Content warning: This article discusses mental health and domestic abuse in a way that may be distressing to some readers.
Do you have any regrets? It's something that's often asked in job interviews and group DMCs. Often, we hit back with a regretful purchase or a snide comment we wish we could take back. But what if your biggest regret is having children?
Maternal love is seen as pure, sacred and untouchable — one of life's necessities and a fulfilment of our natural instincts. We're taught that motherhood is an expected route, an inevitable duty for women. Sometimes, having kids isn't something that we critically think about and other times, it's thrust upon us without a choice. All that makes the taboo of not wanting kids or regretting having them all the more painful to navigate.
Safe spaces are few and far between for conversations like these. Even in the entertainment sphere, films that dare to portray mothers who feel detached from their offspring (We Need To Talk About Kevin, The Babadook, You Are Not My Mother) all have an element of horror to them.
A Reddit thread titled 'Regretful Parents' was created in 2013 to provide some comfort to parents who "think they shouldn't have become parents". For its 41,000 members, it's a place to "rant, confess, get off their chest about their kids, significant others [and] families." Above all, the group has a no judgement policy.
Parents in these groups lament the lives they now lead, with the common themes of shitty spouses, having kids young, a lack of support and challenging children contributing to the tidal waves of anger and sadness. While most of these parents emphasise the love they have for their children, it's often not enough to pull them through the difficult job of parenting.
Here, we share a selection of stories from parents who wish they were child-free.
"I'm a 25-year-old mother with a two-year-old son. I regret ever becoming a parent"
"I had my son when I was 23 years old and I can honestly say it was the worst mistake of my life. I'm not with his father anymore and while he’s a good dad and helps out as much as he can, I can’t help but feel regretful. I don’t have the typical 'motherly bond' that you see plastered all over Instagram and Facebook and this makes me feel so guilty.
My mother and family help me out a lot and I honestly don’t know where I would be without them but I just wanted to get this off my chest. If you're on the fence about wanting kids, please think long and hard about any decision you make as this is permanent as hell.
The only time I’m ever enjoying myself is when I’m sleeping or away from my son. I love him to death but more like a younger brother or family member. I know for a fact I will never have any more children. It annoys the hell out of me when people say, 'oh you're still so young' or 'you’ll change your mind in a couple of years'. No, I most definitely will not. I wish I had a time machine to wake me up from this living nightmare."
"I'm just so tired"
"I'm 26 and I'm a single mum to a 1-year-old. I feel guilty because as much as I love this little girl and as much joy as she brings me, there's a part of me that will forever wish the Plan B had worked. I never wanted kids and I hate motherhood. It's like a fever dream I can't wake up from. I didn't think it was possible to love someone so much but also regret creating them. I'm in this constant state of guilt. When things are going great, I feel bad for regretting her when things are rough. When things are rough, I wish I had never met her father."
"My daughter hits me and I don’t know what to do"
"My daughter is 11 and she hits me when she doesn’t get her way. A couple days ago I told her we couldn’t get Starbucks like I said I would because I got exhausted more than I expected after a long shift at work (I work in healthcare). She cried, started to throw a tantrum and started to hit me. It’s not punching, but she thrashes her fists around blindly.
For a while, I thought it was just me, but I found out that she also hits my mum when they get into disagreements. She does not hit her dad, thankfully.
I am worried because it looks like she hasn’t finished growing, and she is almost my height already. She also is not scrawny either. I’m worried she won’t outgrow this habit and keeps hitting my mum who is in her 70s. For context, it is common in our culture to have extended family in the same house. I thankfully have plenty of support but it still hurts so much.
Do not get me wrong. I love my daughter. But sometimes a part of me wishes I never had her because I never thought I would have a daughter that would leave bruises and throws tantrums so much.
I grew up in a time and culture where hitting kids is normal. My dad hit me when I got bad grades. When I had a kid, I swore to myself I would never pass that abuse down. Now my daughter hits me and it brings me back. It’s awful. I’m not scared like I am with my dad, but it hurts knowing I birthed a daughter that would hate me so much. I don’t know where I went wrong. I did all that I can and I’m still miserable.
If you are not ready to face hostility with unconditional love and support, this is your sign to not get a kid."
"I HATE IT HERE!!!!!"
"I (23F) am a single mother of a 2-year-old girl and I hate being a parent. I miss my old life. I miss doing what I want when I want without having to take demands from a toddler. Her dad and his family are the true definitions of deadbeats! They only come around to take pictures to post on Facebook. I live with my parents and they barely watch my daughter for me. I wish I would have never told my family I was pregnant because they guilted me into not having an abortion because we’re 'Christians'.
My daughter is so high maintenance and it is so overwhelming for me because I am so quiet and laidback and she loves to be around people all the time. I love my daughter and I would never put her in harm's way. I make sure every day I am the best parent that I can be to her since she only has me, but I’m praying to God this gets easier because I don’t know how I’m going to make it through the rest of these years if it stays like this.
I promise this is the first and last child I will ever have. The only time I enjoy life is when she’s sleeping or I luck up and someone is watching her. I’m tired of feeling like a crazy person. You can give a child the world and they’ll still want the stars! I could have gone my whole life without this experience."
"I always wanted to be a mum. I can’t believe there is so much I hate about it."
"I have taught (and now direct) preschool for 14 years. I’ve wanted to be a mum for as long as I can remember. I tried to get pregnant for two years, had one miscarriage, and in 2019 I became a mum at the age of 31. I had two boys 18 months apart. I didn’t enjoy pregnancy like I thought I would. I am super thin and was told my whole life that I'll be "all belly.” That was a lie. I gained like crazy, and having a long history of an eating disorder in my past was mental trauma.
Then, I had terrible postpartum depression after my second (and looking back, a bit after my first). I literally lost my mind. My PPD manifested in rage and self-hate. On top of that, turns out I’m prone to “bipolar-like tendencies”. As someone who had never had any debt prior to this breakdown, I got my family into $15,000 [£12,231] of credit card debt through online spending. That still makes me sick to type, as we are still very much underwater.
I love my boys so much. They are three and two now. I am so glad my son is finally three — I love me a preschooler but the toddler and baby stages were hard. Even still, I feel guilty that I am this 'super' preschool teacher at work but I can’t keep that same motivation to play and give undivided attention as a parent. I know it feels unfair to my boys who see me at school (they go there). At home, I feel like I walk away from my husband and the boys all the time. I just want to escape to another room and be alone. I feel like I am going to look back one day and regret how I use any moment I can to get the hell away. But the truth is, I lost myself for over a year.
They demand so much more than you can prepare for. If you struggle with your mental health, if you are still working on 'adulting', if you are on the fence about having children, be warned.
It’s crazy that I can love them so much and still look at them and imagine a life where I never had them and deeply pine for that freedom. Especially when I thought this was all I ever wanted."
"I love them but I would turn back time if I could"
"I love my three kids a lot but sometimes I wish I never had them. I'm 30 and my wife is 25. I work full-time in the software engineering field remote. I almost never have time to myself to self-study which inhibits my growth in the field greatly. I'm no longer physically fit like I used to be. I used to run five-to-seven miles twice a week like it was nothing. I have a bedroom dedicated to gym equipment that is collecting dust. I don't really have much time to hang out with my friends like I used to. No vacations alone with my wife. All because I have three kids I really don't want.
However, I will never abandon them. I love them so much but my own selfish desire of having that life I had in my 20s makes me regret having kids every day. If I could, I would turn back time. I'm just selfish. I don't feel good about myself, sometimes I get depressed and angry and take it out by yelling at my kids for small things. I always have to catch myself and apologise because it's not them. They didn't ask to be born. I did this. I don't know. I guess I just needed to vent. I'm just really angry and sad about all this."