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.

Motherhood and Identity

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.

You don’t have to look closely to see the fear in my eyes

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.

Photo by Sara Heidinger Photography

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?

Author: dawnrieniets

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17 thoughts on “Some Women Regret Motherhood: This Might Be Why

  1. Can I understand why some mothers have regrets? Yep, because I am one of them. I often wonder if I would have had kids if I could get in a time machine and go back, knowing what I know now. Quite possibly not. I long to have my independence & solitude back. I think it’s utter bullshit that nobody talks about this. I had a blog going for a while and got hugely positive feedback when I wrote honestly about the crappy bits of parenting, but stopped because I was too afraid of what people would think if I continued.

    Posted on May 4, 2017 at 9:03 am
    1. Good for you for being so brave! It’s such an important conversation. I bet 80 percent of Mother’s would decide not to have children if they REALLY, like really knew what they were in for. You should write more about the topic! Screw the haters. Peace & Love <3

      Posted on May 4, 2017 at 9:09 am
  2. What a beautifully written post Dawn. I’ve read both those articles and while I don’t regret having kids, perhaps on some level, I feel, I guess I feel like you do – the weight of it is enormous, sometimes too much. And there are days (sometimes frequent days) where I think that life would have been so much easier if it was just my husband and I. For once I’m on the fortunate side of hindsight and recognise the layers and the depth that having a family has brought to my life, and I do think I’d be a lesser version of myself without them. Because like you, I want to feel worthy, I owe them a mother that is worthy of them. Such a lovely, compassionate and thoughtful piece. xx

    Posted on May 4, 2017 at 9:26 am
    1. Thank you, Collette, I think we all realize that our lives would be ‘easier’ without kids but I feel like that’s what makes it worthwhile. All the hard stuff, the struggle in life, makes us grow and change for the better if we can see the lessons there. You’re an excellent Mum because of the way you approach it and take it all in. “For once I’m on the fortunate side of hindsight and recognise the layers and the depth that having a family has brought to my life”- what a stunningly beautiful sentiment. <3

      Posted on May 4, 2017 at 10:21 pm
  3. I don’t regret having my son (and I wanted at least one more), but I do regret not being a better mother. I didn’t work very hard at it because I thought I had a relatively happy and very bright kid. I also had a husband who always allowed me PLENTY of space–always happy to take the boy and let me wander. Our son brought so much joy into our lives because we waited so long for him and as a result, I didn’t think about creating joy for him. Thought it was just there naturally. But now I’m discovering how much as a young man his experiences as a child have affected him–not realizing back then what was happening. I thought he was getting our good qualities because that’s what showed on the outside, but he was really internalizing our very worst qualities.

    Posted on May 4, 2017 at 6:27 pm
    1. Kate, I hope you don’t blame yourself too much. It sounds like you had no idea what was going on with your son. Sometimes mental health issues can get the best of us. I blamed my parents for a long time until I decided to take responsibility for my own decisions, actions, and life. I don’t know your particular situation but I’m sure it’s universal on many levels. Hope your son is okay! <3

      Posted on May 4, 2017 at 10:18 pm
  4. Thanks Dawn – I think that’s really insightful, and thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. It’s given me a lot to ponder (even as someone who doesn’t regret her kids – but, at the same time …. the struggle with identity does exist) x

    Posted on May 5, 2017 at 9:26 am
    1. The identity topic is huge don’t you think? For me, I had to make it almost a mission to sort it out after I had my daughter. I’m so glad I did (always a work in progress but at least it’s a better foundation now) because I feel happier within myself and I think it makes me a better Mother.

      Posted on May 6, 2017 at 1:43 am
  5. Gosh, that’s an emotive issue, Dawn! Motherhood is tough and there is no doubt that there are times that are really challenging, exhausting, frustrating. There are times when we crave time to ourselves to just be able to sit without interruption, to put our head on the pillow at night and know that we won’t wake until morning. There are times when I have felt my kids have sucked all the energy from me. And I can understand at these moments that the thought may come that life would be easier without kids. In my volunteer work with new mums, I have seen how a woman can struggle with her newborn. But to regret having kids? That makes me think that a mum is saying that her life would have been better without her kids ever having been, and I’m not sure I can understand that. Perhaps it is because my kids are now adults so I have the benefit of being able to see that the crappy moments are just that – moments, even if they do seem to be unending. And the solitude we desire, the couple time, the uninterrupted sleep – it comes back. If a woman regrets having her kids, well, I can’t take issue with her – that’s how she feels. But it makes me feel really sad.

    Posted on May 5, 2017 at 11:59 am
  6. Gosh, that’s an emotive issue, Dawn! Motherhood is tough and there is no doubt that there are times that are really challenging, exhausting, frustrating. There are times when we crave time to ourselves to just be able to sit without interruption, to put our head on the pillow at night and know that we won’t wake until morning. There are times when I have felt my kids have sucked all the energy from me. And I can understand at these moments that the thought may come that life would be easier without kids. In my volunteer work with new mums, I have seen how a woman can struggle with her newborn. But to regret having kids? That makes me think that a mum is saying that her life would have been better without her kids ever having been, and I’m not sure I can understand that. Perhaps it is because my kids are now adults so I have the benefit of being able to see that the crappy moments are just that – moments, even if they do seem to be unending. And the solitude we desire, the couple time, the uninterrupted sleep – it comes back. If a woman regrets having her kids, well, I can’t take issue with her – that’s how she feels. But it makes me feel sad to think the happy moments she is experiencing with her kids – and surely there are some – are not enough to outweigh the downside of her mothering.

    Posted on May 5, 2017 at 12:09 pm
    1. I hear you. <3 Personally, I know my life without kids would not be as rich as it is, even though it's often hard.

      Posted on May 6, 2017 at 1:40 am
  7. I adore motherhood and I had a pretty easy time of the baby years. That had very little to do with my excellent (ahem) parenting skills and everything to do with luck and a supportive network. However, I will still say that I love my husband in a different way and that I think our relationship has to come first. I think that’s the healthiest model for the kids.

    Posted on May 5, 2017 at 9:02 pm
    1. The network! It’s all about the support network, isn’t it? My first time around was SO SO difficult being an expat and having moved from the city to the burbs. I feel so grateful that over the last 3.5 years I’ve built a network, found a tribe and it makes me feel so much more secure sitting here knowing that I’m about to enter the dreaded newborn zone once again. And I’m with you 100% about the relationship- It’s so important to pour love and energy into it because not only will the kids leave someday but they have your healthy relationship as a template for their own. <3

      Posted on May 6, 2017 at 1:37 am
  8. Love this.

    In a bunch of ways the narrative for father’s runs in the opposite direction. We’re coming from a place where our dads took a couple of days off when their kids were born and were then back at work. Nothing changed about their identity.

    It’s the flipside of the same coin, and I think it’s part of the same discussion. Thanks ks for your honesty, openenss about these things only helps.

    Posted on May 5, 2017 at 10:04 pm
    1. Thanks for your insight Seamus. I agree with you the Father’s perspective is important and traditionally almost opposite to the Mother’s in terms of identity. And you’re absolutely right, back in the day Fathers had to provide and not much else was expected. I think it’s changing though which is important for families. I’d love to hear more about your thoughts on the matter- as in, what do you think about Dad’s and the pressure to be more involved?

      Posted on May 6, 2017 at 1:30 am
      1. Good question Dawn, and thanks for replying!

        It’s complicated, in short. I’ve heard of dads getting praised for taking their kids out shopping. Literally that’s all they’re doing “Oh, aren’t you good giving mum a break” kind of comments.
        IT’S JUST TAKING YOUR OWN KIDS SHOPPING IT IS THE SMALLEST DEAL IN THE UNIVERSE.

        On the other hand in a typical nuclear setup it’s easy for a man to feel somehow detached from parenting. They go back to work sooner, they’re role is assumed to be less in the child’s life, they don’t breastfeed, and of course they didn’t spend 40 weeks gestating a baby inside them. It’s easy to feel redundant, and you do find yourself looking for ways to be involved or to be useful – after all men are supposed to be the practical ones, right? (It’s what we’ve been telling boys and men for years, so it’s got to be true… right?)

        I often share this story when thinking about the topic. My mother came in to visit our son when he was born 5 and a half years ago. It was our first baby, and it was just us in the hospital. My wife was holding him, and (as happens) he found himself suddenly in need of a change.

        I scooped him up, took him to the change table and did what needed to be done. It wasn’t the first time, and it certainly wasn’t the last. It was not big deal.

        Later on mum looked at me and said – with the slightest tinge of surprise and resignation – that my dad had never changed a nappy. And, for the time, that was probably pretty normal for his time. In fact dad did the classic thing where he didn’t have much to do with us before the age of 4 or 5. and that was pretty much the norm….

        So, in short, it’s complicated. I’m guilty of putting too much pressure on myself at times, and there are evenings when I come home from work exhausted and I just don’t want the kids crawling all over me.

        But I don’t face judgement in the same way, as a dad, the pressure is entirely self-generated.

        Posted on May 6, 2017 at 10:31 am
      2. Thank you so much for sharing your point of view. I can absolutely relate to the self-generated pressure. And might I point out, that you sound like an awesome Dad.

        Posted on May 7, 2017 at 4:23 am