This online community is dedicated to parents who regret having children.

"I want to leave and run away but then the feelings of guilt and worry set in and I’m not sure I could bring myself to do that."

"I always thought I wanted a family but now I wake up and immediately can’t wait for the day to be over."

"A mum is supposed to deeply and fiercely love her kid, and I just don’t."

These are some of the stories that you'll find in the forum r/RegretfulParents on Reddit, an online community that provides a rare space for parents looking to share their most challenging experiences and thoughts as parents – all of them centred on the idea that having children was a mistake.

Watch: The Mamamia team confesses the time they thought they were a bad mum. Post continues after video.

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The community advertises itself as a safe space "for parents who think they shouldn't have become parents to rant, confess, get off their chest about their kids, significant others, families, whatever."

It has well over 100,000 members (both fathers and mothers) who post stories about their conflicted lives with children and who consider that it may have been a mistake to have them at all. 


Some complain about their children's personalities or behaviour, others mourn the lives they had before children, unencumbered by the responsibility of parenthood, and others reflect that they simply don't feel anything at all towards their kids. 

There are posts labelled as those that are just being published for a sense of release and others that are explicitly asking for advice – a lot of which is gentle and makes light suggestions about how to improve a parent's relationship with their child

The community is clearly a necessary outlet for many, with multiple posts a day delving into the details of peoples' lives as regretful parents.

One thread on the forum reads: "What moment made you realise you possibly regretted becoming a parent?" with answers including: "As soon as she was born and the nurse plopped her on my chest I knew I f**ked up." 

Another person replies: "When I started getting anxiety hearing mum, mama, mummy all day. Also when I realised I don’t like playing with my children, especially pretend play."

There is a fair amount of research internationally that explores exactly how many parents regret having children. Back in 2021, one UK study found that one in 12 British parents reported regretting having children, with young parents aged 25 to 34 years old the most likely to feel regretful. 

Another study from Germany in 2016 found that 19 per cent of German mothers and 20 per cent of German fathers said that even though they loved their children if they could decide again they would not want to have any. 


Dr Cher Mcgillivray, a clinical psychologist who specialises in complex trauma and resilience in children and families, tells Mamamia that expressing this kind of thoughts in a community like r/RegretfulParents can feel extremely relieving for parents, particularly as they know they won't be judged harshly and to say that you regret having children in other spaces can be deeply taboo.

"I think it's just validating and supportive and inspiring to hear other people's stories of absolute pain and torture, I think it actually encourages parents," she says. 

But Dr Mcgillivray also notes that there can be significant issues in logging into a community like this, which implies that once a parent has labelled themselves a 'regretful parent' that it is a permanent state – and that is not necessarily true for all people.

"Maybe they're listening to that negative self-talk a lot and then just repeating it and the dangers of living in that cycle is that you're going to be living in your 'threat brain', in your 'reptilian brain' because you're in defence mode," she tells Mamamia.

Listen to This Glorious Mess where we are joined by Dr Jodi Richardson to help us understand our anxieties through her own experience and what resources we need to keep our worries at bay. Post continues below.


Dr Mcgillivray has also done a significant amount of research into the concept of moral injury amongst parents (a term that refers to the impact of events on people that betray their own deeply held moral beliefs) and has found that when people shame and blame themselves, it can maintain ongoing mental health issues like PTSD and depression

"Negative self-talk is not helpful for your mental health... So, we really need to actually be helping these parents come to some sort of peace and ease with themselves because that's what's going to help heal their relationships with their kids." 

So, while a community like r/RegretfulParents might be validating and cathartic in a world that tends to judge parents who express negative thoughts about parenthood, Dr Mcgillivray asserts that it should also become a 'springboard' from which parents can reflect clearly on how to rebuild and move on from these emotions. 

"Becoming a parent, you lose your sense of self, everything becomes about the kids and you know, you lose your identity sometimes. It's about helping these parents find themselves again so that they can have hope and see a future for themselves," Dr Mcgillivray says.

"Because if they can put themselves first, I promise you everything else will fall into place. It's about helping them rebuild their life."

Elfy Scott is an executive editor at Mamamia. 

Featured Image: Mamamia.

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