Excerpts from Maclean's article 'I regret having children' by Anne Kingston.
Amy deviates from the maternal script: if she could make that choice over again, she says, she wouldn’t. She never wanted children (“I was very independent,” she says)—her husband did. “It would have been a deal-breaker.” Parenthood put an untenable strain on the marriage; her husband wasn’t as involved as she wanted; they separated. Life is difficult, Amy reports: “Our child has two homes and I’m still doing 90 per cent of it on my own.”
Unsurprisingly, women who express regret are called selfish, unnatural, abusive “bad moms” or believed to “exemplify the ‘whining’ culture we allegedly live in.”
Brown called her children “the best things I have ever done” and assured readers she wasn’t “a monster” before expressing conflicted feelings: “What I’m struggling with is that it feels like their amazing life comes at the expense of my own,” she wrote, expressing remorse for “this life I wanted so badly and now find myself trapped in.”
Feeling trapped or suffocated is a common theme in Donath’s work; mothers felt “as if the metaphorical umbilical cord binding them to their children were in fact wrapped around their neck.” Many women said they felt pressured to have children.
Simultaneously, the demanding, exhausting, self-sacrificing and often thankless work of mothering [...] has never been more restrictive, scrutinized and questioned.
Research debunking the myth that babies have a bonding effect on marriage or that children bring happiness: a 2010 American Sociological Association study found that parents were more likely to be depressed than their child-free counterparts, and that people without kids were happier than any other group.
Parental regret also highlights gendered asymmetry around parenting; while fathers are increasingly active in child-raising, most child care and housework is still performed by women, as data from StatsCan’s 2015 General Social Survey indicates.
Fathers’ regret tends to be expressed with their feet, says York University’s O’Reilly. “They walk away.”
“Men’s identity is never collapsed into their parental one; if you’re a bad mother, you’re a bad woman. If a father is late at daycare, it’s ‘Poor thing, he’s busy.’ A mother who’s late is viewed as selfish and irresponsible.”
“The reality of motherhood is incontinence, boredom, weight gain, saggy breasts, depression, the end of romance, lack of sleep, dumbing down, career downturn, loss of sex drive, poverty, exhaustion and lack of fulfillment.”