The one aspect of parenting that has surprised me the most is the judgements. During pregnancy, I was frowned at for drinking a shandy. People asked if I was sure I should be eating a slice of brie. The way I gave birth (on the labour ward, epidural, forceps – no regrets, no psychological damage) has been criticised, as has my extended breastfeeding.
And so when other mothers lament the judgements, and not being allowed to just do things their way – feed the kids fish fingers every night because it saves time and dinner-table-battles, for instance – I’m on their side. As long as you’re keeping them alive and relatively healthy, you’re probably doing a good enough job.
However, this story – about a mother who regrets having children (she has three, the youngest is now 17) – taps into something deep within me…
What I find hard to fathom is firstly, if a mother feels so disenchanted by her baby and the – admittedly mundane – job of feeding them, changing nappies, clearing up their mess; why go on to have two subsequent children? But my second concern is that although this woman has remained anonymous in the news story, her children probably know how she feels.
And this is the thing that cuts deep; the idea that a child – a grown-up child, but the child of someone nonetheless – could be aware that they are a source of regret. This woman, who is being called Rachel, says a life without children would have been better. It feels as if her kids are being blamed for her own inability to find happiness. And yet happiness comes from within, not from something, or someone, external.
I find parenting hard. And boring, sometimes. I’m constantly clearing up, doing chores and waiting on my two kids. They may say ‘thank you’ in parrot-fashion but they have no idea how much I do and how tiring it is. However, it was my choice to have children. And I balance out the difficult bits by enjoying the smiles, giggles and hilarious conversations we have.
It’s important to be honest about how you’re feeling and to seek help if you can no longer cope. It seems that this woman, ‘Rachel’, and the others in the article, have struggled and haven’t been able to reach out. I hope that speaking out is therapeutic for them, and that they might seek further help. In time, hopefully they’ll see that their unhappiness is actually not the fault of their children.
Need to vent – let off steam anonymously by posting in your birth club
Whenever I’m struggling, I try to reflect on the good times. There might be periods with very few, but there is always some light, if you search hard. For Rachel, there must also be some good memories from her 17+ years as a parent. They may be scarce, and not have lasted long, but something got her through those years with her children living at home.
Perhaps her life would have been easier without kids, but that’s not the path she chose. And so in this situation, I think acceptance is the only way forward.
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