I read an interesting but heartbreaking article about the growing number of women speaking out about regretting that they ever had children. The article claimed that feelings of regret surged after the Pill made motherhood a choice rather than just an inevitable season of married life and also highlighted the stories of several women who have experienced regret over having become mothers.
It’s easy to malign women when they express regret over motherhood. “How can she say that?!” we think. But while one’s first gut reaction might be horror, after reading the stories in this article I noticed something that made me really sad for these women.
The first woman for instance had a marriage dissolve after her spouse was unengaged and unhelpful as a parent. As a single mom she was overwhelmed by extracurriculars and sports for her young son and although hating the demands of this schedule felt that she had no choice but to keep her son in all these activities.
If she didn’t keep taxi-ing him from activity to activity she feared he would be left out of what “everybody” else was doing. She felt trapped and miserable. And you know what? That sounds hard. And lonely. But she expressed deep love for her child.
I wonder if what she regretted was the understandable difficulty of her situation, not the existence of her son. She regretted having to raise him alone. She regretted the lack of support and the overwhelming expectations of modern motherhood.
So is it the difficulties of life and the model of parenthood our culture has embraced that’s causing the regret? I think it might be. Having small humans depending on you is never a walk in the park. But why have we made motherhood so horribly difficult? It’s as if by making motherhood a choice through contraception we’ve completely altered the expectations of parenthood.
If you CHOOSE to have a child, you must be prepared to offer the best of all things to them and every second of your time and energy. If you don’t, you’re told you’re a bad parent. Motherhood is longer a natural season of life that communities support parents to navigate. YOU choose this. YOU handle it. And do it perfectly OR ELSE.
I just wanted to hug this mom and tell her that if sports every night is making her completely miserable and maxed out, it’s OKAY for her 5yo to NOT do it anymore. You can make choices about what you want your life to look like! “Everybody” else is not doing sports every night, even if it feels that way. Find new friends who won’t judge you for not having your kids in activities every waking hour! Those people are out there.
Love your kids to death, but watch out for your own wellbeing, too. You are part of a family, not a slave. While certain seasons of motherhood are just going to be overwhelming by nature (having 3 kids 4 and under was, admittedly, not my favorite season as a mom, for example) you should be allowed to experience joy.
You should be able to choose what will make your whole family thrive, even if that means little Huntington doesn’t get to do the traveling soccer team this year. I mean, maybe if you torture yourself with nightly practices and weekend games, he’s a shoo in for the World Cup. But I doubt it. And letting go of some of those unnecessary stressors will gain him a mother who can enjoy life again.
So give your kids the very best of yourself. But just say no to what everybody else seems to be doing if it’s making you completely miserable. You have the power to create the family model that will help ALL of your family to thrive. If those dance competitions are ruining your life, you get to decide it’s simply not a sacrifice that’s worth it to your family in this season.
Motherhood always requires us to lay down our lives for our children, but it doesn’t have to mean that unreasonable expectations need to trample us to death.
Photo by Matt Hoffman