Regret Having Kids? It’s You; Not Them!

It’s not generally professed, but more and more parents are speaking out about the downside of parenthood. Some even go as far as saying they regret having kids altogether.

Parents who regret having kids should carefully address the issues causing their dissatisfaction. Usually this has little to do with the number and behavior of kids either. Parents likely have unresolved personal issues or outside problems that they’re inappropriately attributing to parenthood.

As a mom of four, I can understand how overwhelming parenting can be. From sleepless nights with newborns to sleepless nights with teenagers, it seems that parenthood is full of tired moms and dads, making it difficult, to say the least, for them to have a good attitude!

In this article, I’ll address the context of regretting having kids; reasons behind it; and what to do if you find yourself feeling this way. Read on, as I share some personal stories along the way, too.

Is It Normal to Feel Regret After Having Kids?

The TV series Parenthood, running from 2010-2015, and available on Amazon through streaming and hard copy, actually tries to mimic the real experiences, the good and the bad, of parenting and extended family, but no matter what, you won’t really ‘get it’ until you live it. And for some, that may seem a bit too late.

It’s normal to regret having kids now and then, but if this feeling becomes more long-term or affects a parent’s responsibilities, then that’s not normal and requires immediate help. Parents in this case should seek counseling to deal with the regret properly and thoroughly. It shouldn’t be ignored.

Parenthood, starring Craig T. Nelson and Lauren Graham, among others, is an ensemble show about the various trials and travails of parenting.

Several studies have looked into this issue with some showing up to 18 percent of parents admitting to regretting having children, although one study showed 83 percent have never regretted having children. In this regard, it’s not typical nor a majority to feel this way, but it certainly isn’t unheard of.

Only 1 percent of parents said they moderately feel they regret having children.

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Why Some People Regret Having Kids

While most parents accept that having kids will or does bring about extra challenges and trials, they also believe that having kids is worth it. However, some parents do regret having kids, at least some time or another. What are the reasons that cause this then, for parents to regret having kids?

Reasons parents regret having kids usually depend on current circumstances. While there are some differences for moms versus dads, as well as age of parents, typically the more parents struggle with finances and personal independence, the more likely they have regrets for having kids.

The two main reasons parents regret kids are money and independence.

Though several studies support this, one of the most recent studies on regretting parenthood found a correlation with several issues: higher level of adverse childhood experiences, bad health, financial situation, marital status, and having children with special needs.

Parenting regrets often are parent-focused rather than child related.

So, it does make sense why some people who struggle to find adequate childcare, and afford it, as well as have difficulty paying for groceries, housing, health care, and so on for multiple people, may then regret the decision to add to their family.

However, there are many ways to work that out and there are lots of support for struggling families to prevent this regretful feeling from lasting. Money should never be the reason to regret your children!

But again, there are several reasons, such as the parent’s health, as well as the parent’s own adverse childhood that make some regret having children.

Reasons Some Dads Regret Having Kids

Reasons dads typically give for regretting having kids are related to the lifestyle choices and limitations having kids brings, as well as the burden dads have as the primary or main breadwinner for the household.

Though some reasons are similar for both moms and dads who regret having kids, there are some related to specific sex/gender roles.

Three of the Most Common Reasons Dads Regret Having Kids:

  1. Some dads regret having kids because it limits their personal independence. Whereas dads might be used to ‘doing their own thing’, once kids come, that is not usually possible. This is more common for dads who play sports on teams or tend to work late or socialize with colleagues. Having to deal with childcare or spend ‘family time’ seems to crimp their style.
  2. Another reason given for some dads to regret having kids is that they feel their relationship has suffered with their wife (child’s mom). It’s normal for moms to be consumed or preoccupied with children, especially younger ones, so it’s not unheard of that some dads might feel replaced or overlooked.
  3. Last, dads are typically the breadwinner in families or make more money so they feel extra pressure once a child has joined their household (and especially if more than one child is involved). While moms are generally home more with kids or given more leeway with job responsibilities, dads shoulder the financial responsibility in most homes.

Keep in mind, that I’m not validating any of these or giving them credence, but I can see how it can contribute to pressures dads might feel. And the more shallow, lazy, or immature a dad is, the more likely that these reasons or ‘excuses’ will surface.

What Makes Some Moms Regret Kids?

To be clear, dads aren’t the only ones talking about regretting having kids; in fact, it seems it’s more common (and acceptable) for moms to be the ones to confess it nowadays than dads. If dads do, they’re likely to be labeled a ‘deadbeat dad’ but moms, however, are often lauded and commended for speaking out about their feelings. What are reasons for moms to do this?

Though moms and dads both give finances and lifestyle restrictions as reasons for regretting having kids, moms have been more vocal about how parenting negatively affects their own health and well-being. For instance, some said that not taking care of themselves is too much of a parenting sacrifice.

Most Common Reasons (Complaints) Moms Regret Having Kids:

  1. Limits on career aspirations is one of the main reasons some moms regret having a family. Moms with families can’t generally work extra late or long hours, or go on work-related trips because of childcare issues and family responsibilities.
  2. Moms with kids often let their personal health take a backseat to their children’s. While this is commendable, some moms come to resent their children. For instance, pregnancy is seen as a big heath imposition for some and moms blame kids for gaining weight or other issues related to pregnancy.
  3. Moms who regret families often feel overworked, over tired, and underappreciated. They feel they give up a lot, make many sacrifices, and feel the financial stress, only to have kids be unruly and ungrateful. I myself have even heard my kids say, ‘but I didn’t ask you to have me!’ in a retort, and it’s not very loving to hear!

Younger Parents Vs. Older Parents Who Regret Having Kids

So it should be clear by now that situation often is what causes some parents to regret having kids. While finances and lifestyle restrictions impact both moms and dads, how old parents are also is tied to feelings about parenting.

Age of parents is tied to regrets for having kids. So if you have children earlier in your adulthood, you increase your chances of regret than if you wait until later. As well, the longer you’ve been a parent, and likely this means you’re older, the less likely you’ll regret having kids, too.

Now, don’t confuse correlation and causation. Having kids early in life doesn’t mean you’ll automatically regret having them at all. Rather, those parents who regret having kids typically have them as young adults and not as older parents.

And the longer you are a parent, the older you are. Older parents rarely ever regret their kids. By then, you’re generally quite thankful to have family and enjoy the fruits of parenthood (such as grandchildren!).

Starting As Older Parents

People who have kids late in life rarely regret the decision, either. Women who become moms in their 40s, for example, have generally been trying for many years, or found their mate late in life, and truly desire having a family. So kids for these moms are very much wanted and loved.

As well, parents who are older, usually are more financially stable and established in their career. They generally don’t feel the financial burden that a young parent does, nor are they concerned about career opportunities…they’ve already climbed that proverbial ladder!

Moms and dads that are older might stick out or embarrass their kids, but that’s hardly the concern of parents nor does it impact parental regrets. Usually these older parents are more doting and spend more time devoted to their children, so kids don’t feel neglected or unwanted.

On the contrary, sometimes the kids feel smothered and are indulged too much!

This isn’t to suggest or recommend having kids late in life. We ourselves had our kids in our early twenties and wouldn’t change that at all! There are many obstacles to waiting to have kids; I have several friends who struggled with infertility because they waited too late to wish that for anyone.

But for those who happen to be in this category as parents, it’s rare to have regrets!

Parenting Older Kids Vs. Parenting Younger Kids

What about parents of young kids versus parents of older kids? Is one more likely to have regrets about kids than the other?

Parents who regret having kids are about the same rate for toddlers as teens. Both stages are similarly difficult and challenging, so the parenting frustration that may lead to regret is about the same. It is clear though that parents who regret having kids decreases as kids become adults.

There are many challenges for parenting toddlers and teens, so the number of parents may feel regret about having kids is about the same as it pertains to these stages.

Typically, parents feel more financial burden at these times too. For instance, parents of toddlers usually have childcare finances that are worrisome, while parents of teens are concerned about college costs. Both of these can cause some parents to have regrets, especially when you add in the common behaviors of toddlers and teenagers!

However, parents of elementary aged kids usually agree it’s more of a calm parenting time. As well, as kids become young adults themselves, parents generally agree it’s more peaceful.

Of course there are always outliers that may affect one family over another, too!

What Should You Do If You Regret Having Kids?

But what should you do if you find you have regrets about your kids, or you know someone who does? What if you’re a product of parents who regretted having you?

Parents who regret having kids can’t ignore it. Typically, this can be fixed with self-reflection and meaningful modifications. But if that doesn’t work, then counseling is necessary because the relationship will become toxic for the whole family and create lasting scars for children.

Most cases are not severe and parents can take action themselves to correct their behavior, because this isn’t a problem with children, this is a ‘parent-problem’ to be clear!

Parents should first try personal reflection. Why do they feel this way? What’s missing in their life that they can add in order to change their feelings, for instance? Then, parents should be proactive about making necessary changes. It may mean changing jobs or adding hobbies. It may mean altering your financial situation by creating a budget.

Parents should definitely work together on this, too. And if your spouse tells you he or she regrets becoming a parent, resist the urge to judge or make them feel bad about it. More than likely, they already feel bad and have judged themselves, which is why they’re now coming to you!

Include the help of your clergy or another trusted adult if you and your spouse need additional advice for dealing with this tricky subject!

However, if you don’t have support from others, or can’t handle the situation on your own, there’s nothing to be embarrassed about by seeking counseling or expert support either! In fact, you should feel confident that you’re taking steps to fix something you know isn’t right!

Regret Having Kids Takeaway

The takeaway for regretting having kids is that it’s a you problem, not a kid problem. What this means is that it’s something you need to work on ‘yourself’ to correct, not correct by fixing your kids.

As well, it’s not normal for parents to regret having kids. While it’s something you may think about it when under pressure, for you to have long-term regrets should be cause for alarm.

Keep in mind that if you do start to feel this way, you should not feel embarrassed to seek help from your spouse, clergy, or other trusted adult. And if it seems to be something you can’t handle, then support from professional counselors or experts should be considered.

Your kids are worth the trouble!

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