Since becoming a parent, I’m naturally more interested in parenting articles. I discovered the TIME magazine Parents newsletter, which gets delivered to my inbox each Friday. Belinda Luscombe, a TIME writer, rounds up links to various parenting-related articles each week, and also has a little advice on a different topic weekly, based on the child’s age. I love the newsletters, and make time to keep up with them (unlike my Twitter feeds and Lenny articles, post-baby). Here is a sample:
And if you want to sign up for the weekly email newsletter, you can go here, scroll to the bottom, and input your email address:
Recently, she’s had a couple of articles about people regretting becoming parents. The first is about a researcher in Israel, who did a study about women who regretted having children. Perhaps regret is too strong of a word. In essence, in a society where women who don’t have children are looked down upon, there is this promise of fulfillment in becoming a mother. But it “may simultaneously be a realm of distress, helplessness, frustration, hostility and disappointment, as well as an arena of oppression and subordination”. These women love their children, and are not bad mothers. But given the significant impact having a child has on one’s life, they now wish they hadn’t done it. Certainly taboo to admit one regrets becoming a mother.
The second article is an anonymous post by a father with similar sentiments. He became clinically depressed after realizing he did not want the profound changes in his life that occurred after having his son. His wife doesn’t understand how he could feel that way, so it’s put a strain on the relationship.
The fact that both articles/posts ended up in the Parents newsletter means that they gained some buzz. On the one hand, it’s still a bit shocking to hear that a parent regrets having children. But on the other hand, it sounds like it’s more common than you’d think. And these articles are raising awareness.
I always wanted to have kids. Whether that was due to expectations from society and my parents, I don’t know. But I was old enough when I got married to have a sense of how life-changing it is to have kids. So when I got married, I knew I wanted to have kids, and it was a decision I had made independently. My husband wanted children as well. We were lucky enough to be able to plan it, and not to have had trouble conceiving.
Even then, it’s been tough and I relate to the sentiments of the articles. Even despite wanting a child, having a supportive partner, planning a pregnancy, and having a pretty good idea of what to expect, it’s still hard. Really hard. Granted, I didn’t quite know what it was like and how hard it was until going through it myself. And it’s hard for others to explain what it’s like to get so much joy from your little guy.
But the chronic sleep-deprivation, and general demand on my life hasn’t been easy. I have the type of job where I work 50-something hours a week, and I can’t exactly half-ass it. So it’s tough when I’m chronically tired, but still have to be at the top of my game at work. I feel like all I have the time and energy for is work, and whatever is required to take care of WZW- the breastfeeding and pumping (which I hate every day), getting up at night for him, and just in general watching him so he doesn’t kill himself these days.
He’s sleeping better, and taking longer naps, so it is nice for getting more stuff done. But what I find is that even on weekends, it’s hard to catch up on sleep. There’s always stuff I want to do, even if it’s sitting on my computer like this. I’m introverted by nature, so I need to decompress and have alone time. That is much more difficult given all of the demands of having a baby. So between the lack of sleep and lack of me-time, I often don’t feel settled.
So particularly for my patients who did not plan their pregnancies, don’t have a solid relationship with their partner, don’t have financial stability, or just were ambivalent about children in the first place, I can see how one may regret parenthood.
For me, the other ramification of chronic sleep-deprivation is that my health has suffered. When you’re tired, extra hungry from breastfeeding, and don’t have any free time, your food choices (and amounts) suffer. It depresses me that I’m 20 lbs heavier than I was pre-pregnancy. Or at least at last check. I don’t even want to step on the scale any more, since it will only make me feel worse. And the thing is, I gained weight after I initially lost much of the pregnancy weight. So I think it’s mostly from the chronic sleep-deprivation.
I worry about this not getting better for a while. Many parents say it took years for their kids to really sleep through the night. Also, we’d like to have another child, and given my age I can’t wait that long. But I worry about whether I can handle a pregnancy and another baby since I’m already having a tough time.
What it comes down to is that I don’t regret motherhood, and I hope we are fortunate enough to have a second healthy child. But I am well aware of the sacrifices that come with that. And right now, my fear is that I will remain this fat forever. Yes, it’s superficial, but my self-esteem is tied to my weight and appearance. As well as my health, which is ultimately more important than my appearance. I’m afraid of being this heavy permanently, or at least for a good number of years. I probably worry too much, but I think that’s the sleep-deprivation talking. 🙂
Here’s our newly 9 month-old little guy, who has turned Mom and Dad’s lives upside down. He’s wearing the jinbei-san my mom got him in Japan. Also referred to by my husband as his Japanese dashiki.