Time out. I want to take this time to address something that seems to be kept under fairly tight wraps:
For those of you who find yourselves in this taboo circumstance and in case you aren’t met with enough reassurance about it, I want you to know that it’s ok to regret parenthood. It’s ok, and it’s more common than you might think. You can even feel overwhelming love for your children and still regret having them. It’s ok if it feels like this is something more than the typical “Sure, I miss some things about my childfree days, but if I had it to do over again, I’d choose parenthood every time.”
It’s ok to regret parenthood even if you wanted children more than anything in life. It’s ok if you weren’t sure about or were staunch against ever having children, had them, and now regret having them. It’s ok if you vacillate between enjoying parenthood and regretting it. It’s ok. You’re not a bad person. And you’re not a bad parent.
For years, I’ve witnessed the oppressive guilt and shame that accompanies some of those who come in for support, for a safe place to reveal their regret for becoming parents… and it is one of the most courageous things I have ever seen, people who are honest about something that much of society says they should experience as the pinnacle of humanity. We need to make space and give support to this honesty.
The problem is not how you feel or that this is your experience. The problem is with the lack of support. If your feelings are not welcome, where are can you take them? Is it a sustainable solution to deny them or stuff them or disown them or…?
Over the years I’ve heard people in various stages of parenthood describe both their regret and their guilt and shame about their regret, people who have young children, adult children who have gone on to have their own children, and every stage in between. Parents who are close with their adult children, who love their children (and grandchildren) very much, share their regret about becoming a parent. One doesn’t negate the other; you can enjoy your children, love them, share a tight bond, and still feel that parenthood isn’t for you.
It’s ok that it’s not what you expected, and you wish that you had made a different choice. Again, your feelings about this don’t make you a bad person or a bad parent. They are not a reflection of your strength of character. It’s ok that you have feelings of resentment about the change or loss of your identity. You are not alone, and you are not wrong for feeling this way.
I think this next part is pretty obvious, but just in case it’s not, I am not advocating that a regretful parent tells their children that they made a mistake having them or that they clearly demonstrate these feelings through their behavior. That will add to the regret.
I’m saying that it’s ok to have your feelings and that you have a right to express them to trustworthy friends and family. You have the right to receive support and love from your circle. These are crucial aspects of feeling as good as possible about your parenting job.
There are plenty of people who feel that becoming a parent is the apex of their lives, and this is so, so beautiful. But there is no less beauty in someone who, for varying reasons, finds themselves in a parental role, feels that this was a huge mistake, and has the courage to speak up, get support, and do the best they can. It’s ok. You’re not wrong. You’re still a good person. There are plenty of reasons to explain why you might be experiencing this and not one of them has anything to do with being defective or “bad.” Let’s figure out what this feeling is all about.
If you would like to talk more about this, please contact me. I would love to connect with you.
You can call me at (415) 794-5243 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Love and Be Loved,