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I Wish I Never Had Kids Because I Was Happier Before Children

I Wish I Never Had Kids Because I Was Happier Before Children
I Wish I Never Had Kids Because I Was Happier Before Children

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Editor’s Note: This is a part of YourTango’s Opinion section where individual authors can provide varying perspectives for wide-ranging political, social, and personal commentary on issues.

In November of 1975, the year before I was born, advice columnist Ann Landers asked her readers, “If you had it to do over again, would you have children?” Nearly 10,000 parents replied on handwritten postcards — some of them saying things along the lines of, “I wish I never had kids.” A few weeks later, Landers shared the survey results in an article headlined “70 Percent Of Parents Say Kids Not Worth It.”

I happened across an old clipping of this headline 23 years later. I was the proud mama of two little tots, swollen and counting down to two more, an unexpected batch of twins. Raised as a devout Mormon, I believed it was my divine destiny to birth babies. This was what I was born to do. And so, I did it well. The belief that I was doing right by God made my early years of parenting incredibly profound. I relished every moment. When that Ann Landers article appeared in my life, I was a hopeful 24-year-old in the honeymoon stages of marriage and motherhood.

RELATED: 29 Reasons I Envy People Who Decided Not To Have Kids

I wrote my reply to the Landers poll, blasting her and her readers for selfishness. I reminded her of the perfection of holding a sleeping baby, their breath sweet with milk, the fullness of your existence wrapped up in this little one’s happiness. I wept as I wrote that article and ranted against anyone who denied the wonder of motherhood. Twelve years later, after a particularly exhausting day as a newly single mom and sole wage earner of four teenagers, I typed into Google: “I wish I’d never had kids.” I wasn’t as much admitting to the ether that I regretted my life or that I was, indeed, regretting having kids. No. I was asking Google to help me find other mothers who felt the same way.

Hoping against hope that some other mother woke up in her mid-30s, realized her reality, and shared those shameful feelings: I wish I’d never had children. Google has long been my crystal ball. I’ve consulted it before in times of distress. “Do I have melanoma?” “Do I have Alzheimer’s?” “Should I divorce my husband?” The panic of a moment gets poured into an attentive search engine box, sent out over the airwaves to seek connection. Someone, anyone who understands and can tell me I’m not alone, I don’t have stage-4 terminal cancer, I probably should divorce my husband, and yes, some women regret their choice to have children, but very few are talking about it.

A huge part of me understands that mid-life moments of regret over children are a reflection of my mess. As a recovering religionist, I started life in one world: the world where the mother stays at home has many small children, does not seek a career, and relies on her partner to provide. After my divorce, I made a sudden U-turn into another: the world where the woman works, provides, parents, partners, and stands up to all the same expectations as anyone else — even if she wasn’t prepared for it, educated for it, or ready for it with nest egg in the bank. Today, I’m a single mom of four in Utah and I’m surrounded by hundreds of other women walking in my shoes. Women who thought they were doing right by their woefully outdated religion, who married too young and had too many children (one of my friends has 9 kids!), and now face a harsh future with little education.

It’s a tough gig, motherhood, and I recognize my post-divorce reality affects my day-to-day level of happiness and certainly makes parenting even more overwhelming than it already is. I must say: I’ve been lucky. With my own thriving business and a work-from-home career, I’m somehow making it work. Even still, “making it work” wasn’t what I expected motherhood to be. I thought I’d be better. I thought I’d be a party-throwing mom. I thought I’d be pretty and kind and Pinterest-y. I thought I’d find myself and fulfillment in my marriage and kids, as so many people had promised.

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