You are not alone and there is hope.
More and more people are reporting they don’t plan on having kids, many simply because they don’t want them. But what if you already have them, love them, and realize it was a mistake? You certainly are not alone in that. Surveys vary but anywhere between 8-24% report regretting having kids. BUT WAIT! This is where I want to press pause.
The question of “Do you regret having children” is way too nuanced to address in a quantitative manner. When people tell me that they regret having children, I often wonder if they just do not like the way they are parenting? Put another way, you may actually like having kids if you could parent differently.
This is not to invalidate those that truly regret having children. There certainly is a group of people that, when all things are equal, authentically feel that way. However, I think it is worth exploring what is behind the regret to truly understand if you actually regret becoming a parent or you just hate the way your home is run.
Child Centered vs Family Centered.
There is a growing trend to make everything ”child centered”. Saturday mornings are spent on the soccer field and Sunday is for play dates. After work is a hustle to get dinner on the table and the kids to dance class. Does this sound like your life? Well, of course you are not enjoying it. You are too busy chauffeuring around your kids to engage in any hobbies you may enjoy. Furthermore, time is spent on one child’s activities, not family oriented outings.
The child is a member of the family, not its MVP. It is wonderful to give your kids opportunities, just keep it in moderation. Try reducing the activities of the kids to one each per season. Then think about what you would like to do and add that to the schedule. Be sure to include some things that the whole family can engage in periodically. This can be as simple as “family movie night” every Friday or a once a month day trip.
Gentle Parenting vs Passive Parenting.
Gentle parenting is all the rage. For good reason. It focuses on age appropriate skills and emotional intelligence. Unfortunately, some parents misread it as “never getting upset” or not enforcing boundaries because that would be too stern. Children need a leader and they need routine and rules. It is how they are delivered and enforced which is important. You can be firm and kind at the same time. For example, my kids love to play with water. This can sometimes turn a simple hand washing post bathroom use into a 30 minute counter drenching endeavour. Gentle parenting is not just allowing that to happen (especially if we are trying to leave the house). Gentle parenting means that instead of storming into the bathroom yelling “stop that now”, I say in a firm steady voice “Exploring with water is so much fun! However, we do need to wrap it up now so we can get to school. Please be sure to dry the counter as we don’t want it to warp.”
Kid happy, counter dry, on time for school=win=parenting contentment.
Counter drenched, parenting standing there asking in a soft voice for the kid to stop= kid still playing, kid late, parent hating parenting.
See the difference?
Parenting is a Relationship, Not a Job.
Many parents treat parenting like a job. Specifically, a job in which they really need to impress the boss (kid). This means they read parenting books like they are instruction manuals, diligently applying every word. They are afraid to do housework while their kids are awake because they want to engage in things that make the kid happy. Therefore, once baby goes to sleep, they run around like wild cleaning and meal prepping. They then collapse with exhaustion. Again, who would want to live like that?
If you think about parenting as a relationship then you get to be “you” in a relationship. Part of you is a parent, part of you is a human who lives in a house that needs to stay clean, part of you is a friend that needs to talk to her other friends periodically, etc. Do you get the picture? Obviously kids’ needs must come first but, giving them 100% undivided attention is not a need nor is it healthy.
Be flexible. Carve out periods of the day when you are completely focused on them and also have time to do the things that keep the home running.
Take Back Parenting!
These are just a few areas in which some tweaking may help you enjoy parenting more. Hopefully, as you redefine the role and relationship, and claim back space and time for yourself, you will love being a parent.