I keep seeing articles about people who have had children … and their regret.
Having a child by accident, doing it because of social pressure, or doing it to fill a hole in your life.
When women express regret, they’re met with attacks. What if your kids see this? What a terrible mother you must be!
And these parents are affirming and validating their feelings. That’s excellent, and as a child who was 100% a mistake (teenage pregnancy, put up for adoption, and eventually came back to my biological family), I can tell you all one thing:
Chances are, your kids already know.
When you grow up with parents who weren’t sure about having you, who see you as a cross to bear … who maybe regret it and wonder what their life could have been, you know it, whether you are told explicitly or not.
And when your parents deny it, it just makes the feeling worse.
I don’t explicitly remember foster care, but I knew something was wrong. I felt like I was being lied to until my mother finally told me.
They weren’t going to tell me “for my own good.” But it didn’t help, not at all. It just made me feel really weird until I finally knew the truth.
So no — hiding your true feelings about having your kids is not being a good parent. You cannot help how you feel. I believe my parents love me unconditionally. But I also know they have conflicting thoughts about the way they had me.
And that’s fine. I can hold both. It’s better to hold both.
Because it’s the truth. I had a discussion with some relatives about my mother’s decision not to abort me. And it was just a relief to finally be real about this stuff. People who suggested an abortion still love me now. I’m fine with it.
And I’m glad she had the choice. I am pro-choice because no one should be forced to have a child. I can’t imagine how much worse I would feel knowing my mom had to have me. I’m glad she thought about it and made a choice to have me.
Maybe there’s a right time to have this discussion. There’s a right way. I’m not saying to yell, “YOU WERE AN ACCIDENT!” to your kids to punish them.
But having a mature, adult conversation about your feelings is a moment to bond. Children grow up to be adults…who need to learn to manage complex truths. The paradox of loving someone unconditionally, and kind of wishing they hadn’t been born.
We are human, and we are full of these paradoxical feelings. It’s normal.
So stop using “the kids” as a reason to shut women up and guilt them. Their honesty is healing not only to them but to their kids.
Another person close to me always felt it was her “job” to heal her dysfunctional family. She felt blamed for her parent’s divorce. She felt like she had to heal all of her relatives. She felt a crazy amount of pressure from the time she was born.
Her mother finally admitted it. Her mother had had her because she thought it would help her depression, her marriage. Kids were supposed to make life happier. But now, she saw the error of her ways — that this was unfair to a child.
And guess what happened? Her anxiety and nightmares subsided. She felt happier. The day her mother admitted this to her was one of the happiest days of her life. She smiled for days. She felt like a weight was lifted. She finally felt free to live her life for herself.
Some people disapproved. Moms shouldn’t say that to their kids! You know, that whole thing.
Kids know, though. And when you lie about it or repress your own feelings, you’re just adding lies to lies.
If you want to really help the kids, be honest about the pros and cons of parenthood. Say what you should have done. Give real guidance. Be honest.
Tell them your regrets about having them …chances are, they already know, and it’s eating them up inside.
By pretending to be happy, you’re not doing them or yourself any favors.
I know I was a mistake. There’s really no denying it. But lots of children are. A lot of parents regret having children.
That doesn’t mean they’re bad parents, or that they don’t love their kids.
When we love ourselves and our families, we can be honest about how we feel.
And that is the most healing way forward.
Lisa Martens is a California-born writer of personal experiences, fiction, humor, and poetry. You can find more of her work on Medium.
This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.