No matter how much you longed for a child, or what hoops you jumped through to get that child, there are some days where you may have a moment of regret. Some parents have much longer periods of regret; even if you love your kids more than your own life, you can wonder if it was all worth it.
But because the subject of parental regret has such a stigma surrounding it, people are reluctant to talk about it. It prevents them from doing the one thing that could really help them.
Parenting is the hardest job ever, and let's be honest, you're probably never going to get the thanks you deserve. Why? Because no matter how great your child is, they're pretty much concerned with their own needs, not yours. No child ever stopped in the middle of a tantrum and said, "Mom, Dad, I just wanted you to know that I appreciate all you do for me every single day, and just want you to know how much I love you." Not. Going. To. Happen.
Being a parent is frustrating, difficult, thankless, stressful, challenging, and you're supposed to be an expert at day one. It can be overwhelming, and for some people it may seem nearly impossible.
Parents who regret becoming mothers and fathers talk about their experiences in a series of anonymous posts on the question-answer site Quora in a thread called "What is it like to regret having children?"
Relieved to have a safe space to talk about this socially unacceptable topic, these parents' answers are incredibly raw and heartbreaking. There are a number of themes that come up from time to time in the thread.
1. I lost my identity when I became a parent.
A woman responded to another man's comment and said, "When you become a parent your life changes. It's no longer about YOU. Life now becomes about the child. You somehow lose your identity. You're now Mary/Johnny's dad/mum. Your job is now to keep said child alive, fed, clothed, healthy, and to help them be all that they can be. Where did YOU go? You're in there. Somewhere. Sometimes dying to get out."
2. I regret making the decision to have a child, but not the child itself.
One woman said, "I don't regret having children. I did have a few years of regretting having these children with that partner."
3. I was plagued by my depression.
One user wrote, "What's odd about this predicament is that no one, least of all other parents, has much sympathy for you, even if you're clinically depressed to the point of dysfunction. One is supposed to view having a child as some sort of multifaceted bejeweled gift from The Cosmos."
4. I always feel guilty for my choice.
One parent said, "Even if I've done everything right, and she's a great person and I've been a good parent to her (and I believe all those things to be true), I still feel loads of guilt because I regret being a parent."
5. I didn't have the right partner.
One woman wrote, "The person you have the child with is the 'Most Important Thing.' I can't stress it enough. It doesn't matter how ready you are to have a child — if your partner isn't willing to also be a parent, it simply won't work."
Parents need to be able to express some of the negative feelings they may have about parenting in safe spaces, such as online threads or support groups. One of the most devastating emotions that you can feel is failure and isolation.