Mommie Dearest: Do You Regret Your Kids?

Regrets. I’ve had a few. But my child hasn’t been one of them. But if he was, how eager would I be to sharing that openly? Over at Yahoo! Parenting, Brooke Lark gets brave and admits that her life might have been better if she never had her kids. Lark laments not being the “pretty, kind, and Pinterest-y mother” she had hopes of being:

Instead, here I am in the smack-dab middle of motherhood and I feel lost. I feel time-sucked and threadworn. I feel like I’m responsible for carrying the world. And on so many days, I long for the simplicity of focusing on just one thing: me. That sentence sounds selfish, but I’m guessing there are a million moms who understand. Here in the middle of motherhood, I’ve spent 15 years living for (and with) my children, and I realize motherhood was as much about welcoming them into my life as it was about sacrificing myself, my time, my autonomy. Because my babies will always be here. And I will always be theirs.

And while these types of feelings seem so singular as we experience them, I’d wager to guess that they’re fairly universal. Not every mother everywhere feels these things daily, but every mother has had these passing thoughts at least once (or twice). Much of that is because we prescribe so much to motherhood. We demand women be all things at once: mothers, wives, workers, homemakers and on top of it all, happy. It’s a lot to take on.

It’s even harder when there’s a cone of silence surrounding the actual discussion of these types of feelings. The fear of being seen as a selfish mother, an uncaring mother, an unfit mother. The fear of the myriad repercussions that come along with giving voice to these thoughts. Lark points to an 1975 Ann Landers column where the advice columnist asked readers “If you had it to do over again, would you have children?” The response, nearly 10,000 handwritten postcards was overwhelming, spawning the click-bait worthy before it’s time headline, “70 PERCENT OF PARENTS SAY KIDS NOT WORTH IT.” Compare that to a phone-based survey conducted by Roper Poll a few months after the Ann Landers’ column, which showed that 90 percent of parents said that kids are worth it. Probably because it’s a lot harder to admit the opposite to a person on the other end of a phone than it is to an anonymous postcard.

It’s tough. Kids aren’t like a job or a car or a new pair of shoes. They are people and have all the feels, and if they ever found out you regretted them, then woe be to you. But that doesn’t negate the fact that parents can sometimes have these feelings. So how can we reconcile it all? Society doesn’t make it easy. Especially on mothers. Father very rarely are asked these types of questions. There aren’t headlines asking “Father or employee of the year?” or “How does he do it all?” These pressure of perfection that can sometimes lead to a feeling of regret are focused mostly on women for the most part.

It’s not necessarily that women regret the decision to have children, but hey regret the fact that they didn’t also make other choices along the way. Perhaps they could have taken that job they passed up to stay at home if the pressure to be a perfect mom wasn’t so great. Maybe they could have gone on that work trip or once-in-a-lifetime adventure without the kids if the concept of mom guilt and judgment wasn’t so intense.

Maybe the question shouldn’t be “Do you regret having kids?” but rather “How can we better support those with kids so they don’t feel as if they have to give up one part of their lives for another?”