39%), not playing with them enough (37%), and not seeing them enough due to working long hours (31%).


This contrasts with attitudes towards parenting elsewhere in Europe, with Portuguese parents more likely to feel guilty about not picking their children up from school and British parents prone to feeling guilty about not doing homework with their children.


Irish parents also sweat the small stuff, with some parents reporting feeling guilty about not mending their children’s clothes when they get damaged, writing their name in their clothing instead of using sew-in name labels, and not making their costumes for the school play from scratch. Over one in 10 Irish parents also feel guilty about relying on other people, including grandparents, to look after their children.


It is mums who are more likely to worry about small details, with women regularly feeling guilty about giving their children quick and easy food instead of cooking from scratch, not ironing all of their children’s clothing, and being caught on their phone when they should be concentrating on their children. Dads, on the other hand, are more likely to fret over disciplining their children and not recording their key milestones.


However, the study found that this guilt is often disproportionate. While nearly one third of parents feel guilty about being caught using their phones, only 27% believe this negatively impacts their children. Similarly, while 16% of parents feel guilty about not buying their children the latest clothes, only 9% think this genuinely affects their children’s wellbeing, demonstrating that parents even feel guilty about things that they don’t believe have an impact on their children.


Parents across Europe agreed that the number one factor that influences the pressures they place on themselves is their own perception of what makes the perfect parent. Irish parents are also heavily influenced by society’s expectations, how their parents raised them, and how their partners perceive them. By contrast, Italian and Dutch parents are more likely to be influenced by the wider community’s opinions, while Brits are conscious of what other parents think of them.


Commenting on the findings, Parenting Expert Bea Marshall says: “Guilt is common among all parents and yet it actually makes it harder for us to parent in the ways we aspire. Guilt stems from our fears that how we raise our children may impact their futures. These may be fears about physical and mental health, relationships and social success or financial independence. Our worries may also be related to what others think of us and our children.


“There is no such thing as a perfect parent and fears that we are falling short lead to guilt. The differences we see between males and females are likely due to multiple factors such as differences in parenting responsibilities and professional commitments, but also due to the different ways men and women navigate parenting. Women often carry a full mental load leading to constant thinking and emotional responses, whereas men are more likely to think about, and act on, one thing at a time leading to a smaller emotional response.”


With current COVID-19 restrictions placing families under new and unique pressures, these levels of guilt are at an all-time high. In fact, almost three quarters of Irish parents are feeling additional guilt due to the lockdown measures, despite having no control over the situation. The most common reasons are having to keeping their children indoors (33%), that their children are bored (30%), that they aren’t able to spend time with other relatives (30%), and that they aren’t home-schooling them properly (20%). Interestingly, 20% of Irish parents also admitted to feeling guilty that they are not enjoying the extra time they are getting to spend with their children, with men more likely to feel guilty about this than women.


Lars B Andersen, Managing Director at My Nametags comments: “At My Nametags, we speak to hundreds of thousands of parents across Europe every year. With the current global situation putting parents under more pressure than ever before, we were interested in exploring the concept of parental guilt and how it varies across the world.


“We were intrigued to find that parents from all countries feel guilty about a huge number of things, from not spending enough time with their children, to not ironing their clothes. We hope that our research highlights that there is no need for parents to be so hard on themselves, and that opting for convenience, such as using stick-on name labels or cooking using pre-prepared ingredients, will not have a negative impact on their children, and may save them an awful lot of stress.”