For many, starting a family is considered a blessing. Popular culture is filled with films and TV shows that celebrate and glorify parenthood. Despite the abundance of this trope, it’s perfectly normal to feel some regret over having a baby.
Regretting Parenthood is a Thing
Everyone can agree that regardless of whether you enjoy being a parent or not, your life profoundly changes. Though these feelings are stigmatized, they should be unpacked and discussed to be properly dealt with.
Here’s what you should know about regretting parenthood.
What is “parental regret”?
Parental regret refers to a spectrum of grief some parents experience for their previous life without children. This also can refer to any doubts or insecurities they may have about their parenting skills. Since parenthood is glorified, it can be challenging to openly discuss these sentiments with family members and friends.
How common is parental regret?
Although there is a stigma, there is evidence that parental regret is quite common in our society. A 2018 Gallup poll found that 8% of parents stated that if they were given a second chance, they would choose not to have children. Also, Reddit sub-groups and Facebook private groups have popped up for parents to discuss these feelings digitally.
Parental regret: what are the causes?
There are numerous reasons why parents may experience regret. An article published by two professors in the Journal of Family Issues breaks down these factors into two categories: regretting circumstances associated with having children vs. regretting having children.
These are the specific factors for parents who regret circumstances:
- Timing: Due to their career, financial status, or education, some people weren’t ready to take up parenting duties.
- Number of Children: Some people in their study regretted the number of children they had. While some wanted more children, others wanted less.
- Sacrifice: Many parents reported feeling regret over the various opportunities they had to sacrifice for their children. With children, they had to sacrifice their money, education, amount of sleep they are getting, intimacy with a partner, and the ability to travel and pursue hobbies.
- Partner: Some parents reported feeling regret about who they specifically started a family with.
- External World: For some, the outside world doesn’t seem like a safe place for their child.
- Though it’s less common, some parents regret having children altogether. According to the study, these are the primary reasons:
- Difficult Children: These parents may find it hard to raise children with diseases and complications.
- Mental Health: The parent’s mental health makes it harder for them to fulfill their duties successfully and with ease.
- Disdain: Some people generally dislike being parents.
- Childfree Desire: Individuals who had children by accident or were pressured to have them by their parents may experience a desire to be free of children.
How To Cope With Parental Regret
Though parental regret may make you feel guilty, it’s best to find a strategy to cope with these sentiments, so they don’t take a toll on your mental health or family. While these sentiments may raise some ethical dilemmas, it’s necessary to tackle this issue head-on. Burying your feelings won’t stop them from being real. It would help if you confided with someone you trust. It can be a partner, friend, or family member. If you have any thoughts of harming your child, you should contact a professional as soon as possible. You can reach out to SAMSHA’s National Helpline (1-800-662-HELP (4357), and someone will help you immediately.
If parental regret is having a notable impact on your daily life, you should look into various treatment options. Thankfully, there’s a wide range of virtual therapy and online psychiatry websites that offer consultations, support, and in some cases, treatment. Technology has come a long way, and it’s possible to get help from the comfort of your own home.
It’s essential to not be so hard on yourself. Regretting parenthood is a pretty common feeling, and experiencing it doesn’t make you a bad parent at all. By getting rid of the stigma, you will feel more encouraged to talk about these feelings and work through them. With the right resources, you can figure out what is at the core of your emotions and find ways to move forward with peace of mind. Don’t worry: you are far from alone, and there are many avenues to get the support and help you may need.