It was a slow realization, taking years to accept and even more time to consider. But I regret that I had children.
I’m a mother of two. They are both still young. Two boys. Rambunctious, loud, happy. But I wish I had never had them.
Commence the “you’re a horrible, selfish person” narrative. In fact, the rhetoric of guilt is exactly what kept me in denial for so long. The idea that I should want to be a mother has been shoved down my throat since I was a child. And the conflict of loving my children, and wishing I didn’t have any, tears at my very existence every day.
Having recently published research exposing the rhetorical differences in male and female sterilization counseling, which investigated the tactics and ideology surrounding issues of female reproductive justice, one of my findings was that women are often told they will regret not having children. They are told they will feel empty and unfulfilled. Women without children are called selfish, barren, spinsters … the list goes on. If a woman is unmarried and doesn’t have children, we wonder, what’s wrong with her? Isn’t she lonely? Isn’t her biological clock ticking? She’d make a good Hallmark movie.
And in the doctor’s office, a woman who asks about sterilization is steered away from it. She’s offered a myriad of other choices that will not end her reproductive abilities. And there, too, she is told she may regret her decision to not have children.
But no one mentions you might regret having them.
No doctor ever says you might regret having children. You may regret it because they are physically, emotionally and financially taxing. They make it difficult to save money. They make it difficult to travel. They make it difficult to vacation. They make it difficult to have intimacy with your partner. They make it difficult to go grocery shopping.
The fact that both of my children have special needs adds to the difficulty. ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder. My husband suffers from depression and anxiety, which escalates every difficult interaction with the children. I don’t know when the last time we had an outing, even just to Walmart, that didn’t end in screaming and tears and orders of “Go to your room!” the second we walk in the door. We haven’t gone to the movies. We don’t go antiquing. The last real date we went on was over eight years ago.
I’ve spent hours on the phone with teachers and principals about my kids’ behavior in school. I’ve spent hours in doctor’s offices and emergency rooms for illnesses and medications. I’ve missed out on so many opportunities because I have children. But the minute I mention I’m drowning in motherhood, I am immediately shamed.
“They’re only young once.”
“You just need to hug them.”
“You just need to have more patience.”
“You can have vacations when they are older.”
I had children young. I got married young. I missed out on my 20s because I was married and/or pregnant. I’ve never traveled out of the country. I didn’t finish my bachelor’s degree until I was over 30. And there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t sit on the stool in my kitchen staring out the window, wondering what could have been.
Moms, it’s okay to regret your children. No one told us we might regret having them, just that we’d definitely regret not having them. They shamed us into motherhood. Society expects women to be nurturing and maternal, and selfless, and never think of themselves before their children or partner. We need to change this narrative. We need to let women know that they can be happy without being a mother. Careers, hobbies, friends, partners, pets … all of these things can be fulfilling and make a happy life.
Children are not the pinnacle of a woman’s existence.
I love my kids. I love them because I am a mother and I have them now. But if I could go back, I wouldn’t have them.
We are Scary Mommies, millions of unique women, united by motherhood. We are scary, and we are proud. But Scary Mommies are more than “just” mothers; we are partners (and ex-partners,) daughters, sisters, friends… and we need a space to talk about things other than the kids. So check out our Scary Mommy It’s Personal Facebook page. And if your kids are out of diapers and daycare, our Scary Mommy Tweens & Teens Facebook pageis here to help parents survive the tween and teen years (aka, the scariest of them all.)