Women Who Wish They'd Never Had Kids
October 7, 2016 8:55 AM   Subscribe

Women all over the world are coming forward to say it: I regret having my children.
Honesty this surprising and inconvenient breeds harsh backlash wherever it goes. In response to Dutton's Daily Mail story, some comments were vicious. "What an utterly miserable, cold-hearted and selfish woman," noted one. Another was astonished "such a vile creature could exist." Some have even accused these mothers of committing child abuse for daring to utter such thoughts.

posted by a strong female character (107 comments total) 68 users marked this as a favorite
 
I have some sympathy for women whose lives are so consumed by motherhood for which they receive little support or respect that they have to believe motherhood is the most important, most valuable thing a woman can do or else they'd have to drown themselves over the misery and futility of their existences, but everyone else in the backlash can go eff themselves.
posted by praemunire at 9:00 AM on October 7, 2016 [36 favorites]


How can we stop blaming people for what they feel, think, and say?

If we want people to be honest, if we want to be able to trust people, if we want to be able to recognize and help problems, we have to make it safe for people to share their real thoughts.

Sometimes those are alarming; we need to make the experience of dealing with hearing those real thoughts safe too, I think.

Maybe that's what classical politeness is? A way of dealing with alarming revelations without emotional reaction, so they can be addressed more coolly later?
posted by amtho at 9:01 AM on October 7, 2016 [46 favorites]


My partner and I aren't going to be having kids, but it seems like the set-up in this article is a terribly American problem.

"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." This should not have to be a thing. The dad staying home, or having access to free or low cost, good quality daycare, should be important to our country. It isn't.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:03 AM on October 7, 2016 [68 favorites]


Previously on Metafilter: The Happiness Gap. American parents are miserable, and, yes, this is largely because supports for parents in the US are so very poor. Moms and dads have to do it all themselves, nobody gets any sleep, everyone suffers. I think the solution is the kind of state-sponsored help that parents in Scandinavia and Finland get. Yay for parental leave, free state-sponsored daycare, and baby boxes!

That said, I think there will still be a (sizable?) minority of parents who regret having children. Perhaps because they were pressured into it by a partner, or they got a high-needs baby, or they didn't think about what they were getting into or had Kodak Moment Syndrome (having a baby is Pinteresty bliss!), or one/both parents have a personality disorder, or a combination.

I myself knew from an early age that I never wanted children. Babysitting cemented that mindset! I'm very thankful that my birth control never failed me and that I live in an area where I could have got an abortion if I needed one. While I have friends who have awesome kids, I do not regret my choice now in my 50's.

I say all this as the child of parents who regretted having one and would have chosen the childfree option if that had been around at the time (1960's). I am very very glad there is more talk these days about how hard parenting is and that it's not for everyone!
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 9:11 AM on October 7, 2016 [51 favorites]


I've thought before, there must be people who wish they hadn't had kids, but that this is something that society won't tolerate being said. And look at the reactions - 'child abuse' for talking about it? Even more forbidden to speak of would be realizing that you don't really like your children. That must happen to people and it would be a hell of a tough situation to live with.
posted by thelonius at 9:14 AM on October 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


This should not have to be a thing. The dad staying home, or having access to free or low cost, good quality daycare, should be important to our country. It isn't.

This is true, of course, but I don't think that's the whole story. Something a lot of women are afraid to say, for good reason, is that they really just don't like children very much, and for some it's not "different when they're your own" as the common wisdom holds. There is a lot (as in, A LOT -- ask me how I know) of stigma to being a woman who doesn't want children, or doesn't even generally like them much, regardless of how much support she has in raising them. I think this story is more about those women than it is about the necessity of supporting child care, and I think it's an important thing to discuss.
posted by holborne at 9:14 AM on October 7, 2016 [82 favorites]


I have two kids and will freely admit to having felt this way at times, when things were going badly. Then, at other times, it's great, and all of the BS I've had to put up with seems more than worth it.

If you're lucky, life is a long game, and your perspective on every big decision you've made is going to shift over time. Yes, parenting is emphatically not for everyone and there are some unequivocally disastrous choices - but there are more that are harder to define in clear, enduring good / bad terms. I'd add to "an American problem" our click-bait media's constant, childish drumbeat that life is an endless series of totalizing "growing movements".
posted by ryanshepard at 9:16 AM on October 7, 2016 [11 favorites]


Something a lot of women are afraid to say, for good reason, is that they really just don't like children very much, and for some it's not "different when they're your own" as the common wisdom holds.

Oh, yes, 100% this as well. I was just saying that Americans make it terribly hard to be happy as a parent to begin with.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:17 AM on October 7, 2016 [10 favorites]


I have two kids and will freely admit to having felt this way at times, when things were going badly.

As Mother Renault commonly said, "I love you, but I don't like you very much right now."
posted by Capt. Renault at 9:21 AM on October 7, 2016 [18 favorites]


I call bullshit on them identifying this as only a problem for mothers and not fathers.
posted by ffmike at 9:25 AM on October 7, 2016 [31 favorites]


I applaud these women for having the courage to admit to themselves (and in public, though anonymously) that they were feeling this way.

Beyond just being cautionary tales, maybe if more people knew that buyer's remorse is a real thing that lots of parents feel, there would be less pressure on young folks to do it. The sooner we can get to a point where no one has children because "that's what you're supposed to do," the better.

(of course, society could do a better job of supporting people who choose to become parents -- especially women who wish to maintain careers)
posted by sparklemotion at 9:28 AM on October 7, 2016 [10 favorites]


Related: I'm a Bestselling Novelist, But I Decided I Should Quit to Look After My Kids: When I'd complain to my husband, he'd point out that he did what he could, given that he worked full time. The implication that I didn't—even though, like so many "part-time" workers, I crammed 40 hours of work into 25—made me want to throttle him.

The irony was that my husband, who'd been at the same job for over a decade, actually wanted to be more involved with childcare, and was ready to get away from the nine-to-five grind. But even so, aside from my occasional snarky challenges that he quit—which neither of us took seriously—the idea of him scaling back seemed appealing but fantastical, like an elf that might clean the kitchen while you sleep

posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:29 AM on October 7, 2016 [8 favorites]


I call bullshit on them identifying this as only a problem for mothers and not fathers.

As a father, I can say with 100% confidence it's women who get demonized for feeling this way. I guess it wouldn't be lauded in a dad, but we're not judged in light of the Cult of Motherhood that has been making women targets of emotional policing, moral panic, and unreasonable expectations W/R/T their kids since forever.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:29 AM on October 7, 2016 [124 favorites]


I don't think they're saying that fathers don't regret having kids. This article is just focused specifically on mothers, not fathers. On preview: what ryanshepard said
posted by a strong female character at 9:30 AM on October 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


I call bullshit on them identifying this as only a problem for mothers and not fathers.

The article is definitely tackling it specifically from the perspective of mothers' experiences, but it's not making an affirmative declaration that none of this is an issue for or has a negative impact on fathers. Calling bullshit feels a little overt; probably more productive to supplement the thread with good additional links about parental misgivings, etc.
posted by cortex at 9:31 AM on October 7, 2016 [12 favorites]


Oh. These poor women. I'm glad they are expressing their feelings; I'm horrified for their sakes at how those feelings are received.

Having grown up in a super socialist country with high equality and lots of support (including mostly-free childcare, healthcare and University), I still never wanted kids. It's a thing.

I'm lucky in that my mother doesn't want grandkids (she's happy with the kids she has, but does not wish to be a caretaker of small children ever again), and that my MIL already has a grandson and granddaughter. Also lucky in my friends: they've never questioned my choices. I'm full of admiration for those of them who manage the difficult job that is parenting, and look forward to befriending the new little humans they're making.

The fact that most women (and a significant percentage of men) feel don't even feel like they have a choice; that becoming a parent is normal? That's a really strange and evil trick we've played on ourselves.

And what's with this belief that parenting is easy and natural and it's just about loving your kids? I've seen this in really smart people my age who really ought to know better, and are still taken utterly aback when caring for a newborn is difficult and exhausting. I've overheard conversations between new dads complaining that nobody ever told them about all these things (lactation can be a painful struggle; babies have no circadian rhythms; etc etc) which just staggered me. Did nobody tell you, or did you not listen to women?

Because honestly, even if I'd been in a position to contemplate kids through some opposite-sex funtime with a partner who really really wanted children, all the information I have on the downsides of parenting would probably make it a dealbreaker. That this information isn't everywhere for everyone is something we really ought to fix as a society.
posted by harujion at 9:31 AM on October 7, 2016 [20 favorites]


The whole "I regret having kids" thing should be perfect abstinence propaganda, but it isn't actually going to work out like that, is it?
posted by Western Infidels at 9:31 AM on October 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


I am glad my parents had no kids. That said, I have had 4 and I am very very glad that I did, and so too, the moms (two marriages), but what we wanted, liked was our choice and others need do that which they believe is good for them. Odd that Malthus is not noted in comments, though were I to have another child I think I would name him or her Malthus
posted by Postroad at 9:35 AM on October 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


I've given this a lot of thought in the past year. It is very very hard to parent in the United States, and there are lot of factors that go into the problem. A subtler one (but very powerful) is that this country is so physically huge, and ambitious young people frequently move away from their hometowns and leave childhood friends and family connections behind. It makes sense, financially and career-wise. So they move to get that job, to New York or San Francisco: a 24 hour drive away from their extended family. And yay, now they have the money to start a family! But...now do they turn to when you have an infant who won't sleep for 6 months, and and they are starting to fray? It is a lot more awkward and difficult to ask your friends from work than it is to ask your mother or sister. And so many people raise kids now with very little support system. I completely marvel at the friends I have locally who have family in their area. Their family members come over and just...watch the kids! And then the parents just...leave! For free!

Of course not everyone who has local family has support from them, but at least it's a possibility.
posted by erinfern at 9:35 AM on October 7, 2016 [24 favorites]


Once there was a time when humans were a very small part of the environment, so institutions and mores evolved to support exponential expansion. Those would include reverence for motherhood and procreation in general.

Now we have filled every corner of our planet and then some. Our institutions and mores have to change to adapt to that fact. But they aren't changing fast enough. This is an example of that.

Other examples abound in all walks of life.
posted by BentFranklin at 9:36 AM on October 7, 2016 [8 favorites]


After the breakup of our marriage, despite our agreed-upon plan to co-parent our son, my ex ended up making a series of personal life decisions that took her far out of town and unavailable for parenting, or left her unable to house him during her co-parenting turn. I'm not talking about drugs or unsafe environments, by the way, just personal job/travel/housing choices. So without any adequate discussion, I ended up being sole parent for many years. Which I was okay with taking on, unexpected though it was. As it turns out I was lucky; I was able to figure out a work plan that allowed me - with occasional help from my friends - to take care of my child without having to resort to a lot of expensive child care.

I've never (well, not much) begrudged my ex her choices or feelings, but as with other issues in our marriage I was very angry for many years that she hadn't been more up-front with me about them, that instead she unilaterally acted against to the plan that we'd already - voluntarily - arranged. With a couple of decades of perspective since then, I've begun to understand that maybe she was struggling with her own feelings, that maybe she couldn't admit even to herself that she hadn't really wanted to be a mother, to deal with that level of commitment in the first place - which is odd, considering that she was the one that had instigated both getting married and having a child. I was okay with becoming a parent, but I hadn't pressured her into it. Lessons learned too late...
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:38 AM on October 7, 2016 [17 favorites]


I am glad my parents had no kids.

I am confused.
posted by TrialByMedia at 9:39 AM on October 7, 2016 [118 favorites]


I really hate the animated images that are included in the article. The animations are utterly unnecessary and distracting.
posted by ElKevbo at 9:45 AM on October 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


I come from a household where I suspect my parents regretted having children. I don't recommend it! So really think fucking hard if you are in a situation where this might happen. I don't begrudge anyone this feeling and I know women in particular are often pressured to have children, but for all the lack of autonomy and independance you may have in your life, your child has even less.

I have children now, and I waited until I was married for over a decade before going ahead with it. So far that's worked out for the best. YMMV.
posted by selfnoise at 9:50 AM on October 7, 2016 [7 favorites]


My husband and I don't have children and we won't but the road getting here had ups and downs. For a while my husband was very into the idea of having kids, but I was struck by how theoretical his desire was. It was very much, "Cool idea!" whereas I, as woman, had so much more knowledge about pregnancy and how it works and the dangers, and child birth and how that works and the dangers, and the reality of parenting an infant, and a toddler. I had read tons of stories about childbirth, and women as mothers, and I had done tons of babysitting, and I was frankly incredibly wary of how ignorant he was as a regular guy in our society about how grueling and life-changing it would be to have a baby.

Then a friend of ours went to the hospital to deliver her baby and something went wrong and she was hospitalized for quite a while and suddenly it became more real for my husband and he said, "I don't want you to go through that after all."

Which was fine with me because I only have maternal instincts towards baby animals, not baby humans, and now after almost 20 years with my husband I know very well that although he is a wonderful partner for adult me, he does not have the executive functioning that he would need to be the equal parenting partner I would need and deserve and I suspect very much I would've ended up as one of these regretful mothers, locking into way more caregiving and emotional labor than I relish or am equipped to give to another being.
posted by Squeak Attack at 9:54 AM on October 7, 2016 [40 favorites]


I'm like, 99.9% positive I do not want to have children. And yet... AND YET...

Even I feel like this inclination makes me "abnormal"

How can I not? My mom raised us kids to believe that we were "the air" she breathes, and "her heart" that beats. No children = not being able to live. I appreciate now that this lack of boundaries probably informs my decision to be child-free.

Over the years, did I see her identity get gradually compromised and hollowed out until she was nothing but "mom"? Yup.

And when we all left home she had a breakdown, because what was left without her heart and her air? When we "left", she went from doing the emotional labour of 6 people for 20+ years, being hailed as the greatest mom of all time to a practically non-functioning bottomless pit for the emotional energy of others. If she has Borderline Personality Disorder (her official Diagnosis), I can't believe it isn't related to the gap between her gradually eroded nub-of-an-identity and the expectations the entire world put on her to be Supermom/Superwife.

And when I read about "Borderline Mothers" my neck-hairs hairs stand on end, because what is more gross than casting women as witches, (ironic) martyrs "waifs" and "queens" because their unstable identities (whose fault is that?) and geyser-like emotions are simply too messy and too awful and too angry to deal with.

Sorry... got carried away on my hobby-horse over here. My point is....motherhood is fraught.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 9:58 AM on October 7, 2016 [51 favorites]


Though perhaps it's getting better, there was certainly more tolerance growing up for the "lovably eccentric" and "adventurous" dad that pretty much checked out on any real relationship/contact/day-to-day responsibility until his kid was basically drinking age, even if he ostensibly shared the same address. Women exhibiting similar characteristics were uniformly demonized.
posted by thivaia at 9:58 AM on October 7, 2016 [25 favorites]


I read stuff like this and I'm like, "There but for the grace of birth control go I."
posted by thivaia at 9:59 AM on October 7, 2016 [30 favorites]


Didn't have a kid until we had been married for seven years. Stopped at one. Found out I liked kids and ended up becoming a teacher. Honestly now that I'm retired I don't like kids as much as I did. They are inconvenient and noisy. Never regretted having my kid, though there were times she caused me more worry than a human being should have to bear.

My parents had kids when not having them wasn't an option if you were fertile. That said, my mom sure was happy to have me the last ten years of her life when she was disintegrating with Parkinson's.
posted by Peach at 9:59 AM on October 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


And Donath is right: For many countries, raising a family still constitutes a vast landscape of unpaid work that falls almost wholly on women's shoulders. It's a societal infrastructure that innately depends on women cheerfully embracing the experience, even if every impulse tells them otherwise.

This is my biggest struggle with the decision about whether or not to have children; it just seems so deeply unfair. My partner is lovely, and would be a great dad, but I can see with stunning clarity just how little time I would have for reflection, writing, dreaming, planning, or otherwise honoring my inner life--because I would, by default, be the primary parent, and I fear I would resent every second of it. That's to say nothing of the economic impacts having children has on women, the institutional systems that continue to disproportionately place the burden for childcare on women, and the numerous friends I've had who 'decided together' that it would be more cost efficient for her to stay home with the kids rather than continue to work and spend most of her salary on childcare.

It's something I'm still thinking about, and it's heartening to hear women who do have kids and wish their lives had taken a different path speak up and say, you know what, maybe it's not different when they're your own; maybe having children is actually something you'll regret doing, instead of the insistence that you'll regret not having them.
posted by stellaluna at 10:04 AM on October 7, 2016 [38 favorites]


much of abstinence propaganda is coded versions of this - "don't have kids, you will regret having had kids", which is as close as people get to "I regret having kids". I have been deeply reluctant to express online my own ambivalence about being a parent, because I don't want these comments to be read by my son, who is precocious and nine years old and attractive and funny and smart and whom I love, but who has also made my life measurably worse for almost a decade.
posted by Fraxas at 10:06 AM on October 7, 2016 [21 favorites]


I think there is a big difference between loving your child and regretting having had them. For me, I certainly would not characterize it as regret, but I would be lying if I denied sitting there covered with poop, or sitting at another sporting event in 45 degree rain on a Sunday afternoon, or writing checks for college and not wondering what my life would have been like without my three ying yangs. I could fantasize about not having that huge responsibility always hanging over my head, but at the same time realizing that I love my children and I loved raising them.
posted by AugustWest at 10:07 AM on October 7, 2016 [8 favorites]


I don't have kids and am now at the likely the latest age when it might be possible. I'm looking forward to being 100% too old because even though I'm 99% good with it there 1% that niggles. I have realized that 1% includes mostly societal niggling which mostly says, 'Sure you think you know yourself but maybe you're wrong and if what you know is true then there is something wrong with you.' It's all bullshit, I know it intellectually just fine. These things have hooks emotionally that can be hard to get rid of.

I am quite sure that if I had kids I would be one of these women. When I imagine having a life with kids my first sense is one of relief that I don't. I am grateful that my general attitude of 'oh well if it happens it will happen but I won't push having kids' led to not having them.

My little sister knew though. One time years ago she said that me having kids probably wasn't a great idea because I was selfish. I was very angry and upset at being called selfish but didn't understand that she didn't mean it in a mean way. Nor did she mean that I didn't care about other people and didn't give or myself or time to other people. She meant it in the sense that I would not be happy overall happy with having to give myself in the way that happens with having kids. She has them so she knows.

She was right and still is. Even so I know that kids for me would have been a bad idea there is a part of me that still feels that there is something wrong with me and that I'm not the best person. It's still there even though I know intellectually where it all comes from.

I feel for these women not just because of my experience but I have talked to women who have told me these things in person. I've been that person that they can confess this secret too.
posted by Jalliah at 10:08 AM on October 7, 2016 [17 favorites]


And as a follow-up to my comment, the parts of the article that resonated the most for me were society needing and expecting the unpaid labor of mothers, and the vast reserves of selflessness women are supposed to draw on to provide this unpaid labor.

"This is allegedly dangerous for a culture that depends on women's collaboration to 'make children their life' without questioning it," observes Orna Donath, an Israeli sociologist and author of Regretting Motherhood,

And Donath is right: For many countries, raising a family still constitutes a vast landscape of unpaid work that falls almost wholly on women's shoulders. It's a societal infrastructure that innately depends on women cheerfully embracing the experience, even if every impulse tells them otherwise.

On a related note, I've been compulsively reading that reddit relationships board lately, for which I blame The Toast, but it's so hard to look away and there's a frequent infuriating type of post from women who do all the parenting, housework, cooking, and emotional labor for the family, and often also have a part-time job or maybe are in school, and their husbands tell them they aren't contributing anything to the family (because the only worthwhile contribution is monetary) and so the husband should get to make all the decisions or call the wife names or whatever particular flavor of abuse. It always makes me so mad and I just want to feminism bomb the world.

Anyway, as a blunt person who isn't very apologetic for my personality and owns my own flaws, even I am a little ashamed that I was basically too selfish to have kids.
posted by Squeak Attack at 10:09 AM on October 7, 2016 [29 favorites]


My parents had kids when not having them wasn't an option if you were fertile.

Ditto, and when I was growing up they rarely let me forget what I cost them. I really wish they were in a better place at the time, both physically and mentally, to recognize that this was a role they were not suited for.

I've got a wonderful life now with an amazing husband who has been adamantly child-free as long as I've known him, but if weird magical circumstances were to cause my parents to change their minds back then and I'd wink out of existence, I mean... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I think it'd be the right choice for them.
posted by erratic meatsack at 10:11 AM on October 7, 2016 [8 favorites]


When I met my friend C in college, she was the first woman I'd ever met who said "I don't want kids," with no qualifiers. It was startling, because I hadn't really thought of a woman just deciding not to have them, as opposed to not having them because she never married or was infertile. It took me awhile to get my brain around it. I suspect that a lot of women jump into child-having without ever getting to ponder whether it is in fact optional.

It's funny to me now that I was so flabbergasted. Fish can't see water and so on. Especially since about 50% of my friends are child-free by choice these days.
posted by emjaybee at 10:23 AM on October 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


The whole "I regret having kids" thing should be perfect abstinence propaganda, but it isn't actually going to work out like that, is it?

Panned Parenthood.
posted by darkstar at 10:30 AM on October 7, 2016 [18 favorites]


If you raise empowered, healthy, whole children; you better have some shred of self and interest to hang on to, because you will be back to it, after they are gone. If you educate yourself as to what it actually takes to do this, it is easier, because then you realize it is a constant dance to do it right. God help you if you get to the end and feel all rosy about it, you will be reminded of your every failure, even if they are powerful, and well off in their own right.

Their memories are like, microscopes, boning knives, they will take your last shreds or scrape the last rosy bits off your glasses, when you least expect it. It is a complicated thing having children; because you don't have them, they have you, until they choose not to. Oh yeah, did I forget to say, I love and admire them so very much? Because I do. My ridiculous little life is my own now, for all its momentary splendors, and those buckets with the holes.
posted by Oyéah at 10:31 AM on October 7, 2016 [25 favorites]


For a while my husband was very into the idea of having kids, but I was struck by how theoretical his desire was

I recently lent out Toddler for just this purpose. Friends of ours (avowedly childfree) had met us in the park and the man of the couple had been entranced by how much fun it appeared.

Afterwards they apparently had a conversation where the words "maybe it would be fun" appeared.

Two hours of my son were enough and I picked him up to greet the words "he opened every cupboard in the house". Yup. Sounds right.

They are remaining childfree.
posted by threetwentytwo at 10:32 AM on October 7, 2016 [23 favorites]


There's a real cognitive dissonance in saying "I regret having kids but I love my them more than anything in the world." It's like saying "Your existence is the most important thing to me, but I also wish it hadn't happened."
posted by gottabefunky at 10:35 AM on October 7, 2016 [7 favorites]


This should not have to be a thing. The dad staying home, or having access to free or low cost, good quality daycare, should be important to our country. It isn't.

Agree about the dad staying home being an option, but I have such mixed feelings about daycare. We use it, because we have two kids and both of us work, but part of it seems wrong. In a couple of months we are going to put our (then) four month old baby into daycare when my wife goes back to work. She's going to spend most of her waking life in the care of someone who isn't a parent. I wish that didn't have to be the case.

Summer vacation will be meaningless to them. I remember it as a time when I stayed home all day and went out and played with friends or read books or played videogames or whatever. For my kids it's just going to be a time when they go to a different kind of school.

It's hard. I feel like I'm doing something wrong, but I'm not sure what the right thing would be.

I don't regret having kids, not at all, but becoming a parent has certainly given me new and exciting ways to feel like I'm not succeeding at life.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:41 AM on October 7, 2016 [14 favorites]


There's a real cognitive dissonance in saying "I regret having kids but I love my them more than anything in the world." It's like saying "Your existence is the most important thing to me, but I also wish it hadn't happened."

Nah, that's totally what being a parent is like.

When you have kids, your life up to that point essentially rolls the credits, and then you start New Game+ with tiny people in tow. Those tiny people are fantasically amazing but the life itself can be a complete pain in the ass.
posted by selfnoise at 10:43 AM on October 7, 2016 [50 favorites]


Yeah, I think that's just called "mixed emotions."
posted by grumpybear69 at 10:44 AM on October 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


my grandmother once confided in me that she wished she never had kids and how lucky I am to grow up in an age that its a choice.
posted by [tk] at 10:49 AM on October 7, 2016 [14 favorites]


My mom raised us kids to believe that we were "the air" she breathes, and "her heart" that beats.

Whereas my parents were very much of the kids should be seen / not heard school of thought, and when grownups were around we were told to scram.

There has been a lot of criticism of that old-school parenting style, but I think there was a lot of good about it. It reinforced that kids weren't the centers of their parents' lives, and that there were times that the kids were secondary to the parents' interests, that the parents had their own lives, and so forth.
posted by jpe at 10:51 AM on October 7, 2016 [35 favorites]


My parents had kids when not having them wasn't an option if you were fertile. // Ditto, and when I was growing up they rarely let me forget what I cost them.

Yeah, same here. I grew up hearing "don't get married, don't have kids" (and similar, but that was the main refrain) from both my mom and aunt, and it's really uncomfortable knowing that's how your parents feel. I would not wish it on anyone, and I'm really happy that not having kids is becoming a more accepted option.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 10:54 AM on October 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


When you have kids, your life up to that point essentially rolls the credits, and then you start New Game+ with tiny people in tow.

QFT, and just like in any NG+, you will frequently remember all the side-quests you forgot to complete in NG while the new spawns are wrecking your shit.
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:54 AM on October 7, 2016 [22 favorites]


There are a thousand reasons to connect this thread with the one from a few days ago: Capitalism's Crisis of Care.
posted by Miko at 10:59 AM on October 7, 2016 [9 favorites]


For three years I was a part time time office worker/ nursing student/ stay-at-home dad. My job was monotonous, busy, and deeply unsatisfying. Nursing school was stressful and rigorous. By far, my days staying at home with my infant daughter -later to be joined by an infant son- were the most difficult. Now that my wife is spending three days a week with the kids I know exactly how she feels (and she knows how i felt).

My experience of parenting feels like a slow grind of boredom, frustration, desperation, and despondency. All this is punctuated with feelings of extreme joy, satisfaction, and happiness. After adding the good and subtracting the bad I am glad to be a parent, overall. Many days I feel differently.

Parents should be able to express their feelings without being made to feel guilty. Of course though, it is problematic to publicly declare you regret having kids if your kids will hear this. What's hard for a lot of people to grasp, is that it is possible to compartmentalize feelings regarding parenthood i.e. regretting having children while not wishing for your children to be non-existent.
posted by blairsyprofane at 11:05 AM on October 7, 2016 [9 favorites]


My girlfriend and I have a plethora of reasons why having children isn't right for us, including mental health issues as well as medical issues and financial issues.

In her case, she is caused unending abdominal pain by her lady bits, and has tried at this point about 80% of the solutions and just wants the pain to stop. She is very into the idea of just getting a hysterectomy and be done with it.

Problem? Every surgeon looks at her age (25, about to be 26) and says "they can't in good conscience suggest hysterectomy" when she hasn't already had a child because "often childbirth will help problems like these go away." (Yes, having a god damned baby is one of the proposed "solutions.")

The pressure on people to have babies (people who know damn well better for themselves, no less) is astounding. Society would rather have my girlfriend (someone who has a mental illness and has to daily take drugs that you cannot take while pregnant because they can harm the baby to stay stable, who has had almost a decade of abdominal pain that makes her unable to do much at all except take pain meds and veg out, someone who lives off of state assistance) have a fucking baby for the sake of having a fucking baby than actually listen to us, our problems, and our concerns and allow her to just be done with all this fucking pain and fear about getting pregnant.

Some days I just can't even believe there is this much pressure on people who live in fucking poverty to have a god damned child.
posted by deadaluspark at 11:17 AM on October 7, 2016 [79 favorites]


As the child of a woman who didn't want kids and only agreed to have them as part of an economic bargain with my dad (I'm around because she got a new house, a new car and a nice vacation first; I turned up much sooner than she expected because he got a couple of surprise promotions and was able to buy that stuff a good few years earlier than she'd bargained), I'm glad there's more room in the conversation for stuff like this, 'cause it's good to keep challenging the idea that reproduction is the default ideal for everyone.

Not everyone is capable of loving the heck out of the kids they regret having once the kids turn up. I'm still carrying a lot of emotional trauma from growing up with a mother who clearly found the whole thing really stressful and not hugely rewarding (plus a ton of extreme anxiety that she smeared all over us to try make herself feel better). Sure, she says now that she's glad she had us - but her actions as an emotionally distant and resentful parent over ~20 years growing up had a lot more of an impact on me than her occasionally saying she was glad I was alive. And she's super glad she had us since my dad died a couple of decades ahead of schedule, but again that doesn't really help or heal me.

And while there are plenty of people who are glad they were made anyway by their regretful or on-the-fence parents, there are also people like me who would on balance prefer not to have been made. I find life mostly a drag (chronic mental & physical illness, aforementioned emotional trauma, having to sell my labour doing something I don't really care about to be able to afford to exist) but the people who love me would be crushed if I killed myself, so I guess I'm shuffling along for their sake. Doesn't seem worth it just to fulfil the half-baked desires of a dude who really wanted me but wasn't emotionally competent to raise me without massively fucking me up in the process.

Parenthood should be seen as a vocation, not a default. Some people are super cut out for it and can raise great humans and enjoy it even if it's also really hard. But if we keep up the idea that it's the default, we're going to keep ending up with generations of emotionally stunted, miserable people who were raised by people who weren't up to the job but didn't realise there was an alternative, some of whom will inevitably go on to perpetuate that cycle themselves.

Anything that pushes the conversation towards "if this doesn't sound like it's for you, that's absolutely fine" and away from "a baby or several babies is what everyone should need, want and have" is grand in my book.
posted by terretu at 11:51 AM on October 7, 2016 [49 favorites]


There's a real cognitive dissonance in saying "I regret having kids but I love my them more than anything in the world." It's like saying "Your existence is the most important thing to me, but I also wish it hadn't happened."

I dunno. My kid went from being a high-needs baby to a high-needs child to a high-needs teenager. Parenting an autistic kid is definitely playing the parenting game on a higher difficulty level. On the one hand, he's bright and funny and talented and an all-round awesome person to know - on the other hand he has very challenging behaviors which sometimes just wear me down. I don't regret having him, the world is a better place with him in it, but sometimes I find myself wishing that he were someone else's responsibility.
posted by Daily Alice at 12:02 PM on October 7, 2016 [7 favorites]


It's possible to love someone beyond ones ability to understand, while also hating the role of being a parent. I can understand that, while also feeling lucky that my spouse and I are comfortably in the "we want and have children" category, even though my 3 year-old just spilled a glass of milk on my 5 day old laptop.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:15 PM on October 7, 2016 [7 favorites]


I can't help but wonder, as I read this article, why we never separate child-having from sole-child-rearing? The complaints here aren't mostly about having children, but about being the sole support for children, which is naturally exhausting.

I never regret having a child (and a dog who is sometimes like a baby), but yeah, the process of diapers and toilet training and suchlike sucked, and I wish I could have outsourced it. I wish I could have afforded a nanny, but I never wish I hadn't had my kid.

And I wonder about that for these mothers. Do you regret Having Kids? Or do you regret living in a tiny, few-room house with thin walls so you can't be sure kids aren't hearing you have sex? Do you regret Having Kids? Or do you miss going out casually without having to scrounge up a babysitter?
posted by corb at 12:19 PM on October 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


The complaints here aren't mostly about having children, but about being the sole support for children, which is naturally exhausting.

Not sure where you're getting that from this article. The only person profiled who seems to have been a single mother is Carrie, the lady who got pregnant at 22 when she was abroad. Other than that, there's no particular indication in the article that the children's fathers weren't involved in parenting the children.

And I wonder about that for these mothers. Do you regret Having Kids? Or do you regret living in a tiny, few-room house with thin walls so you can't be sure kids aren't hearing you have sex? Do you regret Having Kids? Or do you miss going out casually without having to scrounge up a babysitter?

I'm not sure what the difference is among the situations you're enumerating. Surely not being able to go out casually and so forth is part of the regret about having children; one of the mothers in the article actually says so. I don't think anyone is taking the position that "regretting having children" necessarily means that you dislike the children themselves as human beings (although that undoubtedly does happen with some parents). I think the point of the article is that women are expected to love motherhood and think it's incontrovertibly the best thing they've ever done, and if they don't, and they express any reservations about parenting, they're considered "vile," "miserable," "cold-hearted," "selfish," and abusive -- a situation that redounds to the benefit of neither the mother nor the child.
posted by holborne at 12:36 PM on October 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


Mommy... what's a gagortion?
posted by symbioid at 12:44 PM on October 7, 2016


The sooner we can get to a point where no one has children because "that's what you're supposed to do," the better.
The pressure on people to have babies (people who know damn well better for themselves, no less) is astounding.

It's as if feminism, legal abortion, the pill and sexual revolution never happened. Somewhere in the late 80s early 90s, the AIDS panic seemed to trigger a regression to the 1950s model as a nostalgic trip back into a seemingly safer, more stable time. What people weren't remembering were the absent fathers who didn't really want to be around their families, and the emotionally abusive mothers who clearly resented their children and their stifling social role. That's what I grew up with; I don't know why people my age romanticize the old model.

I'm childless, and I got shit about it not from my Catholic mother, but from a male friend who was trashing me behind my back about how selfish and immature I was. Of course, he'd just had a child himself and was trying to teach us all how to change a diaper; he just assumed we were going to share the burden. Apparently, he didn't consider that it was on him and that he was going to be the one up at 2am.

I think some of the pressure comes from people who also resent parenthood but won't say it, who obviously and stupidly did not know what they were getting into, and who have a mentality of "I'm miserable, so why aren't you? It's not fair". So they project their anger onto people who had no part in their own personal, individual choice to have children, as if it's our fault that they didn't think they had a choice, that they think that feminism and birth control somehow didn't happen, and that the 1950s attitude of compulsory childbearing and housewifery (is that even a word?) led to infinite happiness and security for everyone, regardless of the actual circumstances.
posted by GospelofWesleyWillis at 12:47 PM on October 7, 2016 [11 favorites]


There's an old joke that sums up the sexist difference between how men and women are looked at for not wanting to have children:

Suzy was so skinny that when she swallowed an olive, half the young men skipped town. Running out on a child is ha-ha for men.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:50 PM on October 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


You can be the best mother (or father) of the best children in the whole wide world and you have the right too feel regret for the decision to have them, just because not having them is a road not taken.
posted by hat_eater at 12:54 PM on October 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


I am glad my parents had no kids.
One of those lima-bean-in-a-wet-sponge classroom exercises yielded a child or something? I really need to know!
posted by GospelofWesleyWillis at 12:54 PM on October 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


I can't help but wonder, as I read this article, why we never separate child-having from sole-child-rearing?

because basic prudence and forethought and planning? I am the child of a woman who was widowed when I was four and the grandchild of a woman who was widowed when my mom was 10 (unrelated causes - my foremothers did not murder their husbands out of frustration although nobody is more surprised by this than me) so perhaps I am more aware than many that getting pregnant with a devoted partner by your side means taking the real chance that you will be left to raise those screaming little bastards all alone. no child support, no visitation respites, no nothing. I could never in good conscience have children because aside from not wanting them, I can't and won't be any child's everything, and once you have them, you run that risk. even if you start out being only half of their everything.

This is more of a women's issue than it ought to be, partly because women very imprudently tend to marry older and therefore less hardy men, and partly because a man who is widowed tends to have less compunction about hiring a woman, always a woman, to do the other half of the labor. But it does shake and shock me that anybody who's unwilling to be a child's sole support is willing to have them at all.
posted by queenofbithynia at 12:57 PM on October 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


much of abstinence propaganda is coded versions of this - "don't have kids, you will regret having had kids", which is as close as people get to "I regret having kids".
My parents used to joke that I absorbed the "you'll regret having kids" message too well. For most of my young adult life, pregnancy was to be feared. Kids would derail your education, ruin your life, and end all prospects you might have of being a happy, healthy adult. Then sometime around 25, it stopped being the end of the world and started being the expected thing to do. Sadly, (to everyone else) I absorbed the life-ruining aspect of motherhood far too well to be able to renegotiate with myself and agree to have kids. I opted not to. For almost two more decades.

And now, here I am pushing mid-40s and people are still telling me there is time. I can have kids if I want. But I've seen my friends give up themselves for their now tween children, I've seen young, budding careers put on hold, and hell, I just helped two my dear friends leave the city they love to be closer to their parents because the complexities of raising a child in a city without grandparents has become too hard.

From everything I've seen and dealt with, the minute you bring a new person into the world, your life stops being your own. I have never been okay with that. I never will be okay with that. And sadly, I think too many women and men fail to recognize how very hard it is to be that person who gives up his or her existence to benefit the child. Honestly, I'm not sure we'll ever get to that point as a society. If we did, we may die out due to lack of children.
posted by teleri025 at 1:02 PM on October 7, 2016 [13 favorites]


I've never wanted kids, though, like others told me would happen, I kept waiting for when that would change. I'm approaching 30 and it hasn't wavered yet.

While holding friends' and family's babies, I get asked, "Doesn't this make you want one of your own?" Why is it that I feel ashamed when answering truthfully, "No, not at all." Why do I feel the need to craft my reply to be more gentle, less honest? "No, not yet, but maybe someday..."

I've only recently begun to speak more unabashedly about it, telling my mom that she shouldn't get hung up on the idea of grandchildren, telling other family members that kids aren't in the cards for me. Talking to romantic partners early, maybe even too early, about me not wanting kids and whether or not that might cause problems in the future.

I have precious few friends for whom this is also the case, and it's a relief to know that I'm not alone, and can talk about it with them.

I'm tired of hearing that not having children will be a regret I'll have forever. I'm tired of hearing that I'd make a great mother. I'm tired of feeling pressured to want something I've never wanted.
posted by rachaelfaith at 1:07 PM on October 7, 2016 [19 favorites]


See, that's the thing about being an adult: not having children will be a regret you'll have forever. having children will be a regret you'll have forever. Taking the job in That_Other_City will be a regret you'll have forever. Not taking it will too.

Isn't life wonderful?
posted by Fraxas at 1:27 PM on October 7, 2016 [10 favorites]


My semi-articulate rejoinder to "but you are being selfish" arguments against my and my partner's decision to forgo baby-creating included my comparing us to Pope Francis. "Is Pope Francis selfish for not having children?" Which, yes, preposterous, because I am no Pope Francis, but I thought the gist of it was clear. You can love others and serve others and commit yourself to others and choose not to have children.

But then I heard Donna Haraway read from her new book Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene and learned a whole new way to talk about how much maternal/aunternal (it's not a word but whatever it should be) love I have for children that in no way requires actual child-bearing
One of the most urgent tasks that we mortal critters have is making kin, not babies. This making kin, both with and among other humans and not humans, should happen in an enduring fashion that can sustain through generations. I propose making kin nongenealogically, which will be an absolute need for the eleven-plus billion humans by the end of this century—and is already terribly important. I’m interested in taking care of the earth in a way that makes multispecies environmental justice the means and not just the goal. So I think of making kin as a way of being really, truly prochild—making babies rare and precious—as opposed to the crazy pronatalist but actually antichild world in which we live. (source)
posted by spamandkimchi at 1:40 PM on October 7, 2016 [30 favorites]


My mother told me, with a smile on her face, "Don't ever have children." I can tell she doesn't regret bringing me and my siblings into the world--that she sees us as really wonderful people she's glad to know and have raised--but that having kids changed her life and her marriage in unexpected, and undesirable, ways. If she could go back in time and live her life again, she would have done it differently. I didn't feel rejected at all when she said that - I understood exactly what she meant. I'm unsure if I will ever want children but I am leaning toward no.
posted by robot cat at 1:57 PM on October 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


While holding friends' and family's babies, I get asked, "Doesn't this make you want one of your own?" Why is it that I feel ashamed when answering truthfully, "No, not at all." Why do I feel the need to craft my reply to be more gentle, less honest? "No, not yet, but maybe someday..."

They have made a choice that will alter their lives in drastic ways and you have no intention of making that choice. Even though it's not necessarily true, choosing a different option when so much is at stake kind of implies that someone has made/is making a horrible mistake. Because you are a good person, you want to avoid saying anything that might imply that you think they made a horrible mistake.

I mean, at least that's why I tend to hedge.
posted by sparklemotion at 2:00 PM on October 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


"Parenthood should be seen as a vocation, not a default." Thank you terretu! I will be using this with the people who still ask me at age 51 if i want to have children.

I knew at age twelve that I did not want children. I grew up with three younger brothers, many cousins and babysat so I had lots of experience with small children and the demands of caring for them. I realized because of it: I am selfish. I tell people that all of the time but the selfish I mean does not match their version of selfish so I always hear, "No, you're not!" Plus I think that people don't want to acknowledge that a woman can feel this way and really mean it. So they try to deny me my self-awareness about this issue. I am glad that I had the self-determination at twelve to recognize what I needed for my life and that I did not give into to a lot of familial and societal pressure.

I am lucky that the first person I ever expressed my feelings about not having children immediately accepted this information with no judgment. I took that response and kept it close when I was regularly interrogated throughout my twenties and thirties about not having children. I am also lucky that my husband feels exactly the same way and that both of us have been diligent about birth control since we have been together.
posted by narancia at 2:02 PM on October 7, 2016 [8 favorites]


The FX Network show Better Things dovetails very nicely with the issues/questions/feelings this topic raises. I highly recommend everyone take a good look at the show so far.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:07 PM on October 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


think too many women and men fail to recognize how very hard it is to be that person who gives up his or her existence to benefit the child. Honestly, I'm not sure we'll ever get to that point as a society. If we did, we may die out due to lack of children.

I'm sure that's just a joke, but some people really act as if humanity will die out if we don't procreate and it's the silliest thing ever in the face of overpopulation, climate change and massive pollution. You're probably just joking to make a point, but some people really do act like it's an obligation to humanity.
posted by GospelofWesleyWillis at 2:17 PM on October 7, 2016 [9 favorites]


At a time when my brother was already married and I was rather nicely single, I was cornered by a relative who insisted that I needed to "get going" on having kids so my parents could have grandkids. Um... so just because I'm the girl, I'm the one who bore the responsibility for creating grandchildren? This relative never even asked whether I wanted kids - I didn't at the time and I still don't. I forget my response, but I wanted to tell that relative to shove off.

The societal pressure on women to bear children is just ridiculous.
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 2:34 PM on October 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


My parents, who married in 1954 when both were over 30, were obviously under extreme pressure to have a child right away. My difficult, ultimately Cesarean, birth ultimately left my mother unable to have more children, and she did not successfully conceal her relief and I absolutely do NOT resent her for that. In fact, between that and my belief that environmental catastrophe was inevitable and my concerns about my dubious geneology, I decided at a relatively early age never to inflict any children of mine on the world or on a female partner. I have even believed that just adopting a child would have ultimately led to PTSD for the child, my wife and myself. And I have never regretted my decision. The underpopulation argument to me is totally offensive.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:41 PM on October 7, 2016 [8 favorites]


I think this question is one that's pretty hard to evaluate until the actual end of life. For one thing, it's possible that people who choose to have kids are overestimating how happy (or moneyed, or free) they would be if they never did have kids. It's not knowable, but it's certainly true that of my non-child-having friends in their 40s, there's quite a range of excitingly globetrotting, basically content, and actively miserable, and any are possible. Second, to whatever extent having children (and/or grandchildren) has rewards in the aggregate, they are massively delayed. As with a retirement account, a lot of the value of having children is not experienced for the first 20 years or so, so the pain of contributing is more noticeable than the eventual outcome.

In the end your life is just made of your life.
posted by Miko at 3:58 PM on October 7, 2016 [11 favorites]


Interesting discussion.

I feel like an important aspect that's not yet been raised is that I think it's part of the human maturation process to resolve the hard feelings that you acquired growing up as a child with an imperfect, often-resentful and -unhappy parent, by living in the crucible of parenthood your own self, and gaining the understanding of what your parents lived through by going through the fire yourself.

Yes, it's possible to live a childfree life in service to humanity (and bless those of you who do), but the fact is that there are very few other service roles that have the life-and-death, 24/7, relentless, existential quality to them. Becoming a parent is an initiatory process, plain and simple. Lots of things look very diffent on the other side, including one's own parents.
posted by Sublimity at 4:18 PM on October 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


I normally quote Gibran Gibran's On Children from The Prophet in a thread that takes measure of the reserve of regret (a reluctance and simultaneous resolve), but so many posts are plainly-worded and humble it makes me feel its quote is overly abstract.

When my peers first had children (I never have), my attempt at levity had been: Your children love you only because they don't know any better.

I never uttered it at the time, but coming from an extremely dysfunctional "family", the subtext had been: Until they do.

I'm older and no longer believe levity to have been the ore I was mining (to lean on a metaphor) and reckon a (functional) family as marvel and growth that I will have denied myself by consequence if not intent. An expression from a friend was never had he known such passionate intensity not connected in any way to lust. The motifs can overwhelm every sensibility I have...how, poetically at least, we pass another by the cradle of our arms.

But I'll say of its function and dysfunction: As profoundly selfless as being a parent can be, as selfish. It's at the core "us".
posted by lazycomputerkids at 4:40 PM on October 7, 2016


well, it's kind of hard to hear this kind of thing for me

i was determined until i was 38 not to have children - then i met a woman who talked me into it, that it wouldn't be too bad

long story short, our daughter turned out to be autistic, my wife decided that she didn't like being married anymore and 10 years later decided she didn't like being the mother of an autistic 18 year old and didn't have to and just plain kicked her out of her house and stopped seeing her

whatever regrets she had, i don't know how she can justify breaking her daughter's heart like that

oddly enough, i don't regret having her - and she's living with me now

so maybe regrets aren't the most important thing?
posted by pyramid termite at 5:33 PM on October 7, 2016 [14 favorites]


From above: I am a little ashamed that I was basically too selfish to have kids.

No need for the shame. I'm a mother with (thank god) no regrets, but I figure my decision to have kids was every bit as selfish as your decision not to do so, i.e., I had kids simply because I wanted the whole "kid" package. There was nothing at all selfless about the decision.

I imagine that people who have kids for anything less than selfish reasons are more likely to regret the decision down the road.
posted by she's not there at 5:39 PM on October 7, 2016 [9 favorites]


There's a real cognitive dissonance in saying "I regret having kids but I love my them more than anything in the world." It's like saying "Your existence is the most important thing to me, but I also wish it hadn't happened."

But I feel both those ways about my *own* existence most of the time. I'm not even actually depressed, just existential.
posted by clew at 6:46 PM on October 7, 2016 [14 favorites]


I feel like an important aspect that's not yet been raised is that I think it's part of the human maturation process to resolve the hard feelings that you acquired growing up as a child with an imperfect, often-resentful and -unhappy parent, by living in the crucible of parenthood your own self, and gaining the understanding of what your parents lived through by going through the fire yourself.

I disagree. Simply growing up and observing my peers as they interacted with their parents, and as they became parents themselves, taught me plenty about how my parents were absolutely awful. In fact, it wasn't until I *did* turn 25, 30, 35, 40, and so forth that I compared my own life and my own mental state to my memories of my parents at those ages--and realized exactly how lacking they were. Stuff that seemed like the relatively normal, if crappy, behavior of a situationally unhappy parent to my kid self suddenly popped out as HOLY SHIT toxic to my adult self. I definitely didn't need to have kids myself to figure it out.

I think the idea that "you don't know what parents go through/aren't mature unless you're a parent yourself" perpetuates the idea that people "need" to have kids to be considered an adult. No, people have to be an adult before they have kids, and a lot of parents really aren't. Having kids doesn't make people grow up, either. It just gives them a responsibility they're not mature enough to manage.
posted by Autumnheart at 8:00 PM on October 7, 2016 [49 favorites]


I'm not even actually depressed, just existential.

I'm remembering this for future reference.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:17 PM on October 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


People (and general life situations) make me question, on a regular basis, my confidence in my lack of desire to have kids. So I appreciate articles like this. They remind that motherhood isn't this guaranteed transformative experience that everyone comes out happier for having gone through. Motherhood actually doesn't fit well on some people. And if I'm feeling that I don't want kids, I'm probably one of them. Thanks for sharing.
posted by mantecol at 9:31 PM on October 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


I don't get how not wanting kids is selfish. A child is basically an extension of yourself, and you fulfilling your biological unit's purpose (to propagate DNA). It's an extension, so it's basically 1.5x of you, so you are actually widening the boundary of your 'Self', and taking up resources that -Self (other people) could have taken up. How is that selfless?

Got love? Give it to those who need it. Got food? Extra income? Give it to others.
posted by kinoeye at 9:52 PM on October 7, 2016 [7 favorites]


I say this as a mid to late twenties woman (that is, why I used the word 'extension', since it's 9 months inside you, and then the baby breastfeeds for some years).
posted by kinoeye at 9:58 PM on October 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


Publicly declaring a wish that one's own child had never been born is cruel, distasteful, gratuitous and seemingly narcissistic, whether by a mother or father. What could be more hurtful or a deeper insult?
posted by knoyers at 10:10 PM on October 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


To add to my post above, tonight, at a gathering of friends, most of whom are a little younger than me and still have kids at home, one of them suggested that because I was alone I should get a dog. Surprising even myself, without hesitation, I said unequivocally, "no way". I don't equate having a pet with having a child, but on the way home I was thinking about why my reaction was so quick and adamant. It is the responsibility of having another life rely on you for so many things. For all the ups and downs of parenthood, no matter what, the responsibility for their well-being and upbringing never goes away.

The responsibility and the pressure was what I never thought about before having children other than the financial calculations and it is what seems to be a relief now that I know my children are terrific, responsible, contributing young adults.

I love my children. I do not regret having them. But, it is a heavy burden with which a parent lives.
posted by AugustWest at 10:13 PM on October 7, 2016


knoyers: "Publicly declaring a wish that one's own child had never been born is cruel, distasteful, gratuitous and seemingly narcissistic, whether by a mother or father. What could be more hurtful or a deeper insult?"

I agree when you put it that way, but I think there is a big difference between wishing your child was never born and regretting having had children.
posted by AugustWest at 10:19 PM on October 7, 2016


I am glad my parents had no kids.

I am confused.


Your adoptive parents are still "your parents," but they didn't give birth to (colloquially, "have") you.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 12:52 AM on October 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


some people really act as if humanity will die out if we don't procreate

Humanity won't die out -- but we need to do some major readjustment to ensure our wellbeing. (Which we should do. Now, please.) We need an economic model that does not rely on population growth, to start with.

We also can't just expect that the old will be taken care of by their children. This is something that I personally worry about a lot. I'm never going to have children, and I'm the only child of an only child, meaning that there are no close relatives who will be able to look out for me. I don't have much money, and I don't have a retirement plan. My old age looks grim.

There have always been people in my position. Those who don't want children, can't have children, or whose children are estranged or otherwise unable to care for them. But as we shift toward a model where child-having is more and more optional, there will be more of us.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 3:25 AM on October 8, 2016 [10 favorites]


A few thoughts...

I think one minor factor is that because you have to put on a calm, cheerful facade when you're looking after children, non-parents sometimes don't realise how bored or miserable you are. When I take the toddler round the supermarket in his trolley I'm always spinning him round and pointing things out excitedly, sometimes to amused looks, sometimes to annoyed looks. I don't do that optionally or because it's fun; bit because the alternative is to have him jump out, run out of my site, eat random food and clamber into freezer cabinets.

Another thing is that it's impossible to know beforehand how things will be after the baby arrives. Your partner can respond entirely differently to the way you expected. Your job and housing situation can change. These things can make it much harder than you (reasonably) expected.

Because of the way children need consistency and routine, a parent playing the aw-shucks-I'm-useless card has a terrible power of disruption. If they let a toddler stay up till 10PM watching videos because of mild resistance, that's not just a problem for one night. For the next week, with the routine broken, the Default Parent can face a horrific struggle each bedtime, and then in the morning because the kid hasn't had enough sleep.

On TV the lazy parent is always taught a valuable lesson after being forced to look after the child for a week and having a tough time. In real life that doesn't happen. They just interpret routine challenges as rare calamities which they are heroes for tackling. The default parent's hard earned skills of distraction and cajoling, and the results of months of painful consistency, are interpreted as a "knack with children" which the lazy parent obviously wasn't born with.

Overall, even if you thought you had a realistic idea of what child raising would be like, it's possible to find yourself trapped in a bad situation.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 4:20 AM on October 8, 2016 [17 favorites]


Publicly declaring a wish that one's own child had never been born is cruel, distasteful, gratuitous and seemingly narcissistic, whether by a mother or father.

Reactions like this are exactly why so many parents, especially mothers, are afraid to express their honest feelings.
posted by a strong female character at 8:44 AM on October 8, 2016 [18 favorites]


There are times when it is best not to express honest feelings and unacceptably selfish to express them, such as when that expression entails rejecting the entire existence of the innocent child you chose to create, who needs at least an illusion of acceptance and love. There is no amount of social pressure on mothers (or fathers) that can justify that level of cruelty
posted by knoyers at 8:53 AM on October 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


It sounds like you're reacting more to pyramid termite's poignant story and not the entire FPP?
posted by aydeejones at 9:02 AM on October 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


knoyers, who is saying that you have to tell your child to their face, or even tell people that your children know, that you regret having had them?

It is a basic human need to be able to express one's feelings, and there is such pressure in that even anonymously saying one's feelings -- *not* to one's own children, not to their face, not associating a name with a face -- results in the diatribes against these mothers mentioned earlier in the post.

Nobody is saying that mothers should tell their children every day that they regret having had them. That is cruel. But who are you to say that no parent can ever express this feeling, even to a therapist in private?
posted by andrewesque at 10:26 AM on October 8, 2016 [8 favorites]


knoyers, have you not read or are you ignoring all the lovely nuanced discussion that we've has in this thread? Your comments come across as rather harsh, distasteful and cruel in light of what people have shared, and I personally feel like your comment will end up derailing a useful discussion.
posted by Squeak Attack at 10:40 AM on October 8, 2016 [12 favorites]


This article (the yahoo and huff post ones too) has appeared on several forums/boards that I'm a member of, and I read every single one of the comments every time. I really enjoy refreshing honesty on all sides. It's like everyone knows what's best for us and forgot to ask us what we thought.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 11:17 AM on October 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


I knew at 14 that I never wanted kids. Hell, I hated being a kid and I didn't like playing with kids either. My parents eventually gave up the ghost, but my relatives still ply me with "Do you have a boyfriend? When is your mom gonna be a grandmother?" Like, for real Auntie? I'm a child-hating dyke. You've known that for a decade.

If you think "I don't like children" is a showstopper, try "...and I hate dogs too!"
posted by fritillary at 2:47 PM on October 8, 2016 [6 favorites]


one thought - children aren't stupid - they know
posted by pyramid termite at 5:24 PM on October 8, 2016 [5 favorites]


Autumnheart, do you have children?

Certainly lots of terrible people have children, and lots of OK people turn out to be awful parents. It's not like attaining grandparent status is a "get out of shitty parenting karma" card or absolves awful things--I never said that. I'm sorry that you grew up in such painful and hurtful circumstances. I did too, for what it's worth.

Even so, parenting does put a person under a strain that very, very few other pursuits do, and is a challenge to the character like few other things. Lots of us really confront the unbeautiful aspects of our own nature when we grapple with the hard realities of parenthood.

Making your way through that challenge does not absolve the sins that our own parents committed, but it certainly can put them in a different light when you realize that you yourself are not without sin. It's far easier to judge when you haven't been there.
posted by Sublimity at 6:14 PM on October 8, 2016


Can we please not go for "do you have children?" as a marker for whether somebody's opinion is worth listening to? Whether Autumnheart has kids or not, that was a thoughtful and interesting comment.
posted by Lexica at 8:40 PM on October 8, 2016 [20 favorites]


Many years ago, when studying Finnish folklore and ethnology at university I came across a fascinating study of very old, grim lullabies. There was a running theme in them where the singer (presumably the mother) was expressing her wish that the kid would die. Not in a gruesome way - it mostly boiled down to "go and sleep deep underground and never wake up again, little bird". There were also lullabies expressing fiery longing for the years of maidenhood, oh and some general suicidal ideation, too.

The author's interpretation was that these songs were sang by women who were exhausted, sleep-deprived and depressed. That study always comes to my mind when I read articles such as the OP, because it suggests that these kinds of feelings are not necessarily the product of modern society. Motherhood can be brutal, and always has.
posted by sively at 12:59 AM on October 9, 2016 [13 favorites]


I'm not sure what the difference is among the situations you're enumerating. Surely not being able to go out casually and so forth is part of the regret about having children; one of the mothers in the article actually says so. I don't think anyone is taking the position that "regretting having children" necessarily means that you dislike the children themselves as human beings (although that undoubtedly does happen with some parents). I think the point of the article is that women are expected to love motherhood and think it's incontrovertibly the best thing they've ever done,

What I was trying to say was more that what people seem, in the article, to regret, are not things that are inherent to the motherhood process, but more a lack of extended support, or from doing the primary childrearing. I'm not talking "single parent/dual parent", I'm talking, "Parent without an enormous family support structure that can watch children at a moments' notice/live in nanny/an on-call sitting service." There's no reason that motherhood must entail full time care of children, and it's honestly a very recent invention.
posted by corb at 1:35 AM on October 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


I love this thread.

I briefly wanted children for about a year in my twenties, never before, never really since, other than the occasional brief wonder here and there.

My mother wanted kids, my father didn't. My mum had resigned herself to not having them when my dad suddenly changed his mind in his late 30's. As it turned out, once my sister and I stopped being completely dependent extensions of my parents, and started developing opinions and personalities, my dad realized he actually didn't want kids after all. My mum did a great job given how much was on her to give my sister and I a normal life. And compared to so many people, we had a good upbringing.

But there is something significantly and permanently scarring about your father attempting to apologize for (or excuse, or explain) his latest emotionally abusive outburst by tearfully telling you, his child, in her delicate formative years, that he never should have had children. My sister, now in her mid 40's, has still not recovered from what growing up with my father did to her, and I don't know if she ever will. And the worst part is that I can completely understand how he felt, now that I have distance and so much time has passed, and fear of feeling the same way is a big part of why I think I have never really felt the need to procreate.

I have a dear and very wise friend who says that while she loves her son dearly, and cannot imagine life without him, it would have been just fine if she hadn't had him. And I think more people feel that way than will admit it, perhaps even to themselves.

I enjoy my "selfish" life, I love my husband and my dogs and being able to more or less do what I want, when I want. The world has too many people as it is.

I am more bewildered by my young co-worker who doesn't like children, who doesn't behave or seem to feel even remotely maternal, but who is planning to have kids anyway soon after she gets married next year, because that's what she is expected to do.
posted by biscotti at 6:59 AM on October 9, 2016 [11 favorites]


I am a married woman who does not want kids. People in my circle of friends and family generally either don't give a shit or their curiosity is satisfied with my explanation: "I don't want kids. I figure that kids should be wanted, so I'm not going to have any."

It's easy to forget that I am near the very top of the privilege pyramid when it comes to choices about whether or not to have kids.

Yesterday, I described myself as a "staunch feminist who has chosen not to have children and thinks that women being defined primarily through motherhood is toxic to society" as a quick way to bow out of a discussion that had taken a turn towards women's issues with a person who had said previously that he believed the traditional family unit to be the foundation of any functioning society. My discussion partner agreed it would be pointless to continue, but a third party swooped in to hurl several paragraphs of insults at me based only on that one sentence, at one point justifying himself by saying "someone needs to say mean things to you" because my ideas were so harmful. At some point, that person might raise a daughter.
posted by Wroughtirony at 9:15 AM on October 10, 2016 [4 favorites]


If you think "I don't like children" is a showstopper, try "...and I hate dogs too!"

You are dead to me.

DEAD, I say!
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 9:43 AM on October 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


All the stories from children who knew their parents didn't enjoy them or want are a major part of my long term desire to avoid having kids. It seemed to be the most horrible thing to do to a child would be to tell them they were unwanted, but worst still it seemed that knowing you didn't want them and having them anyway just seemed to be even worse. Not knowing and discovering it after the fact, while tragic, was far better than knowing it would be horrible and still doing it.
posted by teleri025 at 8:05 AM on October 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


This reminds me of a radio report I heard this morning about child brides in Syria
Jumanah from Homs speaks with experience. She is 20 years old now, but got married at 15 and already has four children.

"I didn't know I would have all these responsibilities," she says. "I could have killed my baby. I fed her things I shouldn't have - I would put sugar in her milk when she was a newborn, and then give her medicine when she didn't need it."

"She would cry and I didn't know why. I was too young. I now have four girls - and its only the fourth I knew how to raise properly."
posted by asok at 8:37 AM on October 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Having a kid was so life-altering for me. I can't imagine how horrible it could feel if it was not actually wanted.
I wanted oh so much to be a mother, and still at times feel melancholy for the parts of my life I left behind, the pangs of what could have been, and the feelings of isolation/limitation that can come with it.
posted by Theta States at 12:19 PM on October 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


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