Research shows that 97% of moms feel the rewards of motherhood far outweigh the negatives. But what about the other three percent? Well, it seems they have formed an unofficial sisterhood of regret. Parents regretting their choice to procreate have always been in existence - but only now in the 21st century is there a venue to blog, email and connect with other like-minded remorseful individuals.
Mother’s Remorse (yup - it’s a thing) may have been a giant taboo in previous generations. But not now. Currently, remorseful mothers have put together a growing movement. They are rising up and admitting to their off-putting and oft-considered subnormal feelings.
And in typical fashion, society is reacting from one extreme to the other. While there is one camp who believe these feelings should be swept under the rug - or possibly not even exist in the first place, there’s a second who feel discussion is necessary for sympathy as well as resolution. Then there’s a definite gray area where people can see both sides of the story yet are unsure what should be done. There are also those who feel that Mother’s Remorse is an extended version of postpartum though many will bristle at this suggestion.
So for anyone who is already a parent or is thinking about becoming one; for anyone sympathetic towards remorseful mothers or who consider them child abusers; for anyone who has never heard the term Mother’s Remorse before - here are 15 things parents need to know about Mother’s Remorse.
15 Remorseful Beginnings
Mother’s Remorse has been around since the dawn of time - but more recently, the actual movement seemed to be borne from Corinne Maier’s 2007 best-selling book No Kids: 40 Good Reasons Not to Have Children. The Swiss-born Maier is currently in her 50s and a mother of two.
Her 40 “good” reasons range from the comical to the deeply bitter. Some of her words come across as sardonic and biting as in “What hope is there of having a fulfilling sex life when a woman is forced to turn into a fat, deformed animal decked out in sack-like dresses?” For starters, Maier should definitely only speak for herself. Secondly, no one’s forcing anyone to become anything!
Other parts of the book seem cruel - even scary: “Every family is a nest of vipers - all the reason not to add to your own.” Maier popularizes the French term “merdeuf” within the book’s pages. This contraction of “mere de famille” (which translates into "full-time mother") takes on a whole other meaning when divided into French words “merde” (meaning “sh**) and “oeuf” (egg). Maier uses this term (“egg-sh***er) to describe women who have kids and no longer care for anything else.
14 Care For A Controversy?
When it comes to parenting - what isn’t controversial!? Maier clearly touched a nerve by embodying a mother gazing at her children and instead of being filled with warm fuzziness, she’s filled with one of the most negative emotions known to man - remorse.
The intense reaction to her book was huge and lead to essays crucifying Maier or hailing her as a hero. While definitely proving divisive within society, the can of worms has been opened and probably will cause more harm if swept under the rug.
There are so many facets involved with Mother’s Remorse beginning with this touchy question: Do women even have a right to feel this way? And if so, do they have a right to voice it out loud? According to many, voicing such concerns is on par with child abuse.
Adding to the confusion is the idea of victim and perpetrator and figuring out who’s who. Are the children the victims of monstrous mothers or have the children victimized the mothers by demanding unconditional love? Or is society at fault for its often unrealistic and rosy portrayals of motherhood? Has society somehow lured these unsuspecting women into a life they weren’t prepared for?
13 The Snowball Effect
Almost everyone enjoys a juicy controversy and where Mother’s Remorse is concerned, renowned citizens and anonymous trolls alike are eager to weigh in with their two cents. In this particular age of internet, social media and shameless over-sharing, a hot button topic will quickly make the rounds.
After Corinne Maier’s book was published in 2007, many French citizens were appalled by her views on parenting - especially considering France has one of the highest fertility rates within Europe. Soon after, the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail featured an article about Maier and her book. In 2009, Maclean’s ran an article by author Anne Kingston entitled “No Kids, No Grief” which basically states the reasons it’s best not to procreate.
Pretty soon all sorts of blogs and internet articles started popping up - either in support of Maier and Kingston or refuting their reasons. Fingers have been mercilessly pointed and most often the message behind them is this: if parents (mothers in particular) are unhappy, resentful or unfulfilled; if their relationships are empty; if they find work difficult and life lousy - then the fault rests solely on their shoulders. Not on the fact that they had a child.
12 The Power Of Regret
The positive aspect of regret is it can propel a person to take stock of priorities and then lead them toward a new life path. However, when there’s no real opportunity to change the situation, regret can morph into a chronic condition that causes irreparable harm. Mother’s Remorse can easily fall into the chronic condition category. Unless a person takes a different approach, focussing on what can be changed in order to achieve a sense of contentment - even happiness.
Oftentimes, a woman may mistakenly believe she has Mother’s Remorse when in fact she is just a normal mother. The most telling aspect will be when the regretful moments strike. If they crop up when a mother is having a bad day or finds herself in a difficult moment or situation, then this is normal. It’s when she consistently has feelings of deep regret - even when things are great - that she may have cause for concern. Individuals need to dig deep in order to figure out where this regret originates. Once they get to the root of it, there is a possibility of resolution. For this school of thought to be effective, it would mean that an open discussion of the regretful feelings is warranted.
11 Why? Why? Why?
Do regretful mothers come from regretful mothers themselves? Maybe they didn’t bond with their own parents and in turn have no way of naturally knowing how to bond with their own children. Maybe they find themselves in an unhappy relationship. Maybe they suffered a particularly abusive or neglectful childhood. Maybe they are overwhelmed. When it comes to Mother's Remorse, there are often plenty of unanswered questions. Maybe once they are answered, things will get better . . . or maybe not
According to most parenting experts, women who regret having children were most likely ambivalent about motherhood from the get-go. They may have felt pressure from their significant other or from family and friends and even society in general - that having a baby is a normal part of adulthood. When voicing their concerns, people may have responded with “That’s normal. I felt like that too but once I had kids, it went away.” It’s important not to push anyone towards parenthood. People need to get there on their own - or perhaps not at all.
10 Parenting In A Nutshell
It’s true - once a baby’s in the picture, parents drop down a notch in importance. And some make this transition to second banana more easily than others. The role of a parent can be summed up succinctly by best-selling graphic novelists Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba: “You’ll surrender your life to him, give him your heart and soul because you want him to be strong . . . to be brave enough to make all his decisions without you. So when he finally grows older, he won’t need you.”
Parenting in a nutshell - if it sounds hellish that’s because it can be. If it seems rewarding, it can be that as well. If it sounds like something a person will regret, then they should most definitely head down a different path.
Mother’s Remorse goes beyond selfishness or extended postpartum depression. Mention either of these to a truly remorseful mother and she may be offended. Judging another mother as selfish is a slippery slope - as it is often dependent on perception. Any behavior at all can be deemed selfish depending on the context.
9 Celebrity Endorsement
Poor Adele. She makes one honest and soul-baring remark in a Vanity Fair article and she’s unwittingly found herself the poster child for the Mother’s Remorse movement. Here’s an excerpt from the article in question: “I love my son more than anything but on a daily basis, if I have a minute or two, I wish I could do whatever the f**k I wanted, whenever I want. Every single day I feel like that.”
Adele has always been honest about her struggle with postpartum depression - even admitting it’s what has caused her to hesitate when it comes to having another child. Yet her statement in Vanity Fair can definitely be used to support the Mother’s Remorse movement - especially if taken out of context.
That said, it doesn’t quite ring of deep and bitter regret. In fact, it sounds like something that would pretty much cross any normal parent’s mind on any given day. Honestly, who doesn’t want to do whatever the f**k they want, whenever they want?! There’s a lot more than simply parenthood holding society back from following through on that particular impulse!
8 The Motherhood Penalty
When it comes to motherhood, “having it all” is a damaging concept. Is it possible for a woman to balance a demanding career and a demanding family? The short answer is yes. Many mothers have done it in the past, are doing it now and will do it in the future. Sacrifices are required, and choices must be made. For career women looking to add motherhood to their resume, areas of importance need to be determined before any sort of balance can be achieved.
Researchers often refer to something coined as “motherhood penalty”. A U.S. study conducted in 2014 shows that women typically observe a four percent decrease in pay for every child they have. The opposite can be stated for men. They generally see a six percent increase in wage following fatherhood. As well, mothers in the workforce are typically hired at lower pay, receive fewer raises and are passed over for promotions when compared to childless women or men. This blatant prejudice is not a justification for Mother’s Remorse, but it does lay a possible foundation of regret for women who are career-driven and are hoping to remain so following motherhood.
7 Plain Awful Parenting
Family life tends to lean toward busy in the extreme. Parents have stuff going on, their kids have extra curriculars and in the end - families often end up biting off way more than they can chew. Compared to previous generations, parents today often end up doing too much for their kids. They may become overly involved and even micro-manage their kids’ activities, school work, friendships and even free time. As a result, kids can grow up to become overly dependent and parents become run-down and resentful. The end result: no one is happy.
The good news is that if a hectic schedule is a contributing factor to Mother’s Remorse, it is fixable. The bad news is that making changes isn’t always easy or preferable. Frankly, in most cases when parents are unhappy due to over-scheduling, this is their own fault.
Parents need to take a hard look at their life and make the necessary tweaks and adjustments that will make family life more enjoyable for them. They should most definitely NOT compare themselves to other families or get too wrapped up in what other people think.
6 Mommy Vs Daddy
It’s the 21st century and mothers still generally take on more of an active role in children and household then their male counterparts no matter whether they work outside the home or not. This can be overwhelming to say the least - and a breeding ground for all sorts of resentment - toward spouse, children and any other women who appear to have it all.
At the same time, there seems to have been a societal shift from the “father knows best” ideal to “father knows nothing”. Women are sometimes guilty of micro-managing their kids and taking on everything because they feel they do it better. When spouses cannot live up to their high standards and expectations, some women end up being resentful and angry that the lion’s share of responsibility has landed in their laps.
Teamwork is still the best concept for balance. In order to be fair, this doesn’t necessarily translate into even-steven. The perfect balance is achieved when a family can function without anyone being consistently angry or resentful.
5 Sharing Is Caring
Sharing may be caring . . . but what about over-sharing? Reality TV may have been the beginning of the end. Soon to follow came the wealth of social media forums as well as apps just begging people to overshare the mundane and extremely personal details of their lives. And once taking the bait, they are often rewarded with a wagging finger of reprimand for going too far.
Is admitting to being a remorseful mother a crime in oversharing? Depends on who the audience is. It may be a way for a woman to seek comfort and forge a connection with another like-minded individual or someone who can offer solace or even assistance to her. However, an admission of this magnitude can come across as awkward and uncomfortable for some people on the receiving end. In some cases, people even believe it is an appalling admission that should remain unsaid.
In the end, it should be up to a remorseful mother to determine if sharing her dilemma will help relieve her anxiety and possibly reach some sort of solution. Or will it just make things worse? It’s important to consider any negative impact that may come with sharing and not make any impulsive decisions.
4 Parental Paradox
Isabella Dutton, a 59-year-old mother of two adult children wrote an essay about how having kids was the biggest mistake of her life. She first made this realization when her eldest was less than a week old. She describes herself as a “parental paradox”. Here’s why: despite her lack of fulfillment and deep-seated regret, she considers herself a “conscientious and caring parent - yet perhaps I would have resented my children less had I not been”. Hopefully she’s only speaking to her own situation. Otherwise, she seems to suggest that any un-resentful parent is just not doing the job right!
Parenting is multi-faceted, and having unrealistic expectations is what got this whole regret thing started in the first place. Motherhood is by no means perfect - it will be great, it will be awful, it will be gut-wrenching and heart-breaking depending on what day it is.
Regretting motherhood, yet loving the baby that made it possible is quite the conundrum. It may not be motherhood that is regretted as much as the loss of a previous life. Motherhood doesn’t have to be - and by God - shouldn’t be a sole identity for any woman!
3 Tea And Sympathy
As difficult as it may be to wrap our collective heads around a concept as horrible as Mother’s Remorse, in order for it to be dealt with - society has got to try. From the various reactions seen throughout the news and internet, it’s clear the subject generates societal recoil and vitriol - a backlash typically reserved for pedophiles and child murderers.
So within this particular context, a woman dealing with Mother’s Remorse isn’t that bad. True - she is experiencing unexpected feelings connected to her children as well as her role as mother. But as long as she hasn’t hurt her children, she hasn’t done anything wrong. Has she?
Sometimes the best way to sympathize with a concept so foreign to us is to learn more about it and try to see it from another angle. Sometimes feelings cannot be helped. And maybe if there’s more sympathy - even empathy - out there for women, they will be more inclined to seek the help they need.
Despite the negative reactions to Mother’s Remorse, there are plenty of sympathetic and non-judgmental ones as well.
2 Experts Weigh In
Most parenting experts feel that remorseful mothers come with their own baggage from childhood. Whether their family backgrounds were neglectful or abusive or their parents simply were not good role models - there is something holding these mothers back from embracing their children and their role as mother.
It is important for these feelings of regret to be sorted out. Digging to the root of it is often a surefire way to help resolve the negativity.
Fran Walfish, a Beverly Hills family psychotherapist states: “When a woman feels regret about her children, the best thing she can do is acknowledge those feelings silently to herself, then reach out to a professional child and parenting psychologist with whom she can process those important emotions.”
As divisive as Mother’s Remorse can be, most everyone will agree on one thing - that kids should be kept out of it and a mother’s feelings of regret should be hidden from them.
1 Discuss Amongst Yourselves
Burying something this important, sweeping negative feelings under the rug, even going so far as brushing them off as normal can cause irreparable damage. That said, there definitely needs to be some sort of discussion about Mother’s Remorse.
It should be talked about in therapy, within a safe and defined environment - hopefully with a professional who is qualified to offer valuable insight into the situation. And who is equipped to provide solutions as well.
An open discussion is begging for judgment and criticism from others weighing in. And negative comments, while not constructive, may also exacerbate the situation rather than help alleviate it. Whatever the case, Mother’s Remorse should never under any circumstances be discussed openly with young children who cannot grasp the complexity behind these issues. No matter how this conversation is handled, children may end up internalizing blame and even once they become adults, may have a hard time modifying their mistaken beliefs.