Parents who regret having children
I was reading the news on my phone to pass a bit of time while I waited on the washing machine finishing it's final spin when I came across this article about parents (although it is mostly mothers in the article) who regret having children.
As someone who is child free by choice it sparked my interest. I often feel that people think my choice not to have children is somehow wrong or even unfair to all those women who would love to be able to but cant. I just know that children are not for me, I know I would not enjoy being a mother and frankly I know I wouldn't be very good at it. The only difference between myself and the people in this article was that I realised this before I even got to an age where having children became an issue and I didn't let society change my mind. I guess the article interested me because I thought it would somehow validate my choice.
The article made me sad, there was a woman who felt forced into having her first child at 38 partly because her husband wanted children and partly because she knew her biological clock was ticking away. She knew she didn't want children but had a daughter anyway, she is clear that she loves her daughter and you can tell from the tone of her quote in the article that she truly does, but she feels she gave up so much of herself to become a mother and she misses her old life. I get that - I love my childless (or child free which seems to be the politically correct term for those of us that make the decision rather than have it made for us) life.
What really got me thinking though was the story of another mother, she was desperate for children, started trying right after getting married in her very early 20's. She couldn't conceive naturally so had several rounds of IVF before having her daughter - there is no doubt she wanted to become a mother. However she states that everything changed the moment her baby was placed in her arms for the first time, she instantly knew that she had made a mistake. Again she talks about how much she loves her daughter, but also how much she misses her life before having children. At the end of her part of the piece she seems unsure if she regrets having children at all, or if she perhaps just wishes she had waited a while longer before becoming a mother.
The reason that story of a regretful mother resonated so much with me, a child free person who really has nothing in common with that lady is because of a comment my own mother has made a few times. We often end up talking about my dad and the horrible life we had at times when I was growing up, sometimes she will say that she think she was not supposed to have children in the first place.
I always thought it was guilt talking, I always assumed that she felt guilty because I had a less than perfect home life growing up (who doesn't really?) but now I wonder if she has a lot in common with that last lady in the article.
My mother always wanted to be a mother, didn't even wait to be married to start trying which was still relatively uncommon thirty years ago where we lived. She had five miscarriages before having me and almost died with the last one, she was told she probably shouldn't try again but she did. She married dad in 1985 and I was born in 1986 in horrific medical circumstances - we both almost died more than once and poor mum still suffers the consequences of my birth.
Mum admits she probably had post-natal depression, but that was not something that was talked about thirty years ago. she should have been overjoyed that she finally had this baby she had been so desperate for, the perfect little family. However what she really had at 22 years old was a very sick baby, a totally unsupportive family and a husband who had started drinking heavily.
Before having me, mum had a great life. She had a wonderful job that she loved and a husband who was a musician which kept her social life very vibrant. Suddenly she had not just a baby, but a very sick one. Nights out at gigs were gone and instead she was left with the sick baby while dad gigged and drank. Dad did give up music when I was very young but it doesn't change how difficult these first few months must have been.
Money became a worry and I remember mum working nights and cleaning for a lady down the road during the day before doing a few hours in the afternoon in a local shop when I was a child. When she slept I have no idea! I was also in and out of hospital a whole lot and mum was always there even although the children's hospital was hours away from home, she often slept in my room which wasn't the done thing back then but the hospital allowed it because of the distance from home.
Home life was tough, dad drank a whole lot and I really do mean a whole lot he was abusive to mum. Dad maintains to this day it never happened but people don't realise what children can hear when the adults think they are sleeping. Dad then went to college in another country and I became a nightmare teenager. Mum still worked two or three jobs.
I was a bit of a nightmare teenager, although certainly not as bad as some. I resented my father, although he wasn't physically present and they finally split when I was about 14 or 15. I hated so many things about him, I hated that he pretended nothing ever happened, I hated that he would never admit he had a drinking problem, I hated his temper and I even hated that he would try and make us do father daughter stuff together because I had no interest in doing those things - perhaps if he had tried to do things that aligned with my interests rather than his this last part may have been different but he always wanted to go on woodland walks (this is in line with his line of work) and other outdoor things that I had no interest in whatsoever and never wanted to do anything that cost money. At night he was always drunk.
That resentment I guess made me rebel a little. I was an angry teen but when you look at it who could blame me? I started drinking in my mid teens which to be fair is not uncommon at all here in Scotland but what must my poor mother have been thinking? She must have been so worried I was going to end up like my dad and probably more worried about the effect it was having on my already poor health but she could do nothing to stop me. She couldn't limit my access to money because I had a job where I earned my own money and she couldn't keep me in the house by grounding me because I would either wait till she left for work and go out then or just totally ignore her and go out anyway shouting and balling about how much I couldn't wait to be old enough to move out as I went. She couldn't stop me getting the alcohol because she had no idea how I was getting it in the first place and she certainly couldn't do anything about my anger because I don't think she really understood at that point where that anger was coming from.
I wanted for nothing really, never went hungry and always had clean clothes but we never really had holidays and mum never got a new wardrobe in my memory. Everything she worked for went to me, or dads drink.
Now mum is to unwell to work and has been for some time, she can barely leave the house, can no longer drive and is in pain every single day. This is when she should be enjoying her life. I bet she felt that by having her baby young she would have a great life after that baby became an adult, but she didn't even get that!
I totally get it, I get why she would regret having me. She was tied to a man that was no good to her, stuck with him in fear of losing me for far too long. Worked every hour god sent her and had nothing to show for it and now she has nothing. I get that she probably feels having me robbed her of her life, heck I feel that her having me robbed her of her life. I doubt very much that this is what she envisioned when she made the decision to have a baby over thirty years ago.
Mum and I actually have a great relationship now that I am an adult. She often asks me if I blame her for things that happened when I was growing up and I know she feels immense guilt but I honestly don't blame her. She was doing her best and what she thought was the right thing to do at the time, she honestly was a good mother; but for keeping my dad around I cant think of anything else I wish she had done differently.
I believe my mother regrets having me, but I don't doubt for one second how much she loves me. To this day she would give me anything I needed if she had it to give and go without herself, she is an amazing mother. She is immensely proud of me but often asks if I think she did a good enough job. I am the only university graduate in the family (actually the only one with more than a high school education), and one of the few not in jail, I have a good life a great relationship and no major money worries - it's all thanks to her so yes I think she did, and continues to do a fantastic job. But honestly when you look at the whole picture I think for her sake she should never have had me because while I have a great life, she has not been so lucky and I am 100% sure that things would have been different for her had I not came along.