A baby becomes a little girl, a little girl becomes a woman, a woman becomes a mum, and so on, and so on.
But what happens when that woman becomes a mum and regrets it?
Writer Sarah Treleaven explores what it’s like to be such a woman in her piece for Marie Claire, “Inside the Growing Movement of Women Who Wish They’d Never Had Kids“.
Trevleaven speaks with Laura*, a 37-year-old journalist in Los Angeles who believed she wanted to be a mother, but after her son was born found that the feelings of frustration, boredom and dissatisfaction that are often associated with postpartum depression never lifted.
Listen to our conversation on Mamamia Outloud about women who regret motherhood. (Post continues after audio.)
“The regret hit me when the grandmas went home and my husband went back to the office and I was on my own with him,” she says. “I realized that this was my life now—and it was unbearable.”
As time went on, Laura felt more and more sure she had made a mistake by having a child.
“I hated, hated, hated the situation I found myself in,” she says. “I think the word for what I felt is ‘trapped.’ After I had a kid, I realized I hated being the mother to an infant, but by then it was too late. I couldn’t walk away and still live with myself, but I also couldn’t stand it. I felt like my life was basically a middle-class prison.”
And Laura is not alone.
In a piece for The Daily Mail, Isabella Dutton writes about the regret she felt about having her children. “I know there are millions who will consider me heinously cold-blooded and unnatural, but I believe there will also be those who secretly feel the same,” she says.
Though taboo to speak about, there are many other women who feel the same sense of regret.
For some the regret is simply about missing another part of your life as the aptly named Redditor LoveMyKidsMissMyWife explains,
“I feel like it has destroyed my marriage,” he writes. “Both of us have changed since our child was born and I’m afraid the people we’ve become are not as compatible as the people we used to be. We never talk to each other, we never do anything together, and the very, very infrequent sex is basically her attempt to maintain her ability to claim she makes an effort in our relationship. Any communication that happens between us is about logistics regarding our child. I understand there is a brief period after birth where everyone needs to adjust but it has been over four years now.
"This was not the life I wanted to live."
"I love my child more than anyone else on Earth, save for my wife. But I miss having a companion in life. If I had known it would be like this, I don't think I would have made the same decisions."
For others it's about never getting to be alone as jerkstore13 explains:
"I never get a minute to myself. As an introvert this is the hardest part," they explain. "I see my friends going on exciting vacations, doing whatever they want to do. I can't because kids are so expensive that we can't afford to go anywhere. I haven't slept past six in years. I'm stuck in a place I don't want to live in."
Most of the time a person who regrets having children is not saying they don't love their children. They are not saying they are going to stop taking care of their children. As Dutton puts it, she just knows her life "would have been so much happier without children, less complicated and more carefree".
Yet reading that invokes a reaction. It feel unnatural.
Children do make things more complicated. You can't live a carefree life when you're in charge of another human being. It's impossible to solely focus on your own happiness when you have a child.
Your happiness will always come second. I can't live with that.
So, why do we unequivocally expect women to love being mothers?
"Today's mum is a domestic throwback to the '50s, combined with the '80s-era working mum," Avital Norman Nathman, editor of The Good Mother Myth: Redefining Motherhood to Fit Reality tells Marie Claire's Treleaven.
Essentially, there is still a 'right way' to be a mother. "Because of this, it's really hard for women to speak out about their horrible experiences, from a miserable pregnancy to a bad birth, because you're supposed to be this loving, glowing Mother Earth person," she explains. "It doesn't leave much room to process actual feelings."
So, today young people are thinking more about what they want. Whether they want children at all or not.
Reddit's r/childfree has 115,410 members or "jetski owners" as they call them because without children they might be able to afford a jetski.
Today, the decision to have children is a big one, but even if you do have children and regret it, it's possible to get through.
Laura says that though she still feels she'd made the wrong choice, she's now more open with her husband about her feelings. He has taken on a more active parenting role to help her accommodate how she's feeling. It's still hard, but she's working through.
"I had to grit my teeth and live with the results at first, and now it's just my reality," she says. "This is my new normal."
*Name has been changed