Parents regret work, worries and not enough play

"Try to focus on the here and now, instead of the past" ... Jo Lamble
"Try to focus on the here and now, instead of the past" ... Jo Lamble 

Do you find yourself looking at your children and feeling a tinge of sadness that you didn’t make more of the time you had together while they were still young?

You’re not alone. The majority of parents have a long list of regrets, with the average parent regretting five things about their child’s early years, according to a new survey.

The biggest regrets parents admit to are working too much, constantly worrying about the little things and not playing with their child more often, according to a UK survey of 2,000 parents by Huggies Little Swimmers. 

The survey also revealed that more than three quarters of parents have at least one regret during their child’s first few years, while two thirds of parents admit they would do things differently if they could relive the period again.

Seven out of 10 parents admitted they took their youngster’s childhood for granted, with more than two thirds saying it's easy to forget they won’t be young forever.

Things can seem simpler with hindsight, and it seems you definitely live and learn when you’re a parent

"Lots of parents have regrets because it’s very easy to look backwards," says Lauren Revell from Huggies Little Swimmers. "Things can seem simpler with hindsight, and it seems you definitely live and learn when you’re a parent. Lots of parents say they have done things differently with their second child than their first – nobody knows straight away how to be a parent, so these regrets with your first-born are understandable." 

The results of the survey reflect the experiences of Australian clinical psychologist, Jo Lamble, who says she comes across parents with regrets all too often. She says the most common ones are "working too much, not enjoying the early years of parenthood, and wishing they had not worried so much about money and chores".

But Lamble says it's possible to use regrets to bring about positive changes. "If you're worried that you're working too hard, reassess your priorities - it's not too late. If you have regrets over having not enjoyed the early years, make the most of today. If you regret not going on holidays or not having taken enough photos, start today. In other words, use your regrets to make changes in your mindset and your priorities. Try to focus on the here and now, instead of the past - it's a skill called mindfulness and it's so powerful."

According to psychologist Melanie Greenberg,  not dealing with regret can have long-term effects on our health and wellbeing. She recommends the following ways of coping:

  • Think about life as a journey. Everybody makes mistakes and these can be opportunities to learn important lessons about yourself, your ways of reacting, values, vulnerabilities, triggers, and also about other people and how to take better care of yourself.
  • Consider the circumstances at the time that may have made it more difficult to make good choices, or the fact that you had limited knowledge at the time. Perhaps you had to make a quick decision under time pressure or had multiple stresses going on.
  • If you get stuck blaming yourself and regretting past actions, this could turn into depression and damage your self-esteem. Find a way to forgive yourself and let it go.

Top 20 regrets of parents

  1. Working too much
  2. Worrying too much about the little things that didn’t really matter
  3. Not playing with them more
  4. Not going on more holidays
  5. Not taking enough photos
  6. Spending too much time away from then
  7. Not filming enough events or milestones in their lives
  8. Not taking them on ‘big’ holidays, such as trips to Disneyland
  9. Not encouraging them to take up a/more hobbies
  10. Not having a shared hobby
  11. Not reading enough to them at bedtime
  12. Spending too much time worrying about keeping the house clean
  13. Not taking them swimming more often
  14. Not letting them take part in messy activities more often
  15. Not teaching them to swim earlier
  16. Not seeing/being at some of the milestones in their life
  17. Not making enough of Christmas/birthdays with them
  18. Being too over-protective
  19. Always waiting for the next milestone instead of enjoying the current one
  20. Not enjoying days out more

Do you have any parenting regrets? Read what others had to say in our forum, or add your own.