More Parents Regret Having Kids Than Childfree People Do in Skipping Out
Check yourselves and stop yelling at childfree women about how we’re going to be so sad, alone, and regretting it at 50 when this seems to be projection. Oh, and less than 1% of female sterilization patients ever look to reverse the procedure!
Dear Modern Parent,
Your content keeps popping up in my Medium feed despite my adamantly not wanting kids. I don’t know why, but I guess it’s because there’s a lot of pandemic-related content tying with parenting plus it’s an inherently feminist issue so I presume that’s why Medium’s algorithmic gremlins keep sending you my way. I’m not the intended audience, but those titles definitely make me want to click.
Thing is, those titles confirm something I’ve suspected a long time and that I feel is a grave injustice: more people regret having children than NOT having them.
Yet it’s only childfree people, namely women, who seem to bear any brunt of “BUT YOU’LL REGRET IT!!!” upon stating and affirming their reproductive choices.
Now, let me be clear: I’m not judging the writers, or thinking of them as bad people for outright stating in some cases that they hate being parents, or even regret becoming one.
Parenting is not all sunshine, rainbows, and your kid saying cute things that you end up reiterating on social media and it brings a smile to even the most black-hearted billionaire who’d happily use your remains as potting soil for their philodendron minima. I get that it’s hard work, one of the hardest things you may ever do in life.
And with all the unpleasant aspects of parenthood being exacerbated in the pandemic, as every level of government has completely failed Americans in particular? The pressure cooker was bound to pop. Everyone is drained now in the face of this mass nationwide trauma. I 1000% get it.
Moreover, I also think it’s important for parents to discuss these matters and say what needs to be said in an appropriate space for it. Topics that are tough, unpleasant, and frankly, under-discussed, such as —
· Parenting within, and after, an abusive marriage
· Having kids when you weren’t ready
· How you honestly feel about your kids
· Utterly ridiculous parenting culture in America
· Parenting while disabled and/or with a mental illness
· Parenting stories that expose how there is basically a giant concrete slab with spikes sticking out of it instead of a safety net or any form of social support whatsoever that doesn’t entail completely impoverishing women and holding them back
These things need to be brought into the light instead of shamefully hidden away. After all, there’s so many players who are heavily invested in maintaining this bucolic image of parenthood — specifically, motherhood — in order to sell microfiber athleisure maternity wear and strollers more complex than a Boeing 737 Dreamline.
WITH ALL THAT SAID!
When Modern Parent pops up in my feed, I lurk more than comment because I don’t think most of the readership wants to hear from a childfree person, even though I sometimes recognize of abuse, control, and hegemonic adult supremacy at work.
But the lurking has come to pass. I can’t keep quiet about this anymore. If you’re one of the people who’s written in about how you regret having children, with this heartbreaking piece in particular standing out to me?
I feel for you. Really, I do. Your story is important and deserves to be told how you want to tell it. First, it helps people in similar situations feel less alone.
But another important reason of many is that it helps affirm the choices of childfree people, particularly those who are frequently told that they will regret it when we see it’s quite the opposite.
Specifically, it helps us push back on this whole “childfree women who will be so lonely, sad, and full of regret” narrative that is largely complete bullshit.
We browbeat people, especially women, with this narrative of failure if they don’t have children.
I extensively covered this in looking back on the classic Simpsons episode “Selma’s Choice”. To summarize it, most women have been given this persistent messaging since childhood that having children is the most important thing they can do with their lives, and it supersedes all else. That your relationship and motherhood preside over who you are as a person, your interests and passions, career, or causes you support. To deviate from this conscripted caregiving and nurturing role is the ULTIMATE transgression, you must automatically fall into non-mothering caregiver roles or being the support to a romantic partner (usually a cishet husband) if you’re not going to “fulfill your purpose” to have children.
Even when Millennial girls got slightly different messaging that we could be anything we wanted to be as the Spice Girls gave us their girl power mantras and professional women on Sex and the City were navigating this brave new world where they had as much money and power as men? We still had this narrative driven home that we were ultimately failures if we didn’t do all those things while being also being mothers, or at least striving for motherhood.
That if you were single after 35, it was because no man wanted you and not out of choice.
In my community in particular, I remember it being driven home that you eventually “have to” get married just so you don’t feel socially awkward around other married couples after a certain age. Ditto for having kids! Now…if those aren’t some shitty and selfish reasons to do EITHER of those things, I don’t know what is!
Millennials are the unpacking generation. We’ve parsed and disseminated all the screwed up messaging we were given throughout our lives, and continue to question it. And as far as the conversation goes on reproductive choices, we’ve gotten the suitcase unpacked, we just need to deflate those travel cubes and yank out the stray travel toiletries and unpaired socks.
There are absolutely people across generations who weren’t really sure if they wanted to have kids, then ended up having them. Or wound up with a partner who didn’t feel the same way as them about starting a family, a phenomenon that merits countless other essays. It can be as simplistic as lacking contraception, or deciding that “it’s just what you do”.
But no matter your reasons for not having children, whether you do so out of choice or would like to have them but cannot due to infertility or other reasons, you are not a failure for not being a parent (namely, a mother).
Laying into this whole “you’ll regret it” angle has not only been disproven by a majority of older people who skipped out on kids, but it’s also terribly infantilizing.
This isn’t something solely in the realm of random strangers and Judgy McJudgersons who constantly decide to shove their noses into other people’s business. This is a real, literal issue that is affecting women’s quality of life. It is a pressing reproductive justice issue.
Are there people who regret not having kids? Yes, they’re out there. But of most people who willfully chose to skip out on having children while younger, they are not the majority. You’ll encounter far more people who regretted having children.
But don’t take my word for it. Let’s see what the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology has to say. They report that only 14% of patients who’ve been sterilized seek information on reversing the procedure, just 1% actually following through with it.
Keep in mind, MOST women under 40 who willfully seek permanent birth control methods already have such a difficult time even getting approved for it. I’m almost 36 at the time of writing and am STILL encountering roadblocks in getting tubal ligation and have yet to be given a legitimate medical reason: only “you’re under 40, unmarried, and no kids”. Tell, dear reader. Why does some theoretical man who doesn’t exist get more say over my body than *I* do? Til you’ve carried around this cranky uterus for 36 years, you can shut the fuck up about how I choose to keep it more inactive than Infrastructure Week.
That 14% of patients who DOES seek out information? Are mostly young women of color who have been incarcerated and sterilized against their will, or women who have already had at least one child.
Involuntary sterilization in carceral settings is a whole other topic that straddles criminal justice, reproductive rights, and human rights. Any involuntary procedure, such as the mass hysterectomies performed in ICE detention centers, is cruel butchery and should be condemned.
But if you really want to know who seeks to reverse these procedures…it’s women who were wrongfully subject to this ghastly treatment. Not light-skinned PMC dorks like me who have angrily been trying to take control of my reproductive health for more than 15 years and shot down at every turn because some doctor is forcing their own goddamn beliefs on me.
Medical procedures aside, the entire notion that we should have children we patently do not want “in case you regret it in the future” is simply infantilizing and implies that the person in question cannot make their own decisions as an adult.
Because you know what? I’ve made LOTS of decisions I regret in my life!
Some of those decisions just made sense at the time, or I didn’t have a hell whole lot of choice when I made them. Things like trauma, addiction, and poverty will do that to you. They had me convinced I didn’t have a lot of choice even when I did.
The entire point of being an adult is making peace with these decisions. By denying someone agency and control over their body in case of some theoretical regret decades down the line, you are denying their very adulthood.
But of course, society loves to treat women like kids. Women well in their forties are always being told what they’re doing wrong. We never do anything right. Anything that strays from the “marry and pop out a few kids by 40” script is considered a total aberration, even though it’s becoming far more normal. Hell, it always was — we’re just recognizing the the truth now.
In the rare event we actually regret not having kids? That’s a choice we just have to live with, just like those career decisions, where to live, who to be friends with, non-reproductive medical decisions that impact our quality of life, what we do with our money, and the bajillions of other things ADULTS FUCKING DECIDE ON EVERY DAY.
Meantime, the regret I do see is not coming from my side.
It’s coming from the people who have kids and saw that it was a hell whole lot harder than parenting blogs made it look.
Cancel me all you want for this take; I’m not judging the parents who tell their stories in this publication or in others. But that’s where I truly see the regret coming from, and don’t take it up with us thorny childfree bachelorettes: take it from this child abuse survivor that kids are not stupid, they’ll know if they weren’t wanted, or were Band-Aid babies. They get apprised to these things after a certain point. I see the sheer sacrifice involved in becoming a mother, and as someone who made enough sacrifices without my consent, I’m opting TF out of motherhood and I’m very upfront with the men I date.
If I wind up regretting it when my tits are in my shoes and I’m wearing a football helmet, throwing a bucket of rat-sicles in my condo’s courtyard to my goannas and numerous other neighborhood reptiles, and keel over at 72 from an infected monitor bite, that is 100% on me just like how I regret not starting my business earlier.
It’s better to have lived a life you love, free of coercion, than regret having a child you could not fully love or care for.