The growing movement of women who regret having children

In September, Laura* a 37-year-old journalist in Los Angeles, United States told Marie Claire “the thing about realising you shouldn’t

In September, Laura* a 37-year-old journalist in Los Angeles, United States told Marie Claire “the thing about realising you shouldn’t have kids” is that you can’t take that decision back.

While Laura believed she wanted to become a mother she now says, “I really didn’t know what I was in for.”

She talks about how overwhelmed and frustrated she was, the lengthy periods of crying she endured, and how she was bored and dissatisfied. It was a cloud that never lifted.

“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 [her son]. I realised that this was my life now — and it was unbearable,” Laura tells Marie Claire.

It’s a big call admitting that you’d wished your child had never been born, but it’s not uncommon.

Across the world there is the ideal of motherhood being projected. Included in the unthinkable are all the things new mothers and prospective mothers are being told they shouldn’t do with the big one being a push to continue working instead of taking maternity leave.

However, when a mother says she regrets becoming one at all you can hear the collective gasp of disbelief at expressing such honesty and the women are treated like monsters.

Shouldn’t we instead be asking why there are an increasing number of women feeling this way?

“Motherhood is no longer an all-encompassing role for women now,” says Toni Morrison in Andrea O’Reilly’s Motherhood: A Politics of Heart.

“It was the most liberating thing that ever happened to me,” Morrison tells The Guardian, highlighting that her children’s demands on her were things no one had ever asked her to do. “To be a good manager. To have a sense of humour. To deliver something that somebody could use.”

The movement appears to have been kickstarted more than a decade ago when Corinne Maier sent Europe into a spin when she released No Kids: 40 Good Reasons Not to Have Children.

Maier says, “Enough with this ‘baby-mania’ that is plaguing modern society; it’s nothing but brainwashing.”

Among the reasons she cited not to have children: losing touch with your friends, an end to your sex life, the cost of children, the nightmares of your holidays, and that the planet is already over-crowded.

It’s understandable (maybe) that the book was branded “selfish” and “incredible distasteful”.

Yet, such openness has encouraged others who feel the same to step up to the microphone.

“I don’t think it was worth it,” says Tammy*. “Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids, but it comes at a huge cost; mentally emotionally and physically.”

“I wonder if my accomplishments would be more spectacular,” says 38-year-old writer and editor Ananya. “Would I have written my second or third book? Would I be able to travel to chase that elusive story? I feel motherhood has slowed me down so much.”

“I am a stay at home mother of two (7 and 4) with big regrets,” writes an anonymous poster on a Facebook page just for those who regret having children. “I love them, but I’m not happy. They have taken all my freedom, I can’t get a job… Now I’m just doing never-ending house duties.”

Society has evolved to such an extent that some feel compelled to share every detail of their life, and yet when it comes to a subject as delicate as this one many would prefer women just kept their thoughts to themselves.

Do you have children? Were there ever any moments where you questioned your decision to become a parent? Are such feelings limited to women alone? What are your thoughts on this issue?

  1. Carol McEwing-Anderson  

    I would do things differently than I did in the 1970s, if I had the option.

  2. ann  

    I always regretted having children. I do love them, don’t get me wrong but my husband died before the youngest was born and I had to work to keep us alive. I did not find out about the widows pension until I moved to a major city when the kids were 7 and 8. Even then it was not enough to live on. Both are now drug addicts because according to them I was too busy doing low paid jobs and too broke to buy them everything they wanted. I can’t escape the cycle as both have walked out on their kids and I bring up the grandies. If I get to live my life again, I will be speyed at 16.

    • My Mother used to say that the children break your arms and back when they are small and they break your heart when they grow up…..she was right…

  3. Joan  

    I wish my child had never been conceived: I was too young and had chosen the wrong father for him. My memory of motherhood is being permanently tired: he did not sleep through until 18 months. When young women tell me they are undecided about having a baby at that time I point out to them: if you have a baby now, you cannot change the decision, ever; if you choose not to have a baby this year, you can change your mind next year. We all know children who should never have been conceived, especially what I call the ‘trophy’ babies, born to professional women in the late thirties or forties who have no idea how to bring up a child. I had one complain that she had her child, on her own, for the whole weekend.

  4. Frank  

    I’m over 60 had the same partner for 25 years – we never had kids – the chorus of ‘you’ll regret it when you have no-one to look after you when you get old’ seems to have died down – now we are friends with both childless couples and large families – it’s all good

    a major difference for retirement – while my colleagues with kids scoff at the thought of ever being able to afford to retire – I have more than enough to retire in comfort – we’re currently holidaying in Tokyo, deciding where to enjoy brunch today – we’re relaxed and happy with no worries for the future – especially financial.

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