I Feel for Women Who Regret Having Children, But My Heart Breaks for Their Kids

The first time I heard about a movement of mothers who regret the decision to have children, I was kind of shocked. I thought that Isabella Dutton, a British mom who told the Daily Mail in 2013 that having children was the biggest regret of her life, was a one-off. A fascinating and tragic one-off, but certainly not a trend. Apparently, I was wrong.

Since I stumbled upon that article, more have surfaced. There’s even a book on the topic, No Kids: 40 Good Reasons Not to Have Children, by Corinne Maier, a Brussels-based psychoanalyst and mother of two. (Gems include “…being forced to adopt the ‘idiot language’ of children and inevitably being disappointed by your offspring.”) Marie Claire recently covered the trend of regretting becoming a parent, citing anecdotal evidence and small studies that have been conducted around the world (including one in Germany where 8 percent of the 1,200 parents polled said they regretted having kids).


And a part of me gets it, at least a little bit. Look, having kids is not easy. That is undeniable. There are times when all of us moms, I imagine, feel like maybe this was a mistake. Or at least, in that particularly hard moment we wonder how much easier life might be if we hadn’t had kids. There have been many times when my husband or babysitter or whomever was coming to relieve me ran late and I had to miss my plans. Bitter and disgruntled, I’ve looked around me at the heaps of toys and dirty socks everywhere and longed for an old school night on the town — no responsibilities or chicken nuggets in sight.

And here’s something else: I get that some women think it’ll be grand, and then the baby comes and brings with it postpartum depression or stress. Or worse yet, some moms are on the fence about it or come into motherhood by accident, and then resent their children.

However, even though I’ve had bouts of depression and debilitating fatigue, even though my marriage has not always read like a storybook since I gave birth, even though my body will never again look like it did before, even though I’ve had moments or even weeks where I’ve doubted if I’m up to this task of parenthood, even though, even though… I look at my daughter and I just can’t even imagine my life without her.

I feel for these women who regret having children, but I feel even more for their kids. In fact, I have a friend whose mom regretted having children. One day, my friend and her siblings came home from school and found their mother was gone. She walked out leaving nothing behind but a note explaining that she no longer wanted to be a mom. The hurt cut deep, as you can well imagine. I’m proud to say that my friend beat the odds of what a devastating, soul-crushing loss this was and turned into an incredible mother herself. But she didn’t have to. If that were me, with my fragile temperament and tendency toward melancholy, I feel certain I’d be wandering through life hapless and confused to this day. For my own mother, even now that I’m grown and married, is still a central part of my daily life. I rely on her love and guidance just like I did at 2, at 7, at 15.

When you bring a child into this world, you are making a choice. You are deciding to become a mother. No one knows exactly what it’s going to be like before they do it. And no one can predict their future circumstances — a loss of income or partner can totally throw things into a tailspin. But if that’s tough for you, imagine how it is on the children. The ones who didn’t get a choice. The ones who just ended up here. Furthermore, imagine what life is like for children who know their mothers regret their existence, for whatever reason. Unfathomable.

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