After reading Isabella Dutton’s article in the Daily Mail about regretting having children, I found myself somewhat in shock. And probably not for the reasons you think. I could be this woman. So many of her words echo things I have felt and feared in my own heart.
This is going to be controversial and might hurt some feelings, but here goes.
I do not think all women are cut out to be mothers. I do not think every woman has the innate ability to love, care for, and nurture children. There are some women out there who should never have had children. If you doubt that, just take a quick look at the news. Stories of abusive parents are everywhere. Stories of mothers hurting, even killing their own children and people gasp and say “But she’s a mother! How could a mother do this?”
I have known some supremely terrible mothers in my time. Mothers who sat on the phone all day long while their babies screamed in their cribs, wet and hungry. I’ve known mothers who took their children into very dangerous places and left them there, at the mercy of god-knows-who. I’ve known mothers who were so messed up on drugs that they barely even realized they were pregnant, until surprise… now they have a baby in NICU, clinging to life and addicted to drugs. I know mothers who cared nothing but for their next fix.
And I’m not just talking about the openly abusive mothers. I’m talking about the mothers who just don’t care. The mothers who are so into their friends and their men that they completely ignore things going on under their own roofs. They ignore the cutting, the suicide attempts, the reckless behavior of their children because it doesn’t fit into their vision of how their family “should” be. They’re just tuned out.
This may sound harsh, but they’re out there. And they’re not just poor, uneducated unwed mothers in the projects. Oh no, they’re regular middle-class women. Maybe your neighbors. Maybe you.
So maybe I have a bit of a skewed vision of motherhood. I know there are wonderful mothers out there. I know there are mothers who really truly love their children and do their absolute best to help them grow into nice, productive members of society. I’m just not sure that I would be one of them.
So I debate and argue in my head on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. Which kind of mother would I be? I think anyone who doesn’t doubt their abilities as a parent at some point is probably doing something very, very wrong. But my chance at motherhood is slipping away day by day. I’m not getting any younger.
I read a few of the comments under Mrs. Dutton’s article. They call her selfish. But what is more selfish than bringing a person into the world who you can’t or won’t take care of? What is more selfish than producing children to carry on a family name, or to “have someone to love”? I think she did one of the most unselfish things a person can do. She sacrificed her own needs and values to give her husband, the man she loves, a chance at fatherhood.
Do I agree with everything she said? Absolutely not. I believe that the worst thing she did was put photos of her children in the article. There are real people behind those photos and they deserve their privacy. But as for the rest of it… it rings true for me to a painful degree. I come at it from a different place than Mrs. Dutton, but the feelings she expressed mirror my own in many ways.
I don’t want to have kids unless I can stay home and take care of them. I know this isn’t the right choice for everyone, and that many women have no choice in the matter at all, but that is how I want things to be for my family. But the very thought of being cooped up in a house with a child all day nearly sends me into a panic attack. I love my quiet and solitude during the day. And I especially love alone time with my husband at night. I feel like I have the perfect balance of time to myself and time in the company of the man I love. Having another person in the mix would disrupt that balance. I feel like this time in my life is the most peaceful time in all my 35 years and it’s hard to imagine it being disrupted with a baby. If I had a baby, I would sorely miss the spontaneity, adventure, and intimacy of being just two.
Anytime I contemplate having children, a sense of fear and dread overtakes me. I come from generations of abusive parents. My biggest fear is that I will turn out like them. My husband assures me that I will make a good mother, if that’s what I want to be. And it’s true that I have dodged the bullets of mental illness and drug/ alcohol addiction that have plagued so many of my family members. I don’t have those to hide behind and use as excuses for bad parenting choices. But what if I still make mistakes? How do you become a good parent? Even if you provide everything for your children, like it appears Mrs. Dutton has, you’re still branded a terrible selfish person because you speak your regrets aloud.
What I want you to know is that there are women out there who don’t want children. There are women who have regrets about having children, and women like me, who are terrified of having children they might regret having someday. That does not make us bad, selfish people.
Maybe if more people speak up and share our fears and regrets about parenthood, we can open up a dialogue and actually talk to each other instead of resorting to name calling just because someone has different feelings than ours. Maybe then I wouldn’t be so worried about the backlash I might receive from submitting this.
Okay here goes…