A recent article in the New York Post highlights a Facebook group titled “I Regret Having Children.” The online group is a place for moms to share their regret without shame The comments range from the typical grumblings that I think most parents utter when they’re tired to very strong lament and ideation of leaving one’s children behind in pursuit of the life she lost:
It’s not me. I miss my old life so much I just feel like walking out and leaving my husband and son.
I’m desperately sad. I love my children very much but I preferred life before and I want it back.
I’m just a frazzled mess all the time with no confidence. I wake up and cry knowing it’s just another day of dealing with crying arguing whiny children.
Since having them I’ve become increasingly bitter, depressed and angry.
All parents at one time or another have looked longingly back at the days before they had kids and marveled at the freedom and productivity they once possessed. When tending to a fussy baby in the middle of the night, it’s normal to realize that your pre-parent life was a lot easier. But what leads to regret year after year? What causes some moms to never stop wishing their children away? And how can we help?
Based on my years in women’s ministry, the many hours my husband and I have spent counseling couples, and—let me be honest—hard looks into my own selfish heart, I can see four primary reasons today’s parents live with regret:
1. Seeking fulfillment in the wrong place
Regret is not unique to parenthood. People regret taking jobs, getting married and even going into ministry. When we seek ultimate fulfillment in temporary roles and things, we are disappointed. While these things may indeed provide good gifts, they will never fully satisfy our hearts.
It is in God alone that we find deep, lasting fulfillment. Scripture tells us that, “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11) and, “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst’” (John 6:35). The New City Catechism reminds us that God is our creator and he made us to “know him, love him, live with him and glorify him. And it is right that we who were created by God should live to his glory.”
In our consumer-driven culture we are persuaded daily that joy will come when we get married, get the new car, move into the bigger house, have a baby, and carry the latest designer baby bag. Our flesh wants cheap satisfaction in the things of this world—but if we seek ultimate fulfillment in any role other than being created by God for his glory, we will be disappointed and have regret.
2. The idol of autonomy
At this moment in human history, it could be argued that the right to self-determination is the highest value of western civilization. Our quest for autonomy is insatiable. We have laws and cultural norms that deem any boundaries or hindrance on one’s human freedom to be outdated and oppressive. This cultural mood of “I can be who I want to be and no one can tell me otherwise” leaks into all of our relationships, including parenting. These messages so permeate our surroundings that when anything hinders our freedom we cry foul. And so it is with children.
3. Imbalanced societal views of career and roles inside the home
As a woman and mom of four daughters, I see messages daily that say a woman’s worth is equal to her ability to be as male as possible. Alastair Roberts rightly says, “Our culture perceives the ‘potential’ of women largely in terms of their liberation from their nature, rather than in their flourishing within the inherent directionality and order of that nature.” Women are considered oppressed if they bear children and mother them. Our society seeks to liberate us, giving us the choice to do away with our babies, so that we may thrive in a successful career outside the home. Women’s liberation is actually the “manning” of women, as Roberts says. And so, the natural role of mother is devalued and women feel this when they stay home to parent. We feel less successful, less important, less useful, less than all the other roles society tells us to pursue.
4. Lack of community
A final contributing factor to women (and men) regretting having children is that we live in isolation. It is common knowledge that communal living is largely missing from western society and it is to our detriment. A Psychology Today article confirms, “One of the most destructive problems is the breakdown of community, and it is this breakdown that has often led to the breakdown of persons. Though we may put many around us, we are alone. Relationships have become superficial, there is no longer concern for the other, and we are pressed by societal and financial pressures to focus on our own survival.”
Moms who regret having children walk through their disappointment alone. We no longer chat with each other over the fence or on the front porch. We isolate ourselves in our homes and apartments and suffer alone—often medicating our pain with drugs and alcohol. Moms don’t have friends with whom they can share their authentic discouragement. We use social media to put our best foot forward and don’t lean on our neighbors when we need help. Alone, our regret festers.
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Source: Church Leaders