Welcome to our series, The Motherhood Diaries – a safe space for you to share your experiences, advice, hopes and heartbreaks. We’ll be hearing from industry experts giving practical advice alongside Capsule readers (You!) sharing your firsthand experiences. We’re looking at everything from fertility, trying to conceive, pregnancy, the fourth trimester, newborns, toddlers, raising children and teenagers and everything in between!
If you have a topic you’d like to discuss, share your thoughts, experience or advice about, drop a line to [email protected] with ‘Motherhood’ in the subject line.
This week, we speak to Rachael* who, in a candid reveal, explains why she regrets having kids.
As told to Kelly Bertrand
Let me be clear from the outset: I love my kid.
I just regret having her.
It’s a pretty bold thing to write down, let alone say, which is why I’m anonymous in this story – I don’t need the Mummy Mafia in my small town coming at me with Edwards & Co-branded pitchforks and organic baby food Molotov cocktails.
I’m a mum of one – my daughter Olivia* is eight years old and she’s beautiful, smart and kind. My husband and I are proud of her, and she’s a great kid.
But from the moment I found out I was pregnant, there was an uneasy stirring deep within myself that I was making a mistake.
I’ve never been what you’d call ‘maternal’, and my lifestyle certainly didn’t (and to be honest, doesn’t still) lend itself to Mother of the Year. I love living – spontaneity, adventure, freedom.
Indeed it was on a spontaneous adventure to Chile 12 years ago where I met my now husband Ben – a fellow Kiwi on a similar path and the second we locked eyes over a very questionable tequila shot in the hostel bar, it was love. Gorgeous, passionate, glorious love.
We travelled the world together for a while – him tending bars, me picking up any work I could find as we meandered the world. We got engaged in Stockholm, and then started making out way back to New Zealand for the wedding.
Even still, we felt the world was our oyster. We were at the centre of our universe, with no responsibilities, no worries, no stress apart from how we’d afford our next plane ticket.
Now we were back home, we figured it was time to put down some roots. I picked up my career as a lawyer, which I loved. We bought a dilapidated villa and did it up in a riot of colour and fun, even doing the cheesy couple stuff of running around the lounge with a paintbrush, trying to boop the other on the nose with terracotta-coloured paint before we collapsed, laughing in a heap on the $50 op-shop couch.
I’m not kidding you, we even had a picket fence.
But then, that faint blue line on the pregnancy test came, and it felt like all the colour drained from our world.
Why do I regret having kids?
It wasn’t like we weren’t trying to get pregnant – I mean, we had the house, the ring. A baby’s just what you did, right? Ben wanted to be a dad, so I guess I had somewhat accepted it as an eventuality. But even though we weren’t taking precautions, for some reason the idea of a baby just seemed so far away. Like, what kind of stupid, hilarious universe would give me a kid?
Turns out, this one.
I pushed down my doubts throughout the pregnancy as our family and friends clamoured to congratulate us and support us. Surely, I thought, once the baby was here, I’d hold it in my arms and this great woosh of maternal emotion would crash over me and i wouldn’t regret having kids.
“Like, what kind of stupid, hilarious universe would give me a kid?“– Rachael
But after 36 agonising hours, Olivia was born. And as I looked down at her perfect fingers and perfect toes, I couldn’t stop crying. Everyone else assumed it was exhaustion; hormones. I knew it was something else.
It was regret. As I fed her, I felt like with every suckle, my spirit was being drained out of me. I wasn’t ME, Rachael, anymore. I was just someone’s mum.
The next few months passed in a tired, glum haze as my regret wrestled with my guilt as I stared down at this gorgeous little baby. I knew she deserved more than me as a mother, but I had no idea how to give that to her.
As I dutifully attended coffee groups with truly awful women who looked down on any mum who hadn’t dressed their kids in mini designer clothes, I tried to figure out how to bond with Olivia like they’d managed to do with their babies. I couldn’t figure it out.
As our savings drained away with my high-paying job on the backburner, I felt resentment burn as everything we’d worked so hard for either stalled or melted away.
All I could think of is what I’d lost. My independence. My freedom. My purpose. I feel like I squeezed something else of me the day Olivia entered the world – something I need, and I haven’t been able to find it again.
Ben’s a great dad. But now he’s Olivia’s dad, not Rachael’s partner. Our relationship changed irrevocably, and I mourn for what it used to be. We’ve lost a closeness and a level of intimacy that I miss so much, which is why I think I regret having kids the most.
And now, I worry. ALL the time. And it’s not even stuff that I can go and see a shrink about, it’s the state of the world. What it’s like to be a woman in this world. The constant dread is sometimes overwhelming, and that’s before the domestic dread kicks in about the piles of washing, the soccer uniform that’s not clean, when the fuck the bake sale is at school and if anyone will notice if it’s a New World cake plopped on a chopping board.
Nothing comes naturally, you know? Daily life is a treadmill of struggle that I just want to pull the red emergency tap on and stop and then head to the bar for a Chardonnay.
Regretting motherhood isn’t something that people talk about, and when they do, those women always proffer an excuse or a reason as to why they regret having kids. They had past trauma, their partner was an arsehole, their own mental health battle, the state of the planet.
I don’t have any of these things. Apart from my own reasons – and you might call them selfish – I can’t quite put my finger on why I regret having kids.
Do I feel bad about that? Hell yes, I do. Can I change it? No, I can’t.
Olivia, for her part, has no idea of my true feelings. I work very hard every day to make sure she feels my love – and yes, there is huge love there for her. I wouldn’t say I’m the best mother. I don’t have that intuitiveness other mums seem to have, so sometimes I feel like I’m stumbling around trying my best but not quite nailing it.
Perhaps as she gets older our relationship will change. I hope so.
I’ve seen women like me called selfish, unnatural, un-womanly and cruel. I don’t think that’s true. I’m a woman. I’m complicated. I’m not perfect, and I can’t control my lack of maternal instinct any more than Donald Trump can control his hair.
What I am is honest. So if there’s even just one other woman reading this who feels the same, know you’re not alone.
Not all women are born to be mothers. And now, eight years too late, I realise I’m one of those women.