Some Women regret Motherhood and I can see why. So much of it is tangled up in our identity whether we like it or not. I’ll explain what I mean.
My daughter gave me an identity but not How you Might Think.
Yes, she made me a Mother, the instant shift which occurs with a child’s birth, but that’s not what I’m talking about. When ‘Mother’ landed on-top of my identity totem pole (wife, mother, sister, friend, employee) I crumbled and splintered under the weight of it.
Then, the scramble began.
When something breaks it’s time to evaluate. To remove the rubbish and rebuild with only functional pieces. The process is uncomfortable at best and downright painful at the worst. For me, depression settled among the sawdust.
No one talks about how Motherhood dredges up any painful childhood memories you might have been band-aiding for decades. In order to fix that stuff permanently you need to revisit every awful detail.
For me that meant therapy. Lots. It meant a year-long bout with postnatal depression and it’s cousin, anxiety. It meant figuring out who I was, who I wanted to be, and no longer caring about anyone else’s opinion. Former people pleaser, right here folks <————-
Setting an example for my daughter became my sole motivation to get my shit together. I wanted to be a woman who had passion and fulfillment in life. So when I say my daughter gave me an identity, I’m not talking about the label ‘Mother,’ but rather how she was the catalyst for me to reclaim, create, and decide who I wanted to be.
What about the Women who aren’t sure They Want Kids?
I always wanted children and remember helping when my little brother was born. Always the babysitter, I have over 20 younger cousins on my Father’s side alone. I knew how to hold a baby, how to change a nappy. I had no idea how my own flesh and blood would try to swallow me whole.
The moment we came out of the birthing suite and laid her in the hospital bassinet she started choking on mucus. I thought all that stuff would have been squeezed out from the two hours she spent in my birth canal. Immediately terrified and from that moment on I felt completely unprepared to take responsibility for her precious life. She was so delicate and I, so clueless.
For someone who always wanted kids and who had low expectations for Parenthood, even I was crushed by the weight of it. Well-meaning strangers amplified my feelings of failure by telling me to enjoy every single moment (maybe I would have enjoyed it more with some sleep and regular showers). The old me was buried under expectations, martyrdom, judgment and guilt. Imagine if I were a woman previously ‘on the fence’ about having kids? Someone who expected the baby to light up my world? Regret could have easily followed.
So what got me thinking about Motherhood and Identity In the First Place?
I came across a controversial article on about Mothers who regret having children. A taboo topic yet I felt empathy for those mothers. The honesty and bravery of the piece surprised me and then again, it didn’t.
Modern motherhood sets us up for failure. The myth that children will magically give our life purpose. Few people speak up about the harsher realities of motherhood (I don’t say parenthood because I feel the expectations on women are far greater). We are supposed to fall in love with the child immediately (not everyone does), enjoy every single moment (only if you are insane), we must always put children first (no one can parent successfully with an empty cup). Oh yeah- and we must do it all in isolation because our villages are gone.
So while I personally don’t regret Motherhood, I can completely understand how some women would. I shared the article in on my Facebook page and insightful and honest discussion ensued (it could have gone in the opposite direction).
Sited in the original article is this one written in 2005. It’s written by a woman who publicly stated that she loves her husband more than her children. I remember seeing the author on Oprah, hearing the boos, watching the audience’s negative reactions. A young adult myself, it never occurred to me that my parents had lives outside of the home. A year later they would divorce as soon as my brother graduated from High School, a classic case of ‘staying together for the kids.’
Side Note: Don’t stay together for the kids! Show the kids how to be truly happy!
There are More Important Things in Life.
Having my daughter made me want to be a better person, much like with a love affair, because I wanted to be worthy of being her mother. Deep down I felt unhappy with myself. I desperately wanted to be the example of a fulfilled, confident, successful and satisfied woman but I was far from it and I’ll be damned if I was going to put that responsibility onto my little girl.
So maybe I differ from the honest Oprah guest in that it’s a constant struggle for me to PREVENT making my daughter the centre of my universe. To remember to save some energy for my relationship and for myself. After all, someday kids leave. And you’re still there.
No matter what you see on social media, there is no perfect way to parent (and no perfect parents). I think it would be better to share our struggles and support one another more openly. Maybe that we could admit to ourselves and our children that life isn’t meant to be one, long highlight-reel. But rather a series of attempts, failures, resilience and forgiveness. I think those are good lessons for both parents and children.
Can you understand why some mothers have regrets?