'Having a child was the biggest mistake of my life.'

A woman in the UK has sparked controversy with an article in which she calls having a child the ‘biggest mistake of my life’.

Isabella Dutton, now 57-years-old, says she knows that ‘there are millions who will consider me heinously cold-blooded and unnatural’, but believes that there are also other mothers who secretly feel the same.

Dutton wrote for The Daily Mail:

Isabella Dutton says that having children was the worst mistake she ever made.

My son Stuart was five days old when the realisation hit me like a physical blow: having a child had been the biggest mistake of my life. Even now, 33 years on, I can still picture the scene: Stuart was asleep in his crib. He was due to be fed but hadn’t yet woken.

I heard him stir but as I looked at his round face on the brink of wakefulness, I felt no bond. No warm rush of maternal affection. I felt completely detached from this alien being who had encroached upon my settled married life and changed it, irrevocably, for the worse.

Dutton was 22-years-old when her son Stuart was born – quite young by today’s standards – and she was required to give up her career as a typist.  While Dutton says that it wasn’t the job she missed after becoming a mother, she did miss other aspects of childless independence; time alone to think, to read, peace and solitude.

Two years and four months later, Dutton gave birth to a baby girl. It might seem wilfully contrary that someone who claims to hate motherhood so much chose to bring a second child into the world, but Dutton explains that she thought it would be cruel not to give her son a sibling.

Dutton’s feelings after having her daughter were much the same. She writes:

Yet I dreaded her dependence; resented the time she would consume, and that like parasites, both my children would continue to take from me and give nothing meaningful back in return.

Whenever I’ve told friends I wished I’d never had them, they’ve gasped with shock. ‘You can’t mean that?’ But, of course, I do.

Dutton with her son Stuart, and daughter Jo.

Despite her aversion to motherhood, and not feeling a natural inclination towards being maternal, Dutton devoted herself to the ‘job’.

She believes that it was her dedication and commitment to being a good mother – to making sure she provided for her children, and fulfilled their needs so conscientiously – that made her resent it all the more.


Despite not wanting to be a mother, Dutton never relied upon childcare, nannies or similar – and is not uncomfortable with criticising mothers who do.

When Dutton married her husband Tony, now 62, he was aware that she didn’t want to have children. But the childhood sweethearts married when Dutton was 19 – and after a few years, Tony began asking whether Dutton was sure she didn’t want children. She says that she agreed to become a mother – even though she didn’t want to – because she loved him.

She writes of the experience:

But there were provisos: if I was going to have children I knew absolutely – illogical as it may seem in view of my feelings – that I intended to raise them myself without any help from nannies or childminders.

This wasn’t a way of assuaging my guilt, because I felt none. It was simply that, having brought them into the world, I would do my best for them.

I cannot understand mothers who insist they want children – especially those who undergo years of fertility treatment – then race back to work at the earliest opportunity after giving birth, leaving the vital job of caring for them to strangers.

She continues:

Why have them at all if you don’t want to bring them up, or can’t afford to? And why pretend you wanted them if you have no intention of raising them? This hypocrisy is, in my view, far more pernicious and difficult to fathom than my own admission that my life would have been better without children.

Dutton’s daughter Jo, now 31-years-old, was sadly diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis a few years ago, and is bed-bound.  She lives with Dutton and her husband. Dutton – who never wanted to have children because of their dependence upon her – is a full-time carer, and will have a daughter who is dependent upon her, for the rest of her life.

Having children does irrevocably change your life. And no doubt Dutton’s experience and view has been influenced by the life-long dependency that her daughter’s illness has resulted in. But it’s still extremely rare to see someone publicly reveal that their life was changed for the worse and not the better.

Do Dutton’s comments make you angry? Do you think that she’s right and many mothers regret becoming parents but are too afraid to say so?