Regretting motherhood: What if the sacrifices are too great?
Essential Baby blogger Amity Dry
I just finished reading the book Thirty Something And The Clock Is Ticking by Kasey Edwards. Edwards was enjoying her thirties, with no immediate plans to become a mum, when a medical diagnosis changed everything. The discovery that severe endometriosis had left her with a decreased chance of falling pregnant lead her doctor to declare she only had 12 months to try and conceive a child, or risk losing the chance entirely. Unsure of whether she wanted to become a mum, now or ever, she embarked on a process of researching, investigating and option weighing to decide whether becoming a mother was the right choice for her.
I found this process very interesting, because my path to motherhood could not have been more different. Unlike Edwards, from the time I was old enough to put a baby doll in a pram and force my sister to play the Dad, I have been rehearsing for the role of mum. I was the girl who would rush to hold any baby within my vicinity, not minding the nappy changing and drool wiping. I handed out flyers to the families in our street the minute I turned 12, announcing my availability for babysitting. Motherhood, for me, was never an intellectual choice I made after weighing up the facts. It was a deep and primal longing I knew I had to fulfil.
I distinctively remember the moment I decided the time was right to start trying for a baby, after having been married for four years. We were sitting at a café having breakfast at 2pm, after a big night out the night before. We were leisurely reading the papers, no pressure to do anything or be anywhere other than in the moment. But as I looked across the road to an oval where children were playing in a soccer competition, their parents cheering them on with pride, I thought ‘I would rather be them.’ In that moment I decided I had enjoyed enough late nights, sleep-ins and leisurely breakfasts and was ready to trade them all in for the early mornings and soccer games of parental life. It was as simple as that.
And almost six years and two children later, despite longing for a leisurely breakfast spent reading the papers on some weekends, I have never ever regretted that decision. Motherhood is undoubtedly the most exhausting, challenging, relentless thing I have ever done, but to me the rewards are absolutely worth it. But reading this book lead me question whether everyone feels this way. Or do some people actually regret becoming parents, feeling the sacrifices were too great?
It seems to go without saying that, even if you’re ambivalent about parenthood beforehand, once you have your baby the love kicks in you can no longer imagine life without them. And while many a joke has been made by parents whose child was unplanned and unexpected, it’s always followed up with the reassurance that it was a happy mistake. It would be less socially acceptable to hear them proclaim they wish they never had them and would change it if they could. But are there parents out there who, despite loving their child, actually feel like that?
When you weigh up the pros and cons of motherhood, as Edwards did in her decision making process, there’s no doubt the list of things you give up is an awfully long one. Your time, your body, your money, your sleep, your freedom, your self focus, your personal space, your short-term career, your ability to be selfish, your ability to be spontaneous and your ability to think about one thing at a time, just to name a few. And in return you get to selflessly give of yourself 24 hours a day. As my husband suggested, ‘On paper, it’s a tough sell.’
To put it another way, as a friend of Edward’s did so eloquently in her book, motherhood is often ‘A whole lot of sh*t with a glimpse of brilliance.’ Yet somehow, for most of us, those glimpses of brilliance are enough to sustain us. But perhaps they’re not enough for everyone?
In one chapter Edwards questions why a friend of hers decided to have a second child, when she found the first one so challenging. This is because to a non-parent those glimpses of brilliance don’t even come close to making up for the hard slog it takes to achieve them. I also experienced this recently while working with a girl my age who is single and childfree (the latter by choice, the former not so much!). She turned up to rehearsal, having woken at midday, and recounted the details of her decadant night out. In contrast I had been up most of the night with a new baby and a sick preschooler and had already put in a few hours work just to get out of the house, so my story involved a projectile vomit, sheets that needed changing, numerous breastfeeds and two hours sleep. However it concluded with my children giggling at each other as they snuggled in bed with us, a joyful moment that miraculously cancelled the other things out. "I don’t get it," she said. Giggling can't possibly make up for having two hours sleep and being vomited over. "But it does," I assured her, knowing full well she thought I was crazy but if she ever had kids she’d get it.
But maybe not everyone does get it. Maybe there are mothers out there who agree having two hours sleep and being vomited on sucks and no amount of cute giggling can make up for it. Maybe they wish they could go back to going to work and focussing on what they were doing, rather than worrying their child shouldn’t have really gone to childcare with a green snotty nose. And perhaps there are fathers who long for the intimacy they used to share with their partners and wish they had kept things as they were. Perhaps these people, if they had their time over, would decide that the glimpses of brilliance just aren’t enough.
I’m not one of them. But I’d be interested to hear from those of you who are ...
Did you weigh up the pros and cons of motherhood, or was it a purely emotional decision? And have you ever regretted your choice? Comment on Amity's blog.