We talk a lot about the pressures on millennials to have children, but what happens when you do have kids… and then wish you hadn’t? In a number of AskReddit threads, parents have shared why they regret having kids. Sometimes it has to do with timing, sometimes with partners, and sometimes they just don’t like being parents the way that they thought they would. These parents’ stories aren’t pretty, but they do offer an honest look at what is probably a more common experience than most adults would like to admit.
There are few things that are more taboo than parents saying that they regret having their children. To some extent, the stigma against such attitudes makes sense: It’s profoundly disturbing to think of a parent regarding a living, breathing person — especially a child — as a mistake, and, of course, we would all like to believe that every child is wanted and loved and cared for. (Even though that is clearly not always the case.) The irrevocability of having children only increases the weight on parents; it can’t be undone, so there’s intense pressure for them to believe that it was the right choice in the first place.
But life isn’t that simple. Parenting is incredibly difficult, even for people who love having kids, and it’s only to be expected that it’s not a natural fit for everyone. The stigma against showing any kind of regret about having children only makes things worse. Many of the parents who commented in the Reddit threads expressed a lot of shame along with their ambivalent feelings about having children. Perhaps if this were a more open conversation — if these folks felt like they could be more honest about who they are as parents, beyond an anonymous comment thread — they might not feel quite so burdened and isolated by the job.
Here’s what some regretful parents of Reddit had to say about having kids:
1. It’s utterly exhausting.
I'm tired just thinking about this.
2. “I never get a minute to myself.”
For people who like to have a lot of time alone to recharge, parenting sounds especially difficult.
3. They miss being spontaneous.
With young kids, especially, everything requires intense planning.
4. Kids put a strain on adult relationships.
Long-term relationships take a lot of work regardless of whether you have kids, but adding little ones into the mix had a whole new level of difficulty.
5. They don’t regret the kids, but they wish they’d waited.
Many of the people who said that they regret having children had kids when they were quite young — in their teens or early 20s. Their regrets seemed to have less to do with the kids themselves than with missing out on some of the adventures they might have had in their 20s.
6. They lack the “motherly instinct.”
Some people simply don't feel that innate urge to be parents.
7. They regret their partners, not the kiddos.
Having a kid with someone puts that person in your life forever. Some of the redditors said that, though they love their kids, they regret being tied to an ex that they don't get along with.
8. Kids put honey on the cat.
Because of course they do.
9. This one is just insanely depressing.
10. "There's no guarantee how your kid will turn out."
There's hard, and then there's the above.
11. They think about the road not taken.
Some of the redditors weren't necessarily unhappy with having kids — but they just knew that, if they could do it over, they might make a different choice.