I’m sure you’ve seen the dozens of news stories about people who never want children, about how they are ostracised and told that they are selfish and will never know true love…
But there’s another side to this story. It’s so taboo most people don’t dare talk about it.
Parents who have children but now regret their decision.
You would think that anyone who has brought life into this world would now be yelling it from the highest mountain about how much they love parenthood.
But that’s not so. There’s now support groups and social media sites dedicated to parents who not only regret becoming parents but also resent their children.
One of those group is I Regret Having Children.
“I have 3 children and my and my husband’s life is all about them. While I love them and wouldn’t give them back, my life is not about me anymore and I miss that. How do you come to grips with grieving for your time, your sleep, your body, for you?
“How do you move on and just enjoy being a parent? I think constantly about what I lost and I feel so guilty. I didn’t want to be a parent and I don’t join in with a lot of other mothers because they are just 100% about their kids and nothing else.
“I think about books and travel and art and all kinds of other things.”
It’s not just mums feeling regret…
“I am the father of a beautiful 7 month old girl who I love dearly…. but am completely miserable,” one dad shared.
“The highlight of my days is when everyone else is asleep so I can play video games for an hour before I have to go to bed…”
It’s a huge taboo, admitting to this kind of thing, but there’s a growing and largely ignored group of parents from all over the world who are confessing their regret over having children. There’s even a book addressing the issue.
Corinne Maier, a French psychoanalyst, writer and mother-of-two in Brussels, wrote candidly about her own regret in No Kids: 40 Reasons Not to Have Children.
“Children are hell. This vicious dwarf, atrociously noisy and time consuming, will pump your energy, trample your potential for well-being, while blithely polluting an already overcrowded planet.” (translated from French).
Mothers who regret having children was the focus of a study conducted last year by Israeli sociologist, Orna Donath. As part of her research, Donath interviewed women aged from mid-twenties to mid-seventies – all of whom regret becoming mothers.
While most could identify positive aspects of motherhood, for the majority of mums interviewed, “the disadvantages outweighed the benefits”.
The idea for this story came from my work colleague Farah, who admitted during after work drinks that she didn't enjoy being parent.
"I actually look for excuses not to go home, after work drinks, staying back at work, anything that keeps me away from my children."
After a few more drinks she really opened up.
"To me, being a parent is a never ending battle, its suffocating. It may be worse for me because I’m a single mum.
"All the responsibility and pressure is on me, not my ex-husband. I feel like it’s always them, them, them. I never get me time. I really can't wait for my youngest to move out so I can do what I want to do."
Farah also admitted that it’s hard to talk about, as it’s something other mums don’t want to hear.
“It’s really confrontational, when I say to someone, I really don’t like my 8 year old, when I say he’s a whinger, he’s needy and emotional, they look at me like I’m a horrible horrible person, but I’m not, I’m just being brutally honest.”
After this conversation I reached out online to anyone who may be feeling the same.
I got chatting to Renata about what she feels when I mention the word 'parenthood'.
“Prison! It’s a commitment to something you've never tried, never even understood when you committed to it and as such it's one of a kind.
"You can leave a job that doesn't suit you, it's even encouraged in society to learn, grow, quit your job and get a better one... you can sell your home and move, you can even relocate to a different country, etc - nothing is really a lifelong commitment like this.
"Nothing prepares you for it. And it makes you feel imprisoned with decisions that you've made at an immature age, for life literally. It’s a Life sentence. I adore them - I do - I know it doesn't sound like it, but this is what it feels like.”
Both parents admitted to me that if they had their time again, they wouldn’t have kids.
Grace Gedeon, a life coach and psychologist says:
“Parents who regret having kids and can't wait for them to move out can be as a result of a multitude of factors.
"At the root of this regret may be feelings of fear, engulfment or disappointment in themselves as parents; disappointment in their children; disappointment in the parenting experience; unrealistic expectations of self and children.
"Also feelings of being trapped in fulfilling the dreams of their children and abandoning their own dreams. Self-awareness and emotional maturity are key in preventing this regret.”