Saturday 23 December 2023

Do people regret having children?


“Regrets should never be condemned, especially if their regrets are based on honest words.  Those who paint an untrue rosy picture, often get caught with their pants down.” 


Considering it is a female narrator, this is about as honest an evaluation you will find regarding the pros and cons of having children:


Of course I did, and I find it hard to believe you can find anyone who didn’t.

At some points.

Children are an enormous drain on you, physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, financially. Pregnancy is miserable, and if you’re a man, the fact that your wife is miserable is also going to make you miserable, and you don’t get the hormonally charged rewards, nor do you have the hormonally charged brain mechanism that makes you forget the misery. (If the latter didn’t exist, the human species would die out, as no woman would have more than one child)

Once the child is born, you’re up feeding every two hours, and struggling to perform all the functions for a helpless infant who cannot even communicate their needs… even their one communication channel, crying, is also used merely for exercise, so it doesn’t even communicate that there is certainly a problem to solve!

This combination of stark terror, utter confusion, and extremely poor sleep goes on for months, and only gradually tapers out. When they are thirty, you’re still going to be feeling some degree of it.

But that leads to the opposite complaint; there’s an awful sense of loss that is continuous, as your child gradually grows away from you, away from needing you for everything, to needing you for some things, to needing you less and less… and it’s SUPPOSED to work like that.

The flip side of the coin is, it’s very rewarding, particularly if you had them on purpose, which suggests you have the sort of personality that WILL find it rewarding. I would not give up the experience for anything and ON BALANCE do not regret any of what it cost me.

But I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t regret some of the costs.


Unless you are blessed enough to be born into great wealth, or you somehow fall into vast money via other sources, any honest person will tell you that the following are a negative consequence of having children:

·       Less money for yourself.

·       Higher stress and anxiety levels (mainly through financial implications children bring, but also just the natural day to day worry of being a parent).

·       Less time for yourself.

·       Less energy to do anything in life.

·       Less opportunity to accomplish what you would like to in life.

·       You will often physically appear, and likely feel, older than you are.

The female narrator pretty much travels her thoughts through three paths.  I will nuance my own take on it.

1)    When the baby is born, and probably up to a year or two, the positive feeling of bringing a child into the world is like nothing anyone can explain.  Their reliance on you is absolute, concurrent to you having to learn on the job (especially for the first one).  Nevertheless, the sleepless nights and constant worry cannot be totally ignored, and this negativity only compounds the higher the stress and longer the hours are within your profession.

2)    Pretty much from kindergarten through to further or higher education (and in some cases, even beyond), children will generally travel a linear line where their expectations and expense to their parents goes up and to the right, simultaneous to their appreciation and emotional dependence of their parents moving down and to the right.  Some children and adolescents are better than others in this respect, but what I write is a fair generalization. 

3)    Post leaving home, a typical sibling no longer has as much inclination to spend time with their parent, irrespective to whether said adult was a good parent or not.  The narrator as good as says this, and she alludes to the narrative that when a parent has done all to navigate their son/s and/or daughter/s to the independence line, the siblings are not so forthcoming in giving back.

Q-tip:                                                                                                                                          By and large, a parent is the giver, and the sibling is the taker.  This dynamic is unsurprising and to be expected, such is the fact it was the parents’ choice to produce the child in the first place.  Some children of parents may even think in later life, such is their bleak view of what life offers, that they wish their parents had never of bothered.

A common thought of men

I always remember sitting in an office a few years ago when the discussion revolved around having children.  My line director, aged just under sixty at the time, came out with these precise words:

“As much as I love my three kids to bits, if I had my time again, there is no way I would have any of them.”

My neighbour across the road effectively said the same thing.  He loves his daughter and son, but knowing what he knows now about the world, if he was in his twenties or thirties today, there would be no way he would desire to be a father.

I do not think it is any coincidence that both these men are of similar age, and more pertinent, with similar aged children (in their thirties).  When you and the kids are of elder years, I believe it is easier for men to be truthful to what they sincerely feel.

Contrast this to fathers in their twenties or thirties (and maybe forties, if these men had children later in life – with children aged as young as babies to teenagers.  You will not find many men, no matter how hard life seems as a primary consequence of being a father, confessing to such likely truth.  Part of this abstaining of verbal reasoning will be internal pride, and part of this will be to not upset his female partner.

A side story

One memory that always makes me chuckle is during last summer when I was waiting for a flight back home from Copenhagen Airport.  To kill a bit of time, and as a big fan of male fragrances, I had a look around the duty free area.  Stood next to me was a middle aged man with his wife and son (aged about eight).

The man clearly had a passion for nice fragrances too, as the look on his face appeared like a kid in a candy shop.  There was one particular Boss EDT which appealed to him, as he could not stop sniffing it.  I always wonder, with married men who like to smell nice, whether it is due to personal pride and good feeling, trying to impress other women, or a combination of both.

Along came the wife, and he told her how much he liked this fragrance.  He also asked for her opinion.  I could sense her apathy straight away, not so much with the scent but with the thought of him spending more of the family kitty (on himself!). 

What must have been an even bigger pill to swallow however was when the son said - “Come on Dad, you have enough already don’t you?”  His wife could not wait to agree.  As they walked off, I will never forget how he had one last spray, sniffing it as it fragmented into the air, with that insincere consoling in saying to himself – “This is what having a family does to you.”

What about women?

With women, and once more in particular younger women, it will be even more scarce to find those saying they regret having children.  You may actually find more women broadcasting how hard it is to be a parent than men saying likewise, but this is more to do with a need for drama, attention and sympathy, as opposed to any regret in being a mother.

In essence, women generally are more motivated to become parents than men.  Even in today’s world, far fewer women are career oriented than men or feel the urge to be the main breadwinner, therefore you will find greater numbers of women striving to be a parent in earlier time than equivalent or similar aged man. 

You also cannot ignore the social media whoring that now exists in the current day.  Many women possess as much of, if not a greater, inclination to show off baby and child to their army of social media followers, than the natural desire just to be a good mother.  What a sad state of affairs.

A final thought

The narrator makes the point of how rewarding having children is, especially if you have them on purpose.  What she is practically saying here is that a large percentage of people these days do not plan having children (or more to the point, the women either contrive a pregnancy, or they are just irresponsible in not taking contraception correctly).  Nevertheless, I do agree that when a child is planned, it must be a far more enriching outcome than conceiving with someone you barely know.

As someone who has never been a parent, I could be accused of being a natural pessimist of being a parent based on my own agenda.  Fair argument.  With that said, any person that knows me will be aware that I put my honest words well ahead of my ego or need to feel better about life.  If something is wrong in my life, I have no problem admitting this to be the case.

And there are not many days when I do not think about what it would be like to be a father, especially as so many people have commented on my natural comfort in interacting with children.  My response is always one of it being so much easier to appreciate children in small doses, in comparison to the day in, day out leaning on my shoulder. 

In conclusion, there is no right or wrong way in how to navigate your life.  Most of it is fate anyway.  One thing I have always stood by though is to criticize people who seem to think having children is the only sane, sensible, natural, and mature path of life. 

For anyone to know this, they would need to live two simultaneous lives – one in being a parent, and one in not being a parent.  Until such a day when AI or evolved technology caters for this, nobody can honestly say which route is the better.  But if you have no regrets, the route you chose, or perhaps the route life pathed out for you, is an easier one to accept and appreciate.

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