Advice to and from moms who (sometimes!) regret having kids

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Tired as a mother mug by Etsy seller PoshDesignsCo
Tired as a mother mug by Etsy seller PoshDesignsCo
I'm a new mom, which means I'm hanging out with a lot of new moms. Occasionally one of the new parents will make comments about wishing they were childless again. I get blowing off steam sometime, but I'm constantly rattled by one friend in particular who's been saying this, strongly, for two years now. I don't know how to respond to these comments.

At what point is it more than just frustration and something I should be concerned with? -Valencia

Real talk: Parenting is hard, and there are times when some moms regret having kids. Whether you're in that position yourself, or have a friend who going through that… here are some great pieces of advice from women who have BEEN THERE. Here's what moms who have (at one time or another) regretted being moms have to say about moms who regret having kids…

Being a mother isn't the bliss I'd always believed it to be

I feel your friend, honestly. I only have one child (almost four); I love him dearly (like, overwhelmingly) but I realized that being a mother isn't the bliss I'd always believed it to be, and that I don't want this prison-ish identity of mother. I hate the expectations. I hate the chains. I hate that it's changed my relationship with my husband.

All that said, I have it relatively easy. My husband has been good about letting me take the breaks I need, and I never did talk him into the second I thought would make it all okay.

I hope to change my mind someday, because a part of me still wants a daughter. But motherhood, man… -Ashes

She's not a monster, she's tired

Being a parent comes naturally to some people (and I envy them every day), but for others, it can be a joy that turns into a sleepless, frustrating grind… the same thing every day. Lack of privacy, lack of personal space, constant, never-ending needy needy needy little creatures who can't do a lot for themselves. I often feel the same way as your friend, and I've felt the same way for days at a time. My children are not neglected, and I'm not going to murder them. What your friend needs is a day off.

Your friend is remembering all the time she used to have to be her own person, to do what she used to take for granted; whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted. She's not a monster, she's tired.

I'm lucky in that I've been able to go on some vacations with my husband.. and every time I do, it is like I am remembering how to be my own person, and I come back missing my kids, and feeling okay again. Even a short afternoon can help.. being able to eat a meal on your own, and not worry about anything except what YOU want to do. She needs a break. -Autumn

It may be just normal venting or an indicator of a bigger problem

I've been having these thoughts myself recently. They are usually fleeting and surface when I'm feeling overwhelmed and short on sleep. Parenting is freakin' hard all on its own even without the many other life challenges that may come along with it. It requires many sacrifices. So it's hard not to feel a little like the grass is greener on the other side when you look at your child-free friends. As much as I love my daughter, I sometimes wonder what life would be like if we had waited longer to have her. More money? More free time? More sex? More sleep?

Your friend's comments may be just normal venting or they may be an indicator of a bigger problem like postpartum depression. If you have reason to believe that she may be a danger to herself or her child, you should encourage her to seek help, notify her partner or family members, and if necessary call your local authorities. -Ashley

Getting out of the house works wonders

I used to feel this way a lot. I was married for nearly nine years and grew to resent my whole life. My husband, my kids, all of it. Now don't get me wrong, I loved my children but I really didn't like being a mom all the time.

Is your friend a full-time stay at home mom or does she work? If she is a full-time stay at home mom, perhaps she needs a break and needs to get back into the working world a bit — maybe not necessarily a full-time job, but a part-time job might help.

Getting out of the house works wonders. I did so much better as a working parent. I had more patience and could deal with the kids better than if I were home with them all day every day. -Laurel

Any other tired moms out there? Let's get real with each other in the comments…

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  1. The advice above is great. Thank you for talking about this!

    I love being a mom – but we use day care, I work out of the house and surrounded by other adults, we do weekends without the kid about twice a year. If I had to be a stay at home mom and never had a weekend away I don't know if I'd love motherhood quite so much.

    4 agree
  2. I'm a new mom (my son is a little over 2 months). I haven't gotten to that point at all yet, but I think that's largely due to having a supportive co-parent and going back to work part-time at 8 weeks. I love my son, but I didn't love having it be just me and him 5 days a week in the time between my husband going back to work and me going back to work. It was exhausting.

    To be fair, I'm now exhausted by getting up at 6:30 to go to work after a night of feedings, but it's more of a strictly physical thing and I find it a little easier to cope with.

  3. Support. Support. Support. That is my only advice. Their are very few, if any, safe places to complain about parenting. Or to talk about some of the very serious things that come up in parenting.

    I have had people, people very close to me, tell me they just don't understand women who don't "take" to motherhood (in reference to talking about PPD and PPA). I have had other people look me in the face and tell me I should be grateful for my kids and not so complaining. I have found a small group of friends who will laugh along with me as I talk about how my kids are jerks (because kids are jerks), or will listen as I talk about my latest anxiety trigger. It took me nearly 5 years to find that safe place. And I know some people never find that safe place and have to put on the strong mom martyr front forever.

    6 agree
  4. I don't like the word "regret", but had I had all the info ahead of time, I might have chosen to make different decisions. Namely, had I known I would be unable to conceive, I would have thought harder before I married a man with a child.

    I know stepmoms with joint custody(we have full) have equal if not even more struggles, but having this kid 24/7/365 who will never call me Mom is sometimes a glaring reminder of my infertility. I a stay-at-home parent. I do all the mom work, but I'm not "Mom". I love my kiddo and wouldn't trade her for anything, but the fact that she did not come from my body and I didn't adopt her can be a really sore subject, especially when I can't take her to the doctor or meetings at school without getting a signed permission slip from her "real" parent.

    I feel like I don't belong in any mom group. The moment anyone finds out I didn't give birth to her, they automatically go into one of two modes, the, "you're a saint for raising an autistic child who isn't even yours", or the, "Billy, get away from this woman. She's not a REAL mother!" one. Neither are accurate.

    I have the same frustrations as any mother, the same heartbreaks, the same up-all-night worries, the same hopes and dreams for the future, but because of that ugly word, "step," I'm forever excluded.

    And then we come to the kid herself. She is a wonderful, bright, unique creature who has so much in common with her dad and very little with me. I try so hard to connect with her, but it's super difficult, at times impossible(due to the autism thing) to get her to do something she isn't interested in. So yeah…maybe regret is the right word after all…but just sometimes.

    5 agree
    • THANK YOU! I am a stepmom and I hate those two camps too. The other one that is my favorite is if I am frustrated I get met with the "oh just wait until you have one of your own!" Like what I am currently doing is not "really" mothering because the kids didn't come from my loins.

      I'm glad to know that I am not the only one out there feeling that way.

      4 agree
      • Yes yes yes so much! I was chatting with an adviser at school the other day(I just started back to school as a way to combat the "I hate motherhood" boredom) and when I mentioned my kid by the term "stepdaughter", she said, "Oh…she's…she's not your NATURAL child?" Nope lady, she's pretty freakin' unnatural.

        2 agree
        • High five!!

          Yes, evidently they need to pass through your lady garden before really counting as your own children. Otherwise, you're just parenting on a whim? For the hell of it? I'm not sure.

          My kids biological mother completely left the picture and wants nothing to do with them (LONG story!!), so I kind of feel like I should be getting bonus points, not a guilt trip.

          Congrats on going back to school btw!!

          2 agree
  5. I think it is also important to remember a couple other things. First, how supportive is her partner? I have a friend whose husband (while a nice guy) does very little in the care for the kids department (he's getting better). She has vented several times especially since she has a very challenging toddler. The second thing is that many kiddos get SO MUCH BETTER after age 4. My kid, who wasn't even that challenging, was a struggle until he could effectively communicate and comprehend. I enjoy spending time with him much more now than I did one to two years ago when it felt much more like a grind.
    I think it boils down to she likely needs more support but doesn't want or know how to ask. You might try and talk with her about ways and people she can ask for support from. I have a friend who offered to watch my kiddo one evening a month for me (I'm a single parent) and it has made the world of difference.

    4 agree
  6. Regarding Ashley's comment in the article:
    "Your friend's comments may be just normal venting or they may be an indicator of a bigger problem like postpartum depression. If you have reason to believe that she may be a danger to herself or her child, you should encourage her to seek help, notify her partner or family members, and if necessary call your local authorities."

    I would caution people against contacting the authorities if the person is suspected of having post partum depression (PPD). As someone with PPD & PPA (post partum anxiety), there was a huge fear for me of not being a 'good enough mother' and having someone take away my kid. Also, there is a huge difference between PPD, PPA, and post partum psychosis – which is the desire or thoughts of harming your child. Only a very small percentage of people with post partum mental health issues have post partum psychosis (like 4% or something). If someone truly has post partum psychosis, they need to get treatment ASAP! But, if someone 'just' has PPD or PPA, it may be more harmful to contact police departments or child protection agencies. What the person with a post partum mental health issues does need is someone who will help and encourage them to get the treatment that they need to get them on the road to recovery. This usually includes things like counseling, psychiatric care (sometimes medications), support groups, etc. It very rarely also could include hospitalization and getting authorities involved for things like potentially wanting to harm the child.

    Also, as someone with PPD & PPA and a child who does not sleep well, I can say that I do not love parenting yet and I had a very hard time not regretting it when the PPD was really bad. I have talked at length with counselors about this, and it is 'normal' to not love every minute of parenting. Breaks and talking things through with other trusted people has helped. But, I also needed to feel 'okay' with just not loving the early stages of parenting! Your friend may need a support person or group who can help them to be okay with their feelings and situation.

    18 agree
    • I absolutely agree. Plus, by and large, mothers with perinatal mood disorders are LESS likely to harm their child. If anything, postpartum depression, anxiety, and OCD are more likely to take the form of being hypervigilant – one really common one is wanting to go down the stairs on your bottom while holding your child because you can imagine falling so vividly. PPD, PPA, or OCD may be a major problem for your friend even if there is zero likelihood of her hurting herself or her child. Please encourage her to go to http://www.postpartum.net and look at some resources to see if she recognizes herself in that. Perinatal mood disorders are both common and treatable, so for anyone reading this who is wondering whether this is you, please please go to http://www.postpartum.net and look at some of their free and confidential resources, because you don't have to feel this way.

      1 agrees
  7. I'm child-free, by choice, and I want to thank the OP, the respondents, and all other mothers out there for being awesome and supportive. Fear of regretting kids is one of the reasons I don't have them, and I appreciate all of you for being honest enough to admit that you DO have those thoughts.

    22 agree
    • My husband and I are also remaining child-free by choice and I agree, I really do feel like I would've regretted having them. I enjoy my life as it is and can't imagine having to take care of a little person. Our cat suits me just fine.
      I also agree it's super brave for a mother to admit that she sometimes has feelings of regret. I think it's natural to have those feelings, but I also think there's a stigma attached to them because the pervading societal expectation is for mothers to love being mother and think it's the greatest thing on earth.

      2 agree
  8. Notice how each person feels the need to qualify their feelings with, "But I love my child…"

    It's awful the kind of pressure that is on mothers to have to "soften" the blow of them not being thrilled with motherhood. Guess what – even if you don't "love" your child, you're still a good person & parent and you don't have to preemptively defend yourself against anyone who would judge.

    Honestly, I came upon the most peace when I realized I didn't have to give one, two, or three fucks about what anyone thought. No hat for your baby? Fuck off. You bottle feed? Here's a bag of dicks to eat. Spotting them on playground equipment? STFU. My kid, my rules. It's so liberating.

    8 agree
  9. I do not regret my children. But…

    Life is still SO HARD. My toddlers are exhausting. My youngest is on the cusp of talking so just cries all the time as a communication method. They are so needy. They're hungry but don't want to eat x, y or z. And I didn't cut off the crusts, wah! And I did another poo in my undies, Mummy. And my cup is empty! I wanted the GREEN bowl, I don't like the yellow bowl! Look at this block I'm meant to be packing up. Now look at this one! What interesting blocks! I couldn't possibly pack them away and I certainly wasn't interested in them for the hours they were lying on the floor, but now that I'm packing them away, so interesting!! And they're my responsibility all the time!!

    Thankfully I have a very supportive husband. I see a physiologist occasionally. I have a supportive community with my church. We're getting an au pair this year to help me out. I'm going to do some part time work to get me out of the house.

    I do not regret my children. But I need things in place so that I can cope, because I have trouble coping with my life as a full time stay at home Mum. This season will pass in a couple of years. What can I do to make sure I'm persevering through this marathon?

    Your friends sounds like she desperately needs help. Talking strongly about regretting her child over the past 2 years sounds like a cry for help from someone who's not coping. It's OK to not cope. But she needs help. Please encourage her to seek professional help.

    5 agree
  10. I didn't begin to feel occasional regret until I had my second baby 20 months after my first. The difficulties of having a newborn or even an infant while caring for a toddler caught me off guard. Thoughts like "what have we done? We had it good before the second was born" invaded my mind in the first few weeks more often than I was comfortable with. As baby #2 began to get older (he will be 1 next month) the regret was no longer a daily feeling. But it still creeps up every once in awhile. It is a feeling I am very uncomfortable with, and I worry baby #2 will pick up on these feelings. The regret is never about having kids at all, just about having the second so close. Which makes me feel like I have a favorite. That in turn makes me "neglect" my firstborn to "prove" to the baby that i do love and want him. Pulling away from my first born (favorite/preferred) makes me resent the baby more. It's a viscous cycle.
    I am still struggling with this, so I really don't have much advice on how to cope. I can say I am eternally grateful that my husband really steps up to the plate and takes his full share of the load. The only thing I have found that helps somewhat is when I "allow" my husband to deal with the baby totally so that I may just enjoy my first born with minimal guilt.
    And not to get too political, but more recently with the politics happening in America right now, regret of having any kids has started to creep in. That regret is born of fear, though.

    1 agrees
  11. As a human who hasn't until recently thought that motherhood could be for her, I really appreciate all the posts I feel like have been popping up recently discussing mother and parenthood openly and honestly.

    Thanks for keeping it real, Homies <3

    7 agree
  12. You don't explain the extent of her comments which is causing you concern.
    Let's be honest. Some people in fact due regret having kids. Another thing is that parenting happens in phases, for some people they don't like the baby years or toddler year or adolescent years. Some people just need to get of the young child ages to begin to actually enjoy parenting and that's ok. It doesn't mean you don't love your children but parenting is one of those thing you don't know until you experience. I have a 2 month old infant and while I love her to death, if I were to ask myself honestly I do not know that I would it again giving a time machine. Talking about harming a child is different than realizing that you made a mistake.

    1 agrees
  13. I know it has been stated above, but the number one question I have is: does she have a SO/how supportive is her SO?

    My husband and I got married with the expectation that a house and kids would follow. Well, the house came, and the kids have yet to materialize. During this time of unexpected fertility, I really got the chance to view my husband as a potential father. While I know he would be a great dad, I suddenly found myself really worried that I would be shouldering all of the parenting that wasn't fun. I have been taking the infertility as a blessing in disguise, because I KNOW I would have regrets if I had gotten pregnant in the last two years we have been trying.

  14. "I regret having my kid(s)" is a statement that is usually responded to with scorn & contempt, therefore, most women dare not whisper it. Though, I would venture to say, many mothers have thought this at least once. We feel the need to defend ourselves with "… but I love them!!" as if to say, "See! I am not a truly horrible & selfish person." I don't know when it became acceptable that mothers should cease to have a life, thoughts or interests of their own upon bearing a child, but somewhere this seems to be the unwritten rule. If we could change how society views mothers, maybe less women would regret having children?

    I have teenagers and, at times, I regret having them. I don't regret THEM. They are, teenager "issues" aside, pretty great kids! They are turning into very caring, responsible adults that I am very proud of. What I regret is the things I had to give up to raise them. My career options (once very promising) were limited because I cannot travel for business. I would love to travel for entertainment too, but due to time & money restraints, that is limited as well. Where I live is also restricted because I have children (i.e. I can't live in another country). Stuck in a world of helicopter parenting as the norm, I feel enormous pressure to give up all thoughts and interests that do not directly relate to my children. I'm sorry, but I rarely see these type of issues affecting fathers. This is not to say that fathers don't make these sacrifices sometimes, but it is not normally EXPECTED. I guess that is where the problem lies. I think we have extremely high expectations of what it means to be a "good" mother.

    So next time someone says "they regret having kid(s)", please cut them a little slack. Maybe they need to know that it is ok to make mistakes; no one is perfect. Maybe they just need to feel a little autonomy. Life is not about being tethered to our kids. It is ok to have your own interests. In fact, it is healthy for your children to see you as an individual & realize everything is not always about them. I still have regrets, but I think they would have been easier to bear if I was just able to voice them without being judged so harshly. On that note… Thank you, Offbeat Home & Life!! 🙂

    1 agrees

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