Regretting Parenthood is a Thing

Is it normal to regret having a baby, children? Am I allowed to feel regret?

I came across this topic and it made my momma heart sink. Initially I thought of all those women longing to be mothers and dealing with their own infertility struggles and how they would long to simply hold a baby in their arms. And then I considered the pressure put on women by society and our culture. The pressure to have and do it all, have the career, have the baby, get the promotions, raise children, have the social status, be on all the committees, etc. And the immense pressure “at-home” moms receive, since they’re at home they should be able to do it all, the laundry, dishes, all the household work, raise the kids, and there’s this added pressure, “at-home mom guilt”, that they should be the ones volunteering for everything, after all, they don’t

work. If you pair these circumstances with the fact that these mommas are overworked and exhausted, often not finding the time to take care of themselves I could see how their minds might wander to what changed in their lives and brought about all the stress in the first place. Thus, it’s not so much regretting the child, but mourning a past life, a life that gave her/him time for themselves. Being a parent comes with immense sacrifice and sadly there are a lot of couples entering into parenthood totally unaware of the amount of sacrifice they have to make…this could be because we have so many parents coming from broken homes themselves and the sacrifice of being a fulltime parent was never modeled for them, or perhaps they were an only child and are feeling overwhelmed with raising multiple children. There are so many factors that come into play. The important thing is that we don’t shun these mothers/parents, that we don’t make them feel bad, but instead acknowledge their hurt, and offer to help especially now, 2020 has proven to be an extremely isolating year for everyone, shoot, the tagline for the year is “social distance”. We NEED to be there for one another, help, offer to watch each other’s children, everyone needs a break, mothers/parents can’t miss their kids if they are constantly parenting. It is when they get a break from parenthood, a few hours to just be themselves and not “mom”, or, “dad”, that they have the opportunity to feel the richness of parenthood, and actually miss the kids, you can’t fully grasp the beauty of a rainbow when you are in it, it is only from a distance that it’s entirety and all the magnificent colors are most vibrant. Not familiar with the term, “parental regret”? Below are some stats on the term, please take a moment to review, and share your thoughts in the comments.

What is “parental regret”?

  • The feeling of grief some parents have for the life that they feel they have lost and misgivings about their parenting skills. It’s taboo to talk about given the glorification of parenthood.

How common is it?

  • In a 2018 Gallup poll, 8% of parents in the United States reported that if they could do things over again, they would choose not to have children.
  • There are reddit sub-groups and facebook private groups where people can anonymously share their opinions in a safe space.

What causes parental regret?

  • An academic journal by Professors Moore and Abetz shows that there are several common factors.
  • The first category is regretting circumstances associated with having children:
    • Timing
      • Some parents were not ready in terms of their current career, financial status or education
    • Number of children
      • Some wish they had more or less children
    • Sacrifice
      • Some regret having lost time, money, education, and opportunities; sleep and intimacy with their partner, and just living freely with their hobbies, travel, etc.
  • Partner
  • Some regret whom they had children with
  • The external world
    • Feeling that the outside world is not safe for their child to grow up in
  • The second and less common category is regretting having children:
    • Difficult children
      • Children with diseases and complications can make parenthood more difficult
    • Self as bad parent
      • Mental health of the parents becomes an issue
    • Parenthood disdain
      • The general feeling of disliking parenthood
    • Childfree desire
      • Having children by accident or because of the pressure from parents.

Ways to cope with parental regret

  • Discussing maternal regret raises ethical dilemmas but is necessary
  • Give it a voice — talk to your partner. Or, a trusted friend or family member.
  • If it’s disrupting your day to day life, consider your treatment options. There are many virtual therapy and online psychiatry sites that offer consultations you can take from home to get help.

The feeling of regretting parenthood is common. It doesn’t mean you are a “bad” parent. The most important thing is to address the feeling and talk about it with someone you trust. You are not alone. 

Thoughts? Please share in the comments below….

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