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On Monday, the New York Post published an article titled “I Regret Having Children.” The piece features excerpts from online forums in which disgruntled mothers voice the sorrows and frustrations that have plagued them since having children.
“Kids — they change your life forever,” Post reporter Gemma Wilson writes. “There are the sleepless nights, enough diapers to sink a navy ship and, well, don’t get us started on what happens to your sex life. Ha!”
“But despite all this, most moms reckon having children is the best thing they’ve ever done,” Wilson continues. “We’ll high-five that. But here’s the thing that’s rarely discussed: the mums who don’t say that. The mums who realize they’ve made a big, fat life mistake and should never have had children at all.”
Before I get into what these moms wrote, I have to note the question that came to mind upon reading the headline: What purpose does an article like this serve?
More on that in a bit. Let’s first hear what these mothers have to say.
Wilson breaks the various complaints down into four categories: “stressed stay-at-home mom,” “missing the old life,” “single mother hardship,” and “ready to walk.”
In the first section, a mother-of-one laments “giving in” to her husband’s desire for children. Now that she has a 2-year-old, she realizes that motherhood is “not my calling.”
“My son is 2 years old and it has been such a lonely and desperate struggle,” she writes. “I feel like my wonderful life has turned upside down.”
“It’s not me,” the mother assures. “I miss my old life so much I just feel like walking out and leaving my husband and son. I hate playing in the park. I want to go to a gallery. I hate watching Peppa Pig — I want to read a novel. I hate going to playgroups — I want to have lunch with friends.”
She describes the loss of personal freedom as “being conned out of my real life.”
In the next section, “missing the old life,” a mother-of-two describes herself as “desperately sad” and lacking confidence:
I wake up and cry knowing it’s just another day of dealing with crying arguing whiny children. They’re three and one. I know it will probably eventually get better, but this is 4 years that I’ve spent miserable and struggling. Can’t have nice holidays or days out because the kids make it stressful, house is a tip and we don’t have time to sort it. Just feel like I don’t see the point.
“The kids are fine, I do a lot with them, they’re very loved,” she continues. “But how I wish I could turn back the clock and not go through this.”
Under “single mother hardship,” Wilson cites another mother of a 12-year-old, who claims she felt a “huge weight of regret” the moment the midwife delivered her daughter.
Out of all the mothers cited, this woman appears to have the hardest home life, with virtually no support system, including alcoholic parents who weren’t able to help at all with childcare. Despite this, however, her regret seems to lie in the fact that she genuinely loves her daughter and wants the best for her:
I picked the wrong man to be my daughter’s father he left when I was pregnant never paid a penny toward her upkeep or been to see her. I feel like a failure all the time, like I’m doing it wrong. I try to be a good mum, but I just find it exhausting.
“Regret for me is wishing she had been born into a loving home not by a single mother doing motherhood by painting by numbers,” she writes.
In the last section, “ready to walk,” a mother of 10-month-old twins bluntly proclaims, “I hate my life.”
My husband is in the Army, so away a lot. I hate the monotony and the constant CONSTANT crying and battles for attention. I’ve hated it since they were born.
Since having them I’ve become increasingly bitter, depressed and angry.
She notes that she has considered adoption and divorce as options, but finally ruled that neither would solve her problems.
“Does anyone have any other options or advice?” she writes in the Facebook group, “I Regret Having Children,” “Starting to feel like my only option is to suck it up or hand them over to social services.”
Wilson’s article is sad on so many levels, but it is mostly sad because these women seem to be completely unaware of what motherhood is even about. Whatever expectations they had regarding motherhood were clearly off, and now they are grieving the loss of something that never existed to begin with.
To these women, I put forth the following questions:
What if I told you that motherhood is about dying to self? What if I told you that 2-year-olds have a special, God-given talent for helping you to grow in holiness, for the sheer reason that they are often insufferable? What if life is about so much more than personal “happiness” or “fulfillment”? What if the joy and drudgery of motherhood actually hold the key to unlocking life’s deeper meaning?
The timing of the New York Post article is difficult to ignore — it came just a day after Father’s Day and one month after Mother’s Day. Clearly, these holidays to honor parents are not enough to sustain those who feel unduly burdened and resentful about having kids.
More than presents and thoughtful cards, parents today need to hear the truth, which is that no matter how they feel, their roles are infinitely important and irreplaceable. Though the diaper changing, temper tantrums, and messy houses take a toll on even the best parents, they should never cease to find solace in the truth that the collective work of stewarding young lives is one of the best uses of their time here on Earth.
The Post article is helpful in that it confirms something many may have already suspected: Society is sick. I’d like to suggest that the type of selflessness found in sacrificing oneself for others could be the thing to cure it.