How do I support a friend who says she wishes she didn’t have kids?

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By: Mats LindhCC BY 2.0
I’m not a parent yet, but many of my close friends are fairly new parents. I’m doing my best to be supportive without being demanding or nosy. While the topics we discuss are different now than before kids, most of the time I think we’re getting along alright. Occasionally one of the new parents will make comments about wishing they were childless again, and I don’t know how to respond to these comments. I get blowing off some steam, but at what point is it more than just frustration and something I should be concerned with?

When I ask her, she says she’s fine and that I should ignore it, but it’s been nearly two years of “I wish I were childless again,” nearly daily. I’m growing increasingly concerned. I just want advice to know how to be more supportive — whether that means I relax and let her blow off steam, or I try to get someone else to hear the things she’s saying. — Bethany

Comments on How do I support a friend who says she wishes she didn’t have kids?

  1. An occasional offhand comment isn’t a big deal–I, myself, am guilty of saying that to a friend or two a couple of times, especially when my kiddo was in his first year and I was totally sleep deprived, and going out for more than a few hours without him required days of advance notice to pump enough milk. But if she’s saying it nearly every day? That’s a bit excessive. If her child/ren is/are very young, it could be postpartum depression, in which case, she needs to see a therapist; or maybe she’s just feeling overwhelmed, and might benefit from the offer of some free babysitting and maybe a gift certificate to some fun outing (if you’re willing, of course).

    Also, if you ever think her children might be in danger, do not hesitate to call the authorities! Better to be wrong and overreact than to be right and not do anything.

    • Even if her children are not young it could still be depression. And even if she is just overwhelmed, a good therapist might be able to help her work through what she needs that she isn’t getting and how to go about getting it.

      I think suggesting that she seems overwhelmed and unhappy and that seeing a therapist might help her would be a good idea in any case.

  2. Well, I feel for your friend, and I can empathize. I have a three year old and I often long for the days of adult conversation and sleeping in. Parenting can be really demanding and really difficult. Some parents are really fufilled with raising a family and some are not (like me). This doesn’t mean that she doesn’t love her kid, but it might mean that her needs are not being met somewhere. Sounds like she could use a break. The transition from single woman to partner and mom is a tough one for many. Things can get complicated further if there was any PPD. See what she feels is missing, and maybe help her with that? Or at least check in and see if she’s still finding time to do the things she loves. If not, perhaps it’s time to recenter herself, whatever that entails. Moms often forget/feel guilty about taking care of themselves, but an unhappy mom makes parenting even harder. Good luck to you both!

  3. 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 prisonish identity of mother. I hate the expectations. I hate the chains. I hate that its 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. Is she getting the space she needs from her kid(s)? Is there some factor of relationship dissatisfaction?

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

  4. 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.

    • “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.”

      This. All day long THIS.

      It’s the constant need to be thinking for other people, which zaps any energy you have to think for yourself. If I could just get one day, even just 2 hours, to go to lunch with my fiance’ minus children, I’d feel like I’d died and gone to heaven. But I keep pushing on because they are counting on me to guide them through life.

      I can’t say for certain that your friend is this way or not, but maybe she just feels safe around you enough to vent this way and knows you may not read too much into it other than just that: venting. It feels good sometimes to just get it out there even if it doesn’t need to go any further. But it also doesn’t hurt to offer to help (a shower without children in the room would be nice!) if you feel comfortable offering.

      • Yeah, I wonder if there’s a way to approach your friend in this way. Saying something like, “I’m so glad you feel safe enough around me to share your feelings, so many parents feel isolated when they talk about their childree days…But I wonder, is there a way I could so something to help ease the burden it feels sometime? Like, would me watching your kid for a few hours while you get a massage help?”

  5. We all make decisions we regret – hopefully they’re small decisions, but sometimes we regret big ones. Lots of childfree people get told they’ll eventually regret that decision, and maybe a small percentage of them will. But as a society we never talk about or accept that there’s also a small percentage of parents who regret that decision. (Although we probably can all think of someone who might fit that bill.)

    Now, obviously, your friend has to live with the consequences of her choice, but I think there are ways to help her find acceptance and eventually more happiness with her family. A lot of that will come down to finding out what exactly it is that’s making her so unhappy.

    Was it the circumstances around the conception – was it an oops? Did she feel pressured to have a baby by her spouse/family?

    Is it her children – maybe they’re high needs? Maybe she just doesn’t have anything in common with them, and that makes it hard to find the joy in parenting them?

    Is her marriage failing and with children she feels stuck? Does she wish she could change her life in another meaningful way – move to a different city, try a new career? Is she just exhausted from the day-to-day of caring for young children and need a break?

    Depending on the issue, your friend might benefit from a counselor or therapist. I don’t think you need to be that person for her, but you could start a conversation with her about what exactly is bothering her. Because none of us is totally stuck – we can always reinvent ourselves and our lives.

  6. If you’re willing, babysitting once or twice a week for about an hour could give her a chance to grab a shower, take a walk or eat an uninterupted meal while it’s still warm. That would be a tremendous gift.

  7. Its important to see the difference between wishing she had the freedom of being childless again and wishing she hadn’t had her kid. The latter is deeply concerning, but the former you can help with. Who doesn’t wish for the ability to sleep in some morning, or stay out late?

    If you really want to help, offer to babysit (at your house overnight) so that she and her husband can go out at the same time and then come to a house where they dont have to worry about being quiet, or so that she can go out with girlfriends late into the night with out worrying about to be up and making breakfast at seven.

    Now, if she already has plenty of free babysitting and is getting out multiple times a month and is still wishing she didn’t have kids, then things are trickier. I would try rebutting each comment with a reminder of the good stuff. “Yeah, but its not like you don’t still get to out. You were hilarious at Susan’s party” or “Yeah but then you would have missed that adorable moment with you child and the swing set.”

    If nothing else, her responses to these comments will help you figure out whats really bothering her. Is she dwelling on all the stuff she missed (point out that no one makes it to everything) or does she not feel like the cute stuff is making up for the trials of toddlerhood? Some of this is stuff you can help reassure her with, and some of it is stuff you might need to advise her to get help with (even if its just hiring a nanny).

    • I’d be careful about rebutting her feelings. That makes an unsafe environment and she’s heard something like it from most of the other people she’s expressed herself to. I do think coming up with descriptions about where you genuinely see things in her life that you would want in yours would accomplish that goal.

  8. I would be as supportive as you can, there is a lot of unexpected that comes with parenthood, and sometimes that can leave people feeling very lost. There could be an issue with depression, or with something in your friend’s life being unfulfilled. Talk to her about other parts of her life maybe she just needs someone she can talk to about how things have changed and how they weren’t expected.

    I wouldn’t say it is necessarily her kid that she regrets, but rather the other changes in her life that happened as a result of having a kid.

  9. First, I think you need to establish whether this is mere venting or whether your friend is at risk – of self harm or harming somebody else.

    Generally, if its serious, watch for other signs. Does she seem depressd in general? Does she lack energy? Does she seem to have mood swings, a bad temper, or anything else that concerns you? Do you know if she has a history of mental illness? If you see anything else that concerns you at any point, you shouldn’t feel bad about contacting either the police or an appropriate social services agency that can first assure your friend’s safety, her kids’ safety and then work on getting her some help.

    If you’re satisfied that your friend isn’t in any danger, then it sounds like some therapy might be in order. However, you really can’t make her do this. Sometimes its best to sort of let the speaker convince themselves into it. Saying something like “you sound really unhappy” can open the door for her to say “yes, and I think this is why…” You can gently suggest perhaps talking to somebody during a conversation like that. Also, it might be useful to stay away from words like “therapy” or “counseling” – they tend to evoke images of mental illness, which can scare people. Words like “talk to somebody” or “counselor” tend to go over easier.

    The most severe option in a case like this would be voluntary surrunder of the children to somebody else – a relative, or the foster care system. Those cases are super rare, but if your friend is really, truly miserable to the point where the kids’ lives are adversely affected, it might be the best choice. If your friend has family, friends or a support system that might even give her a (temporary) reprieve from her issues, it might be worth sitting down with a family law attorney to see if there is anyway to do a temporary shift in custody – for both her wellbeing and the kids.

    Obviously, these are more extreme alternatives. Your friend may simply be overwhelmed, tired or angry about her life or circumstances. If she’s tired, try to suggest to her some ways to rectify that. If she’s overwhelmed, there are ways to deal with that. This may be an easily overcome hurdle. But if it is something more serious, there are ways to address that as well.

    • I also wonder if your friend is a stay at home mom. Some women talk themselves out of going back to work for a variety of reasons ( they never thought they would, the financial trade-off doesn’t seem worth it, they perceive that getting the right job would be too difficult, etc). If that’s the case, then helping her change the way she thinks about that might help. I know some moms who actually lose money on childcare because getting to be a professional saves their mental health. Also, if she doesn’t enjoy parenting, it’s better for her kids to spend some time in a surrogate’s care so they feel enjoyable.

      • Similarly, I know stay at home moms who still use daycare (from 1 half day a week to full time). It’s good for the kids because it helps with developing social skills, and it’s good for the moms because it gives them some time off each week to focus on whatever they need to focus on. Financially, this isn’t possible for everyone, but for families that can swing it, it can be great.

    • I think this is terrible advice: calling children’s aid is not what friends do. I have many friends who have been chewed up by the system, some from loving homes where once childrens aid was involved got sent (temporarily) to group homes or worse. If you really suspected the children were in imminent danger maybe, but if your friend seems depressed or unhappy having to deal with childrens aid is not going to make things better. I feel like this advice is most often given by people with no personal experience with social services. Calling the police/childrens aid is not appropriate if someone has mood swings or a history of mental illness, its appropriate if they are totally losing it and the children are neglected or in danger. Sorry to be negative, but I had to chime in with the other side here. Its extremely unlikely that the children would be better off in foster care.

      • I grew up in an abusive home in Nebraska. Let me tell you: circumstances have to irrefutably out of control for authorities to remove a child from his/her parents, at least in that state. We were unquestionably abused–physical violence that left marks, locked out of the house in the winter, no access to money (even for school lunch or my necessary medication), plenty of psychological abuse. It wasn’t until I admitted to a friend that I was suicidal (age 12) that we were removed from the home, and then only for a few days. We told counselors. We went to the hospital. After about age 7, I never lied to a DCFS agent. My non-abusive, stable-incomed, remarried father living in the same school district sued for custody and actually lost (despite the documented abuse in my mom’s home). So I’m not saying a life in foster care is better than what we had at home–not saying that AT ALL–but it isn’t easy to get your kids removed from your care. You really, really have to f*ck up. I understand the desire to protect a friend, but not at the expense of a child’s safety. I think that if you think things are bad enough for DCFS to take a look, you should follow that impulse. I know I wish more people had.

  10. Sometimes being supportive means being a mirror for ppl to see themselves. I am a mom and, like Sara above, am not totally “fulfilled” by motherhood. But I would be devastated if my son ever felt that. He is not responsible for my happiness but I am 100% for his. If I had a friend who was saying that she wished she was childless, daily for 2 years I would probably say something along the lines of: “Did you know you say that a lot? What’s going on with you??”
    Someone in my family was the victim of an extremely neglectful parent through her elementary and high school years and the damage it has caused her will never be erased.
    When little ppl are counting on you to take care of them, you better put your own crap aside and do them right.

  11. I have another possible take on this situation. Is it possible that your friend says this to you because you don’t have children yourself, and she (misguidedly) think this will be like, a compliment to you about your own choices? Kind of like a way to say “I don’t judge you for not having children”?

    I think of this because we (a couple without children) have several friends with children who make these kinds of remarks to us, but I know they are completely happy with having children. It kind of feels like they single us out, as childless people, to make this kind of remark to, for something like those kinds of reasons. Or maybe they think they’re giving us good advice to think carefully before having children, because they figure we are under a lot of pressure to have children ourselves and want us to feel less pressured, or to know the less-positive side of having children? Whatever they mean exactly, I’ve always thought these comments were more about what they thought about us than a real complaint about their own situation. But then, they don’t make those kinds of remarks every day, just now and then.

    • I was just going to say this same kind of thing. This could be just a misguided way she’s attempting to make YOU “feel better” or validate your choices. Also, she might see the cool (or even mundane) things that you’re able to do and envy those a bit without actually hating motherhood… and this is the way she expresses that. How does she seem around her own kids? I’d look at that more than at these particular remarks.

      As for what to say to her… maybe just respond (in a neutral tone), “Why do you say that?”

  12. i’m wondering if something is wrong with the system – it just ate my comment! short version is: if it does seem very serious and your friend refuses to get professional help, you could start contacting other friends and her family, even if you don’t know them well (avoid her work friends, obviously). and “intervention” on her depression/etc might be necessary, just like interventions are sometimes required for substance abusers.

    could also have someone be really pushy and say, “Look! We planned this whole thing for you!” like a surprise birthday present. make it hard for her to wiggle out of: grandma will fly in and take care of grandkids for 5 days, with help from friends/babysitters; husband (or friends!) will join her for 2 of the days; she will be on vacationl that particular version takes money, but you get the idea. you can also secretly fundraise for a big big present like that, among friends/family, without mentioning depression or kid problems. “Moms of toddlers get so exhausted and worn down. Let’s pitch in together and surprise Katie with a momcation!” or whatever.

    my stepmom-in-law pushed herself on us in advance, like, “In August I’ll fly up and you take a week off, I’ll take care of your husband” (at the time i was caregiving for an adult and a toddler simultaneously). i would have completely lost my mind without that. she was absolutely right. that’s what i needed.

    calling social services is a last resort only if her children are in danger. CSD will put her under a microscope until her kids are 18.

  13. I agree with all the advice and comments above. I just wanted to add while she’s probably just overwhelmed and tired she either needs to find a way to modify the situation or express herself differently. If those little guys start hearing and understanding that their mom is wishing them away, well, to say that their feelings will be hurt is a gross understatement. My Mom said something to the same effect and I was almost 30. That stuff stays with a person.

    • I agree that it’s important to figure out if the kid(s) are hearing her say these things. If she’s been saying this for two years, that means at least one kid is old enough to understand the words — even if they aren’t old enough to fully comprehend them right now, they can remember the words, and if they’re anything like me they will piece those remembered words together with matured knowledge as they get older. I have clear memories of things my parents said when I was just turning two years old (the damaging things weren’t said until later but still).

  14. I feel that this is kind of timely because 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 it’s 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 post-pardom 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.

  15. I used to feel this way a lot. I was married for nearly 9 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. On the less extreme end of the spectrum – 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. Also, what is her custody situation? Is she married? Divorced? If married, she definitely needs to utilize her spouse to help give her some time off if she needs that. I agree with all the previous posters who suggested some time away just for her. If she’s divorced, she should look at the custody situation and see if there’s a way to relieve all the pressure on her. I divorced my husband and more unusually, he retained full physical custody of the children. I had my freedom but I had lost everything else. I had a lot of time to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, and I did take full advantage of that. Now that I am remarried, my ex and I have changed our custody arrangement so he has a week and I have a week. I discovered more fully what my kids meant to me and I think I’m more fully committed as a mom because of the experience of being single again. (Obviously I don’t recommend that course of action for everyone!)

  16. I think that there is a lot of very well thought out advice on here, but I wanted to add some more. Before assuming anything, ask her point blank about this. Frame it respectfully and without judgement. I don’t know if you see your friend or talk on the phone, but even if someone is sharing these feelings, which seem very personal, with you, it doesn’t mean they are sharing everything else that is going on in their life. Sometimes when people have been friends for a long time, that friendship fulfills specific needs, not all needs. You may be the person she feels safe saying these things to. For me personally, I share them with my husband mostly. We make jokes and laugh our way through the stress, though if it is anything more serious we talk about it. She may not have a partner she can do this with who is also co-parenting with her. You may be that stress relief. Perspective of where you fit into her life my help you see the whole situation. And you can probably only understand that by asking her to explain it to you.

    Personally though, I would be very careful suggesting therapy. That is something people usually need to accept on their own. If it is suggested by others, it can be taken the wrong way. Also, to suggest therapy implies you have a good understanding of everything else that is going on in her life. Some situations seem so black and white from the outside, but once you take in everything else that is going on, it can be a completely different situation.

    You seem to care about this very much, so I suggest letting her explain it to you. She is the one who knows the situation best.

    • Yes to co-parenting! I know that this is a sensitive issue. Sometimes one parent isn’t cooperative, and we all know that suggesting moms go to work can ignite discussions that turn us against each other, which I loathe. Of course, there is also the issue of finding a job that pays enough to make day care a possibility. Still, I know many moms who quit their jobs to stay home, and have since descended into a dark place. And when I hear (read) some people say things like “It’s so hard all day, every day. It never ends”, etc, I have a hard time not saying “stay-at-home parenting isn’t for everyone.”

      I think it’s important that we all adjust to what we need. I plan to be a working mom and co-parent with my husband who will spend half the day with the babies. They will spend some time in day care. But, honestly, I’ve forced myself to confront the fact that everything could change after they are born. It’s scary not to know how you’ll feel, but I push myself to remain flexible. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. And I think that many stay-at-home moms can benefit from the same mindset. Saying that the plan just has to change for your own happiness should be totally acceptable in every situation. All of that said, I don’t know if your friend works/co-parents, so this may not apply. It does seem to be a common problem for dissatisfaction in parenting, however.

      • I think it still never ends even when you work and kid are in daycare. However, having a bit of a physical distance and a company of other adults can be very refreshing. But i know I only feel that way because I trust my son’s care is good when I’m at work. If I didn’t have a good childcare option, the work would not be much of a break since I’d be worrying all the time. But you’re right about stay at home parenting not being for everyone. I was shocked to find out it is something that is very hard for me. But I’m glad I lasted 18 months with it :))

      • Absolutely, stay at home parenting isn’t for everyone. I hated it. The work suggestion can bring up lots of divided opinions, but really, for some people it makes them happier. As with all things mama-related, I firmly believe that a happy and less-stressed mama makes for a happier home environment and THAT’S the best for the kids. That looks different for everyone, and flexibility is key. Being willing to roll with the punches is essential. Mom’s don’t always do that. We think “Oh but I’ll be a bad mom if I do that!!!” and we are scared of what others will think, or what we will think of ourselves for deviating from a previous plan, but we need to be flexible because we don’t know how a thing will work out. If it’s not making us happy, maybe we need a change.

  17. I would try to help her through this. Maybe organise some baby sitting for her kids (could you do it?) and suprise her with a night off. With or without her partner it’s up to you.

    I have said this before ad it was a cry for help. Thankfully I said it to someone that talked me through the things I love about being a mum. I also moved house and quit working for a while (lived off my single parent pension) now I’m ready to start my own business and love being a mother every single day. See for me it was that life had moved so quickly from where I had been to being all about toddler tantrums and fussy eating I couldn’t get my head around it. So for me it worked getting time to just be a mum for a while but for others they might need time to not be a mum for a few hours.

  18. This is apparently not uncommon. I heard a statistic once that as many as 40% of parents wish they hadn’t had children. Of course, that may not be totally accurate and may vary from study to study.

    If she’s expressing this often, you maybe should reach out. The next time, try asking her if you think it would help her to talk to a professional. Seeing a therapist doesn’t necessarily mean you have a problem, but if she does it could help her to discover it. On the other hand, she might just be expressing it to you because she thinks that’s what you want to hear. People tailor their conversations to their audience. She might feel badly that you are the only one in your group without kids, and she might be trying to make you more comfortable. It might help to explore it with her. Ask her why she feels that way. She might open up about depression, or she might just say she wishes she could do some of the things you get to do. Either way, I agree that offering to babysit might help her a lot!

  19. I am really happy you are there for your friend. Your presence and advice could make a huge difference in her life, and her children’s lives.

    My own mother desperately wanted babies, but she was not at all happy with me when I began to speak. She regularly told me that her life was easier before I had my own opinions. She told me I made her life hard, and that she would gladly trade me in for two toddlers.

    This was, and continues to be, devastating. I know she was just venting, but I can’t help but feel if she had been more social, these complaints could have fallen on adult ears rather than on those of a vulnerable child. Children can’t process venting like adults can, and to this day her words echo in my head and make it difficult to interact with her. Children are still building their self-image, and they need to have a solid, positive foundation if you want them to have a solid, positive adulthood.

    Therapy is good for almost everyone! Suggest it to her that at worst, therapy would give her an hour without kids, and at best, it would help her find appropriate outlets for her frustration. Everyone needs stress relief. An impartial therapist will help. Group therapy is awesome too. There might be a mom’s support group she could join. I loved group because it was a reality check with people who have similar problems and understood me.

    Whether or not to bear children is a difficult decision for just this reason. Children are an unknown quantity. You have no idea what it will be like, and every kid comes with their own joys and frustrations. Good friends, partners, and therapists can make all the difference.

  20. This is really hard. I remember vividly, with incredible guilt, how much I desperately wished my newborn daughter was never born when she was about 4 days old. I was devastated that I felt that way as I had always wanted to be a parent and had tried for a year to conceive. Still, 7 years later, I feel terrible about how fervently I wished that wish.

    I don’t know how long it took that feeling to abate – at least a couple of years. Probably until after I had my second child. It was a slow slow burn that often lingered in the background. I love (and loved) my children infinitely, but I missed my old life.

    I am happy to say that I almost never feel that way anymore. Mostly because I just can’t remember my old life anymore. It’s not that I don’t sometimes wish things were easier, but I just don’t really remember in a real way life before kids.

    How can you help your friend? I don’t know. Quick things like time away and such helped, but it often felt like “not enough.” I think that the only thing that worked for me was time. As others have said, you need to have a sense of where this fits in your friend’s pattern. Is she otherwise a loving mother? Showing other signs of stress and depression? I think that if everything else seems ok, a friendly check-in would be warranted, but otherwise I would just give it time.

  21. It’s a difficult issue. And very frustrating, because when you’re a person who says those things no one seems to get it. Even mothers. I had some attachement issues with my child as a result of traumatic birth. I just felt nothing, the feelings of love that other people said they felt for their children were alien to me. But I knew very well how I was SUPPOSED to feel and that made me feel very much worse and more guilty. Pile general exhaustion and loss of my pre-baby life on top of that and I was not a happy bunny. The problem with trying to share this with other people was that they’d just brush me off! Because in their minds no love and wanting to be childless again is equal to neglect. Which I never did any of. I tried my hardest to do my best to the baby and to make sure he new as little of how I felt as possible. I had a duty to this little person, he was here because of my wishes. So I would try to talk and would get “Oh, don’t be silly. Of course you love him! Look how well you look after him and what a happy baby he is!”. Would you tell your friend who told you that she doesn’t love her husband that “well of course you do! Look how tidy and well fed he is!” 🙂
    Also wishing you were childless and wishing something happened to your existing child is very different. You never ever go back to being childless. This finality is a burden in itself that needs some getting used to. Even if something happened so the child is gone, instead of being childless you go to a person who lost their child.
    If you can let your friend talk without giving her answers that might help..What helped me in the end was having a few appointments with a mental health nurse at the maternity hospital. It was so refreshing to just hear someone say “Well, so you don’t love your child yet. It takes time. But for now you’re doing a very good job taking care of him and it is so very important.”

  22. I’m not a parent so I have no practical advice for your friend, but I’ve come to take seriously what people say in jest, but say repetedly. My mother (who had 6 kids) loudly and often made jabs about longing for her child free days. “If only I didn’t have these kids running around I could finally have a clean floor for more than 30 seconds. Oh the good old days”. Everyone, including her at the time, played it off like a joke and it was always said in seeming good humor. Years later, when I told her I planned on being child-free she confided in me that the best day of being a stay at home mom for her was the day her youngest went off to college. That she felt like a prisoner that spent 26 years in solitary confinement and was finally free. She was a good mother and loved her kids, but especially when she was young, a woman was expected to give up everything about herself to take on this role of mother. There were no breaks, no times off, no help and you just had to resign yourself to endless self-sacrifice and disappointment. The baby blues as they called it back then was so common that when one of her circle of friends wasn’t tired and crying all the time post baby my mom and her friends thought she was weird. I asked her if she was so unfulfilled why didn’t she say something to which she replied, “the only time I could even address it was with the armor of humor on because otherwise I felt too sad, too guilty, and too much of a failure. So I made a joke about it every day for almost 3 decades and hoped someone would read between the lines.” So if it’s every day, even if she blows it off and says its just venting or a joke, take it seriously she may not even be able to admit to herself yet that she is having a hard time. It never hurts to say, “Hey we talk about this a lot and I know you say everything is fine, but I want you to know that I’m here for you if it every feels like it’s not fine, I know a great counselor that can really help.”

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