Parents Speak Honestly About Why They Regret Having Children

04/01/2016 13:35 | Updated 04 January 2016

Have you ever regretted having children?

Becoming a parent is life changing in countless ways, so it seems unreasonable to expect all mums and dads to enjoy child rearing. Yet many people feel reluctant to admit they would like to go back to their life before kids for fear of being labelled "ungrateful" or a "bad parent".

Mothers and fathers looking for an outlet to share their feelings have posted their stories on Quora in a thread titled 'What is it like to regret having children?'

"To be honest, there are times when I just stand there and want to bang my head against the door frame, I just loathe being a parent so much," one dad wrote on the Q&A website.

sad parents

"What's odd about this predicament is that no one, least of all other parents, has much sympathy for you."

The dad realised he was not alone in his frustrations after he sought help through therapy.

"The therapist told me that this was much more common than I'd guess, but there was a huge taboo about saying you simply hated being a parent," he wrote.

"So, I googled 'I hate being a parent' and, Lo: it was all over the place. People overcome by tedium and regret."

The man, whose son is now nine years old, said he chose to post anonymously "for reasons that are obvious".

"I do love him," the dad wrote. "I just wish that someone else would be actually enjoying the process of raising him, since on an objective and subjective level, my own life is just markedly less enjoyable since he came along. That's simple honesty.

"The best analogy would be that, instead of being yourself, you're enacting a script, day in and day out, this pretending to be enthusiastic about something you hate. It would wear you down. You'd long to break free of it and be yourself again."

He concluded that feeling regret for becoming a parent can be a very isolating position.

"What's odd about this predicament is that no one, least of all other parents, has much sympathy for you," he wrote. "Even if you are clinically depressed to the point of dysfunction.

"One is supposed to view having a child as some sort of multifaceted bejeweled gift from The Cosmos. How can anyone be so ungrateful to The Cosmos for a gift of such magnificence?

"And that, in the nutshell, is a big fraction of the problem of living with this. There are worse problems, of course, but this particular one is mine."


One mum, whose daughter is now 17 years old, said she had been "desperate" to have a baby and this drove her to marry: "the first man who was interested in having a child with me, knowing, in the back of my mind, that I was making a bad decision."

She said that she found the "biological urge" to have children became so strong that it made her: "ignore glaring red flags that my now ex-husband was throwing at me constantly as well as ignoring that I had spent the previous 27 years insisting that I didn't want children."

The mother had to quit her job due to pregnancy complications and this led to financial struggles, but she said the issue went deeper than that.

"I'm sure there are plenty of people in this world who have children they suddenly can't afford who never feel like having their children was a mistake. I felt like, and still feel like, I made a mistake."

The mother was keen dispel any notion that she did not love her child.

"To be clear, I LOVE my daughter and have referred to her as my magnum opus," she wrote.

"If anything were to happen to her, I would be inconsolable. Forever. I would want to die with her if she died.

"My mistake was not because I don't love her or because I don't want her or because there is something wrong with her. None of that is true. It is not, even in my mind, even just sometimes, her fault by any stretch of the imagination that I shouldn't be a parent. I have never blamed her, either to myself or out loud, for my failings.

"And because of that, because she is pretty damned awesome, what it feels like more often than anything else is guilt. I feel guilty all the time that I'm not the parent she deserves."

Guilt was a feeling expressed by many of the parents on the thread.

"I do regret the fact that I have done such a lousy job parenting him - he deserved more than I was able to give him," wrote another mum.

"I regret having children because I wasn't ready (23) , and because I'm much too selfish to really care about someone's feelings other than my own.

"I regret having a child because it's a really, really big job that I wasn't able to handle."

Another common theme was the efforts parents had gone to make sure their children felt loved and wanted.

"I have actively done everything I can to keep her from feeling unwanted or unloved, even ignoring my strong introvert tendencies because she needed me to let her be touchy feely when I wasn't that person," wrote one mum.

"It was a struggle for me and still is to be her parent, and there is still that guilt, but there is also love and responsibility."

Parents were also keen to make clear that their feelings of regret were related to the situation, rather than their individual children.

"Do I consider HER a 'mistake' ? No I don't, but do I consider having HAVING her a mistake," wrote a dad.

"It was just the next thing that happened, and while I do love her, if I had the opportunity to go back to the way things were?

"Sure, I would take it.

"People just don't like to hear that kind of thing."

Another mum added that conversely her child is the very thing that helps her to cope with her regret at becoming a parent.

"Do I regret having a second child? Yes. Do I regret having HER? No," she wrote.

"She is full of laughter and joy and reminds me that the grind isn't everything."

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