Halloween Guilt – Yeah, it’s a thing!

If you’re at all like me, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Halloween – a time filled with nightmares and fear… and guilt. Sure, there’s candy and costumes and parties and stuff to look forward to. I personally love handing out candy every year, and there’s that tradition of watching (not too) scary movies on that wonderfully creepy night. All in all, it’s a lot of fun! Once you get there, anyway.  The weeks leading up, however, are always full of the Halloween guilt.

Not sure what I mean? Well, let’s think about this…

Jamie is an alligator
He thought it was a dragon… Still, quite cute!

What are some of those traditional Halloween tasks?

Of course, you have to have costumes. And candy. You should decorate the house. There’s treats for your kids’ class party. And then, there’s all the party invitations to accept or not.  Or, if you’re really brave, there’s party hosting (which brings a whole bunch of other stuff to deal with).

When you get to Halloween, it can all add up to a lot of fun!  But, if you’re like me, it comes at the price of crippling anxiety.

So, what about Halloween guilt?

Yeah, I mentioned anxiety, but what do I mean by guilt?

As an adult, you can opt out of Halloween.  Don’t feel like buying/making a costume? Eh, don’t! Don’t want to decorate? Why bother, then? Oh, and handing out candy? Seriously, not mandatory…so you can totally skip it.  Turn off that porch light and curl up with some real horror flicks!

But if you’re a parent, it’s a bit different.

Costumes are expected, both for Halloween and that classroom party. Candy is a necessity, either for trick-or-treaters or that blasted classroom party, again. Decorations… well, you know they’re going to want to carve that pumpkin, and – oh my god- the amount of stuff they bring home from school… you have to have a place for it all.

Now, think about that when you’re also dealing with depression or anxiety. How guilty do we feel when we have to make our kids a box of mac and cheese or spaghetti-os because we can’t bring ourselves to cook anything more complicated? How much more guilty do you feel when you really can’t handle the crowds at that Halloween store to get them a costume? I don’t know about you, but it’s a bit overwhelming.

Now, let’s toss one more bit into the mix. Let’s talk about that stereotypical “good mom/dad” that we’re always up against. Handmade costume? Check. Baked goodies for the kids’ class? Check. Goodie bags for the trick-or-treaters? Of course! And, hey, why not…let’s create a haunted house for the kiddos, throw a Halloween party for our son’s class, and oh! Can’t forget that coworker’s Halloween party, so add a costume for Mom and Dad and a gift for the host.


Soothing our guilt

Jamie and Eileen make masks
They decided to make their own Halloween masks. Actually, Eileen made three.

Let’s face it. When you have a chronic mental illness, that “good parent” finish line is a little different than someone else’s. Am I going to hand sew costumes for my cute little kiddos?  Probably not. Will I get candy? Well, duh! (The bigger question is: will it make it to Halloween?)  Goody bags, though, are way not my thing. I know the kids will have Halloween parties, so I’ll have to figure that one out. But my compromise to myself? NO Halloween parties for me.

How do we soothe that guilt? Well, that’s different for everyone but there a few tricks.

First: Recognize you can’t (and probably shouldn’t) do everything.  And guess what! That’s okay! I’m gonna tell you a little secret.  That perfect mom/dad you hear about?  They probably cut a few corners, and chances are good they feel just a bit guilty about it, too. None of us can do everything, so there’s no reason to beat yourself up over it!  As long as you do the best you can (and I mean the best you can and not what you feel you should be doing), you’re doing a great job!

Second: Prioritize!  I’m sure you’ve heard that a lot in all aspects of your life, but it’s a solid bit of advice. Obviously, the kids will need costumes, so that’s pretty high up.  Treats are also pretty key (because that’s how you get through the other crap anyway…which again begs the question – will the candy survive?). Those parties and decorations, though?  Nope.  Wanna carve punkins?  Sorry kids.  Until you’re old enough to wield the knife, you’re gonna have to skip that one.

Third: This one’s my favorite… Give yourself permission to CUT CORNERS. Seriously! Cheat! Baked goodies for class? Good god, grocery stores exist for a reason! Do they need goody bags?  Kids…cheap labor at it’s finest.  Not to mention, if yours are anything like mine, they’ll love it. For that matter, let your kids hang up their classroom art! I don’t know a single kid who won’t feel super proud that they made it and they got to hang it up. And if those pumpkins just have to happen, I’m a fan of paint.  Buy paper, foam, or real pumpkin, put down some newspaper, paint, and brushes, and walk away! Look at that… you’re a parenting genius!

Halloween doesn’t have to suck!

Remember: Take it as you can and don’t worry about the rest.  Your kids are going to cherish the stuff you do together, regardless of whether it’s everything you thought you should do. Give them what you can. Go easy on yourself for the rest.

After all, by taking care of yourself you’re giving them the best thing of all – a healthy/healthier parent. Who doesn’t love that?



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