Maryann Bucknum Brinley

167 Cooper Avenue
Upper Montclair, NJ 07043-1810

mabrinley@verizon.net

973-202-5909 (cell)
973-746-1608

The Secrets of Happy Parenting

More than 16 years ago, I wrote a book about the secrets of happy parenting. My children, Zach and Maggie, were still children then but the world was just as complicated for parents trying to be happy. In fact, I have researched and written a lot about pregnancy and parenting issues – once from the perch of the director of the Infants and Children’s Laboratory at the Good Housekeeping Institute. Zach is a father of two now. His son, Finn, is 2 ½ and my granddaughter Charlotte just turned 1. Now, Maggie is pregnant with her first, a daughter who will be born sometime around Dec. 4. I am deeply in love with this role of grandmother. So as I look back at parenting and my daughter Maggie looks forward, I have decided to launch a blog, retooling some of those secrets I shared way back when and, at times, examining parenting from two different generational points. Maggie, a wonderful writer as you will discover, is a nurse at New York University’s Langone Hospital.

Happy Parents Know that Guilt is a Waste of Time

Maryann Bucknum Brinley - Tuesday, October 15, 2013


My very first book was written with a pediatrician named Sandy Matthews who had decided that in his medical practice, the mothers were just as important as the children. If he paid attention to their state of mind and understood their anxieties and issues, then children would be healthier and happier all around. And he relied upon a list “maxims” according to Matthews to set them straight. One bit of Sandy’s wisdom came up repeatedly not only in my own life as a mother and grandmother now but also in my writing.

If you are feeling guilty, then someone is profiting from your sense of failure. Look around and think about this. Who is making you feel guilty? And heh, if you have really done something wrong, then apologize, promise you won’t do it again and move on. But also take a minute to focus on who might be profiting from making you feel guilty.

This topic of guilt was in The Secrets of Happy Parenting: “Happy Parents Know that Guilt is a Waste of Time.”

Guilt can come from anywhere and anyone…husbands, mothers, fathers, in-laws, parents, grandparents, friends, even strangers…they lay a guilt trip on you!

You let your children do that?

Why can’t you be more like…

When I was a mother, I would never…

How could you use that type of diaper?

And when children are older, you may hear...

“We never go anywhere good on vacation.”

“I hate you.”

“All of my friends are…” (Fill in the blanks.)

(Not a bit of guilt in this brotherly hug. It's all natural!)

Guilt is a universal emotion for parents. As Cornelia Otis Skinner once wrote, “Women have a special corner in their hearts for sins they have never committed.” 

So, when was the last time you felt guilty? What was said? Identify, identify…so you can acknowledge this emotion. This is a first step in freeing yourself of the burden of guilt.

And, recognize that guilt can come from not trusting yourself.  All parents are second-guessing themselves, thinking for two (or three or four), wondering if what they are doing is the right thing. Novelist Anne Tyler wrote, “I remember leaving the hospital thinking, ‘Wait, are they going to let me just walk off with him? I don’t know beans about babies. I don’t have a license to do this. We’re just amateurs.”

So move on. Stop the guilt. You just make yourself and others feel worse when you feel guilty. Let it go. Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote, “Give yourself no unnecessary pain.”

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