I regret having kids

"Is it in fact a fear of how we may be perceived, that stops us from saying what we really feel?"

"Is it in fact a fear of how we may be perceived, that stops us from saying what we really feel?" Photo: Getty Images

Everyone knows the great faux pas. We have all said things we wish we could take back, prayed for the ground to swallow us whole.

But is it in fact a fear of how we may be perceived, that stops us from saying what we really feel?

Over coffee with a group of friends recently, there was an understanding atmosphere when one of the mums, a close friend of mine, started discussing the struggle she was having with her children. We all nodded sympathetically and sighed with agreement, until she announced that if she had her time over again, she wouldn’t have had children.

At once each of us looked around, ensuring our children hadn’t heard her comment. Suddenly eyes were downcast, feet shuffled and whispers of shocked disapproval made their circuit of the table.

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Admittedly she was having a very bad week, lack of sleep, a house full of sick children, an overworked husband and a demanding toddler, but as I watched the other women, I realised that I had not heard this from a mother before, and judging from the expressions around me, neither had they. I could tell my friend was hoping that the proverbial black hole would appear in the floor and she could disappear forever, so I quickly changed the subject and everyone immediately and with obvious relief followed suit.

As I walked home with my three year old chatting away in her pram, I couldn’t help thinking what my life would be like had my husband and I not had kids.

Not that I don’t adore my two children and cherish the time I spend with them, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to missing some of the things that come with a child free existence.

Late night dinners, weekly movies, lazy Sunday mornings, sleep........

I didn’t have my children until my late thirties and although during young adulthood a family wasn’t in the forefront of my mind, it was something I always hoped would happen, eventually. Now that is has I couldn’t be happier, but it made me wonder, how many parents regret having kids?

One such person is French psychoanalyst, author and mother of two, Corinne Maier.

In her book, No Kids - 40 reasons not to have children, Maier states,“Some days, I’m sorry to say I really regret it and I’m not afraid to say it. When they were born, I was young and in love - and, of course, ruled by hormones. If I had to do it all over again, to tell you the truth, I’m not sure I would.”

What I did notice at the cafe, was that this is still a taboo thought, that few mothers would dare to admit.

While I was still pondering my friend’s dilemma, she arrived on my doorstep, tears running down her face, distraught at the thought that everyone thought she was a hideous person and not a deserving mother. A cup of tea, comforting hug, and mountains of reassuring words later, I asked her what exactly she meant by her comment.

Listening to her story, I was impressed by her honesty. At thirty-five she had three children under five, a half finished renovation of her home, a husband that worked exorbitant hours and travelled frequently and she was feeling undervalued, under appreciated and unfulfilled.

She was very quick to point out that while wallowing in self pity she realised how lucky she was to have a beautiful family.  She just hadn’t realised how arduous, all-consuming and relentless parenting could be.  Of course she loves her kids, but given the time over she wasn’t sure it was for her.

My initial reaction was, keep this to yourself, but as I observed the cup of tea shaking in her hand, guilt etched all over her face, I realised that maybe the problem is not what she said but the fact that she felt she couldn’t be honest about it.

As with anything that we do in life, there are aspects of the “job” of parenting that aren’t always enjoyable. No full time job is fun all the time. At some point most feel the pressure to begin a family. The fact that you may not like it isn’t something anyone mentions to you and while there is a plethora of support available to women who admit to struggling with a newborn, the options are far more limited for parents who are unable to deal with the often overwhelming demands of a young family.

Few will disagree that parenthood is a gift and twenty difficult days can be wiped by one cuddle and an “I love you mummy;” but it’s one gift without a return policy and comes with unlimited expiry. 

While it is wonderful to have children, what I learned from my friend is that - there should be no shame - in admitting there are times you wish you could get a refund.

 

 

 

 

 

124 comments

  • there are things in life you can openly regret but i think when your talking about a human being you have made that has thoughts and feelings, it is selfish to regret them. imagine if your mother said to you 'i regret having you'. Kids aren't for everyone but that is a consideration before having them not something to regret after

    Commenter
    lola
    Date and time
    June 21, 2012, 9:14AM
    • @lola....your lack of understanding for this woman is reprehensible. She made the admission not to a child but to a group of friends, trying to find support at a difficult time.

      As the child of a psychotic woman who, from a very young age, would often state that 'if she could have her life over again she would never have any of us', there is a huge difference.

      Perhaps if people were more open about the negatives attached to parenting, people would go into it a little more informed and better equipped to make such a life-changing decision.

      Commenter
      GrowaBrain
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      June 21, 2012, 11:01AM
    • It is entirely possible to love the child without loving the process of mothering them.

      Commenter
      RF
      Location
      Blue Mountains.
      Date and time
      June 21, 2012, 12:09PM
    • absolutely @ RF. Admitting that its not all sunshine and happiness 100% of the time is fine, but to say you wish you could take it all back? the good and the bad? thats a bit harsh

      Commenter
      lola
      Date and time
      June 21, 2012, 12:50PM
  • While I hear some of the things that your friend is saying I do not believe she would want it any other way. When we are busy being exhausted parents we see things so differently but if you / your friend were not to have kids I can almost guarantee the pain of loss would be palpable. Yes, kids are exhausting but our job as mothers is essential. I am a single mother who fought for 7 years to have my daughter through IVF and yes life is regularly exhausting and draining and lots of terrible things but I seriously question whether you or your friend or others are seeing the alternatives with anything other than rose coloured glasses. Hug your kids and appreciate them fully and be grateful. Understand that the feelings of what could otherwise have been are more likely to be filled with much more negative reality than sleep ins and more time to yourself. I am grateful every single day that I am F's mum, even when I am seething in the pit of exhaustion.

    Commenter
    t
    Location
    Victoria
    Date and time
    June 21, 2012, 9:31AM
    • Really? Because that's the way you feel? So no one who has kids they love could love doing anything but? She's not saying she want's to give them up, but that if she had her time again she wouldn't have them... it's very different.

      Commenter
      RF
      Location
      Blue Mountains.
      Date and time
      June 21, 2012, 10:51AM
    • It's fine for people to choose not to have children. But know this: you are the result of billions of years of life on earth. You can trace your own lineage back to the very first single cell organisms more than a billion years ago. Every single generation from then were impulsed (or chose) into procreating. We have evolved so that, despite the enormous cost involved, we are chemically wired to extract the greatest enjoyment and sense of fulfillment having given life to your child, and also providing for, nurturing and educating them.

      I just want people to get off this idea that they have a 'choice' in whether they want to procreate or not. Not saying you can't choose not to have children. You can. But know that if you do, your line will end. So will all the other non-breeders. The generations afterwards taht will inhabit the earth and breed the next generation will be those who wanted to breed.

      Commenter
      c1ee
      Date and time
      June 21, 2012, 11:27AM
    • @ c1ee

      I just wonder if I'm the only one that finds your post nonsense. I accept that we're programmed to breed and that human beings for the most part derive pleasure from raising children.

      But why on earth should I care about what happens to my genes after I'm dead? Why do I *owe* anything to the billions years of evolution that preceeded my existence? And why should it bother to me that others will pass on their genes and they will inhabit the the earth in the future, when I have chosen not to?

      And even if good answers can be found for these questions, will they be good enough for "non breeders' to change their mind and start breeding?

      And as for this sentence:

      "I just want people to get off this idea that they have a 'choice' in whether they want to procreate or not. Not saying you can't choose not to have children. You can."

      Without some further explanation or detail, that sounds like a complete contradiction.

      Commenter
      Bug
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      June 21, 2012, 12:06PM
    • You're a better woman than I! Or maybe a more deceitful one?!

      Commenter
      Fran
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      June 21, 2012, 12:22PM
    • c1ee - there are plenty of people on the earth, more than the earth can handle & as for lineages ending, there's a little bit of the same dna in all of us. Referring to people as 'breeders' and 'non-breeders' isn't helpful. I admire the latter, they've had the courage to know themselves & what they want and if having a child is not for them, good for them. Its better than having children that you resent and being an inadequate, unhappy mother. Think of these women as the work horses that concentrate on their careers and pay the taxes that get handed out as welfare to the women with children..a kind of shared parenting.
      A lot of mothers spend a lot of time defending their decision to have kids, I mean what else can you do? You can't give them back. Its like former communists having to admit communism didn't work, their whole belief system is questioned.
      I think its healthier to be honest and if you make a decision in life, sure it may not be ideal but you have to live with it and make the most of it. No point in living an unhappy life. Kids grow up and eventually you'll get your freedom back and then you'll spend your life wishing they would come and visit.

      Commenter
      sunny
      Location
      sydney
      Date and time
      June 21, 2012, 12:23PM

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