Do You Hate Your Children?

An anonymous parent's comment on Whisper (Jezebel.com).

An anonymous parent’s comment on Whisper (Jezebel.com).

Many adults can’t stand kids. The tragic thing is that some of them are already parents.

In honor of Mother’s Day, feminist website Jezebel scoured anonymous social media site Whisper for posts from parents who regret procreating.  One parent shares, “I love my kids so much . . . but I regret having them every single day.” Some Whisper mothers miss their pre-kid social lives and others bemoan their post-birth bodies. There is also this incredibly jarring admission: “I hate my son. I didn’t want a boy. I wanted a girl.”

I can’t imagine ever saying anything like that. I’m thrilled I’m having a second girl, but having experienced a miscarriage last year, I’m over the moon to simply be carrying a healthy baby.

As for the other regrets, they sound petty (which may be why they’re shared anonymously).  These are the reasons Whisper women resent their children? There is a disconnect, as if these parents don’t acknowledge their children exist because of choices they – not their children – made.

Most, if not all, of these comments were presumably written by mothers, although Whisper’s anonymity makes that impossible to confirm. We do know that there are adults who became parents and subsequently regretted that decision. We don’t know why they wanted to share those thoughts so publicly with strangers. Are these parents simply looking to vent? Venting such intense – and hurtful – thoughts where they can live forever is reckless.

Worse, these parents are seemingly unaware of what these admissions represent. Any parent who posts such wounding words online presumably also radiates those sentiments offline, whether consciously, in conversations with friends, or unconsciously, in the less-than-loving way they likely treat their offspring. What does it do to the psychological health and general well-being of a child to grow up knowing that his mother wishes he were never born? That must be devastating.

Everyone has bad days; we’re human. But these capsule stories sound more continuous and corrosive.

Part of being a parent is managing your own emotional baggage. If you can’t do that independently, finding a competent therapist to help handle chronic unhappiness over your life choices is a wise first step. It is also more productive than hurling anonymous verbal daggers in cyberspace.

More critically though, why did these people become parents? Numerous Jezebel commenters blame societal pressure for pushing the unwilling into parenthood. But are these unhappy mothers simply helpless lemmings? Motherhood is no longer women’s only career option. Birth control is widely available, and the childfree lifestyle is so trendy, TIME lavished cover-story attention on it last summer.

Further, it’s no secret that young children require round-the-clock attention, or that having children irrevocably overhauls adults’ lives. Thinking adults should consider these truisms before deciding whether they want children, and if they do, when they feel ready to leap.

My mother wisely advised me not to have children until I knew I was ready, because motherhood would change everything. She was right; it does.

I wasn’t ready for that transformation as a 20-something. After I was happily married and settled, I found myself walking past our boisterous neighborhood playground one afternoon and wondered, “What’s the point of my life?” My career and social life were both wonderful, but I wanted something deeper.

Motherhood may not be novel, but for me, it is likely the most meaningful thing I will ever do. The bond between a parent and child is unlike any other, and shaping another person’s world and life experience is an awesome, and incredible, responsibility.

I can’t imagine not wanting children, but I’m aware that sentiment isn’t universal. For the sake of the Whisper posters’ children though, these parents need to grow up. They’ve made their life-altering choice, and their children shouldn’t suffer for it. As for the Jezebel commenters, many of whom claim that their parent friends are all unhappy, that’s just sad.

Children should bring joy to a family. If they won’t, adults need to act responsibly and avoid becoming parents – whether by consistently using birth control or considering adoption – because there’s nothing crueler than growing up with a mother who resents your existence.

This article appeared in Acculturated.

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