I’ve used the words “mother” and “parent” in this blog mostly interchangeably. In our society, the vast, vast majority of the pressure for parenthood is placed on the mother. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that many people would view a woman who voiced regret about having a child less favorably than a man who actually acts on that regret by abandoning the child.
Parenting is probably the most important job in our society and it is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly. Not only should parents passionately want to have and raise children, they should also have the means and knowledge necessary to do that in today’s world.
Unfortunately, society doesn’t treat parenting that way. Instead of treating parenting with the respect it deserves we pressure people to enter into it unprepared and at too young of an age. Our society continues to pretend this difficult task that will alter the course of multiple lives will just “come naturally” and we shun women (and, to a lesser extent, men) who say that they don’t want children. People are often even forced to commit to having multiple children before experiencing raising one child (sometimes by partners and sometimes by society), or they are encouraged to have more children when they aren’t ready.
But, there is a group of people who receive even more vitriol and acidic hatred than those who choose not to have kids: those who have kids but admit to regretting it. Fortunately, some people are speaking out.
Parenting is more than just a job, it becomes an identity that is nearly impossible to escape. It becomes all-defining and casts a shadow over nearly anything else that a woman can accomplish. Attachment to any role is unhealthy because eventually that role will change and you will be left alone. Parents may technically be parents forever, but there will be a day when the children no longer need the parents and there will be psychological hell to pay if too much emphasis is placed on that identity.
Not only that, but a parent who regrets being a parent seems to break a social taboo and have betrayed society as a whole. It is the regret that dares not speak its name. The bond between mother and child is supposed to be so strong, so spiritual, so supernatural that it is seen as a moral failing of the highest degree to wish that bond never happened.
But that mindset is ridiculous and unhealthy and does nothing but worsen parenting for both the child and the parent. We should be allowed to vocalize our regret for something, it is only through that kind of honesty that we can prevent others from making a similar mistake (or, at the very least, give extra thought to the decision before making it).
We’ve lost the ability to discuss motherhood openly and rationally. We should be allowed to admit that we regret something, even parenting. It doesn’t even require having a shitty kid, some people enter into parenthood naive to what it will take or because they are pressured to do it. Parenting is something that a couple (traditionally) should both be 100% committed to, and if two people are on a different page when it comes to parenthood then that may mean terminating the relationship. Nobody should become a parent to please a partner. There are certain aspects of compatibility that don’t have a middle ground, parenting (like monogamy, lifestyle, etc.) is one of them. Parenting just isn’t for everyone.
To have a society of healthy parents without regret we need to stop making “motherhood” the primary role for women (and, to a much lesser extent “fatherhood” for men), there needs to be access to birth control and sex education, we should encourage people to think long and hard about having kids and not rush into it if they aren’t financially (and otherwise) prepared, and we shouldn’t pressure anyone into having one (or more) kids just because that is what you are “supposed to do”. But, most importantly, we can’t shun people who speak out against the norm. Becoming an outcast because of how you feel only forces people to hide who they truly are, which is a disservice to everyone involved.