Parents have taken to an online forum to anonymously answer an incredibly taboo question on whether they’d still have children if they had their time again.
A curious poster took to the anonymous parenting platform Mumsnet to ask others, “I know parents love their kids and it’s not a question of regret… But knowing what you know now, if you could go back in time (pre-children) and assuming you wouldn’t get the same DC [dear children] again, would you decide to become a parent? If so, why/why not? I feel like it can be a taboo topic and can often lead to unrealistic expectations of parenthood. As a fence sitter, I’d be keen to hear everyone’s opinions.”
The question sparked quite the debate, with a shocking amount of people saying parenthood had failed to fill the void, and that they had spent years being “jealous” of childfree couples.
One Mumsnet user said openly that she wouldn’t have a child knowing what she knows now about being a parent, admitting that she’s looking forward to her son growing up so he won’t rely on her as much.
“I was searching for something in my life and thought being a parent was that, but it’s not,” she wrote. “It was a fulfilment of being happy as me as a person, which I confused with parenting. Parenting has made me question my confidence in all parts of my life, which certainly has not made me fulfilled. He will be an adult one day and won’t need me as much, so I can pursue things more then. He is a good kid. I like him more as he gets older. We do okay.”
Others answered more simply, with one writing, “No, absolutely not. Sounds awful but no, I don’t like being a mum.” While another said, “No. I’d have focused way more on my career, stayed with my ex- [husband] and had a ball!”
For a few, it was the “bleak” state of the world that concerned them, with one saying they “worry every day” about their child’s future. “No, I wouldn’t. The future of the planet is bleak and my children will have to deal with that,” they wrote.
Another commented, “No. Despite my best efforts, the world they are growing up in makes my children sad and anxious. This may be my failing as a parent, but if I had my time over I wouldn’t inflict this unhappiness on them, or sense of stress and failure on myself.”
Another woman shared her story, saying that she wasn’t “born to be a mother” and misses aspects of “pre-child life”. She said that she and her husband had never been “fussed” about having children and, should she have her time again, would have considered doing things differently.
“I feel like having children has aged me,” she wrote. “You have to be a responsible grown-up when you have children, their needs have to come before your own, your days are planned around them, you can’t just be ‘you’ anymore. You can’t just do what you want when you want because you always have to factor them into the equation. It’s a huge sacrifice. I really, really miss having the freedom to live my life without having to always consider someone else. It’s not a huge hassle… but it’s always there.”
While the reasons varied from simply not liking parenthood, to wanting to focus more on careers, one mum said that she had enjoyed a “wonderful time of it” but now — as her children have relocated to different parts of the country — she was left alone and considering whether she’d do it all again knowing the pain and vulnerability of motherhood.
“This is something I think about all the time,” she wrote. “We had a wonderful time of it, though, and I loved being a mum to young children and we were — and are — all so close. Now they are nearly all adults and the oldest two have gone off hundreds of miles in opposite directions for uni and have stayed in their uni towns… It’s so, so hard!
“I love them all so intensely and I miss having them around… I’m really proud of them for being confident enough to get out there but I know that if anything happens to any of them it will literally destroy me. I find it really difficult that I can’t gather them all up every evening and put them safely to bed under my roof!
“I’m sure that sounds a bit mad and I know that grief is the price of love, but if I could do it again I would seriously think twice because I feel so vulnerable knowing I can’t protect them and it’s only going to get worse as they get older. So I suppose I did my job properly and raised fearlessly independent, brilliant, kind humans, but I worry myself stupid in case anything happens to them. I’d probably just get dogs if I could do it again!”
But, for every resounding ‘no’ response, there was a happy parent saying they wouldn’t change a thing. While many said it wasn’t what they’d expected and that their kids drove them “bonkers”, one woman said she couldn’t possibly “undo” her children.
“I’m knackered a lot of the time and crave time away without a mini-me following me around but I wouldn’t undo having them if I had the choice. They’re the most amazing human beings I’ve ever met. Watching them grow is a delight, every little achievement feels incredible,” she wrote. “I couldn’t possibly undo these little people. Even if I didn’t know their personality, just knowing about how my baby would gain one would be enough for me — I’d be much too curious to find out who and what they’ll be as they grow.”
While another said it wasn’t until she was hit with tragedy that she realised the importance of family. “When I was 34, my Mum was diagnosed with a brain tumour and I realised how important family was to me. I was still terrified and didn’t suddenly start liking other people’s children, but for the first time ever the thought of staying childfree was scarier than the thought of having a baby,” she wrote. “I can’t say I haven’t had times where I’ve wanted to scream in frustration, but I’m so glad I changed my mind. Simple things are amazing… It just feels right to have them in my life.”