Magazine

100 Women 2016: Parents who regret having children

  • 6 December 2016
  • From the section Magazine
Mother and son Image copyright iStock

French author Corinne Maier has two children but can't wait for the youngest to leave home, saying they have left her "exhausted and bankrupt".

Her attack on "idealising parenthood" struck a chord with many mothers and fathers around the world. Here are some of their comments - followed by the responses from others who completely disagreed.

REGRETS

It's good to know I'm not the only one who has felt empty being a mom. While I love my two children very much, I feel today I should never have had them. Not only are they expensive, but to raise children comes at a cost to career advancement unless women wait until they are over 35. There are so many reasons to feel joy in being a mom, but I feel exhausted and unfulfilled. Alex, San Antonio.

I've never been someone who's good with kids... and I'm still not. My child is six now and I still find it hard to relate to him and his friends. A whole lot of the time, I just don't like being a mother, and I generally don't fit well into this role. I feel like an outcast among all the school mums who are so actively involved. Anonymous, Cologne.

It is difficult to say I regret having children because I love them. But, on balance, if I could turn back the clock and tell myself what it is like, I'm not sure I'd bother having any. It's only "wonderful" a very small proportion of the time. Without them I'd have money, freedom and far less worry. Mary, Edinburgh.

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Having been brought up in a broken home, I had always dreamed of a large family. I have been blessed with a wonderful husband and three (I'm stuck for the right adjective) children. But never before has the expression "be careful what you wish for" been so poignant. As I write this my daughter is hanging around my neck. I can't even go to the bathroom without hearing screaming and fighting and the word "mamma" screeching through my "loving" home. Christmas is coming and instead of feeling excitement, I feel like getting on a plane with my husband and going anywhere at all with a one-way ticket. Just to get to know him again. We're too exhausted to even laugh these days. And as I'm writing this I'm feeling guilty because I should be grateful. I should be adding some grateful phrase like "it's hard but worth it". But I can't. Because I don't know if it is. Andrea, Italy.

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I'm now 50 and broke. Thankfully just financially because I kept my sanity and life intact despite the children. Motherhood definitely isn't for everyone and just because we have the equipment doesn't mean to say we have the disposition. I gave everything I could, did everything I needed to but was it a "joy"? No. If I had my time again I would never have children. Joy, Bath.

Bringing up the modern-day child has left my husband and I exhausted - and it does not stop at childhood, they are still a worry at the age of 24 and 26. We tried so hard to make them independent but we failed. They live away from us but we are still at the end of a line, on call 24 hours a day! I love them both of course but if I turned back the clock I would not have children. Jennifer, Hertfordshire.

MIXED FEELINGS

I adore parenthood, warts and all. However, strange to say it is not something I wish for my children. The world is a very different place and is changing in a way that you can have a great life without the sanctity of marriage and family unit. You can be happy and fulfilled without too much commitment to looking after others. A pet and lots of friends, a good job will about do it for the next Western generation. Jean, Troon.

I have two boys and I love them to no end until the tiredness catches up and the daily noise doesn't seem to stop. I used to be patient and had a functioning brain. That seems to have disappeared. It's all about schedules, naps, food, clothing, tidying, playgrounds, the right upbringing, the right toys, what to say and what not to say, trying not to take things personally. When it's tough I would like the no-kid-life, but when you get a hug or a kiss or they do something great for the first time I wouldn't give it up for the world. Anja, Maastricht.

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In Norway getting children is even more the single most important aspect of one's life than in other European countries. Getting married is anyway more or less seen as a temporary state but family and children stay. My husband and I had a wonderful relationship with nice, fulfilling sex and a lot of common interests. Now we are parents, we are stressed all the time, fatter than before and have very little time for each other. We are too drenched to please each other in most aspects any more. We do love our two boys very much and are happy when they are. But we have in a way disappeared. Mette, Akerhus.

NO REGRETS

Having children is the best thing that ever happened to me. It is also hard work. I don't know where anyone would get the idea that being a parent is an easy job that results in instant happiness. Being happy under any circumstances is something you have to work for over the long term. Brian, Ohio.

I cannot imagine being childless. As an introvert, they kept me engaged with the world through their teachers, coaches and other parents. I remember telling my mother that we were waiting until we could afford to have a child. She said, "if you wait until you can afford one, you will never have any." We have children and grand-children because they reintroduce to the wonders of nature and they have a unique perspective that delights us. Karen, Virginia.

With the right partner parenthood is pure bliss. We have five and wish we had more. Yes children are work but we have had time to do many other things by trading off responsibilities between us. I find that parenthood is like everything else - it can be seen as a problem or a challenge towards growth. We have grown so much and learned so much by being with our children. Gloria, Sola.

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Having a child has made me into a more socially and environmentally engaged person. I wrote my son a book, which I sent to an agent, and a few years later I find myself a children's writer with several books under my belt. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have done that if I hadn't had him. We've even done a bit of world travelling - I took him to Australia when he was three. He was the best travelling companion, he helped me meet a lot of people. He brought me out of myself. And he teaches me stuff about space and black holes and the natural world (his heroes are David Attenborough and Stephen Hawking!) I'm more interested in science now. I'm more interested in everything in fact. Sam, Worthing.

I raised two children in Japan. Yes, it cost a lot in terms of money and time, but I was nevertheless able to maintain a reasonably successful academic career. Children just made me more organised. In intangible ways, my children have given back at least as much as they were given, and continue to do so in their adult lives. They both have careers in medicine, and contribute huge amounts to the well-being of society. Rather than being "little consumers", they are instead "great contributors," Bob, Tokyo.

I'm proud to be a mum - having a child and looking after them is a pleasure and my kids are now in the university and more independent. I can't wait for them to have their own so I can look after them. Putting the effort in to educating kids and showing them right from wrong is emotionally rewarding. They will grow up strong and appreciate the effort. Ghada, Enfield.

My children gave me a reason to live and to fight when I lost my husband and was myself going to die of cancer. I now live with my grandchildren, one of them quite handicapped with autism, and that boy is the motor for my new start in life. Thanks to him I started a successful music school, he is my main student, and working with him daily as I teach him to play the violin is the most fulfilling experience I could ever have. It is a sad day for the future of our society when mothers cease to believe in and value motherhood. Without children, there is no future in this world. Jacoline, Geneva