AÂ reader emailed us this Marie Claire article going viral, “Inside tsrtdzdiea
the Growing Movement of Women Who Wish They’d Never Had Kids.” She thought that part of the reason these moms are so unhappy could be the overwhelming pressure we put on them. Maybe if no one was shaming (or arresting) moms for not watching their kids literally 24/7, they’d feel less stuck.
This is not to say that mothers had it easier in other eras. They’ve always had to do so much. It’s just that today, there’s a level of hypervigilance that can be oppressive.Â So Sarah Treleaven writes:
It’s a huge taboo, admitting this kind of thing, but there’s a growing and largely ignored group of mothers all over the world who are confessing their regret over having children…Â The movement got its (arguable) start nearly 10 years ago when Corinne Maier, a French psychoanalyst, writer, and mother of two in Brussels, wrote candidly about her own regret inÂ No Kids: 40 Reasons Not to Have Children. … The book was described by reviewers as “a selfish and cathartic display” and “incredibly distasteful.”
But as often happens when one person gives sudden voice to your secret inner turmoil, more women began toâ€”timidly or boldly or bothâ€”step up to the mic.
You can love your kids and hate the fact that someone will think ill of you for not unbuckling your sleeping toddler and dragging him into the dry cleaner with you. And you can love a whole brood, and still wish you didn’t have to drive everyone to a different activity every weekend, each with a specified snack. Most people don’t actually regret having their kids, of course. But we forget how much helicoptering is baked into the system today. I keep hearing from moms whose schools won’t dismiss the kids unless an adult will escort them home.
Here in the U.S., a lot has shifted professionally in the last few decadesâ€”women are now expected to lean in both at work and at home, never missing a board meeting or ballet recital. A 2015 study found that American mothers now spend 13.7 hours a week with their children, compared to 10.5 hours in 1965â€“even though a significantly larger percentage of mothers also now work outside of the home. The combination, for many, is exhausting.
Today’s young adults have witnessed this growing up, and are reacting:
Younger women are wising up and planningâ€”or, perhaps more accurately, not planningâ€”their families accordingly. Millennials just don’t want children as much as previous generations did: A 2012 survey from the Wharton School of the University of PennsylvaniaÂ found that just 42 percent of students planned to have children, compared to 78 percent from a similar survey in 1992. The change is actually already happening: In 2015, the number of live births in this country fell to the lowest number on record. Americans, it seems, aren’t as interested in parenting anymore.
This is just shocking. I’m sure there are a million reasons our birth rate is going down. But it is possible that our culture of worst-first thinking, of Â forcing parents to prepare for every possible risk, no matter how small, is not something people are eager to sign up for. Even people who don’t regret having their kids. – L.
True. When, in a moment of exasperation, I first googled “Hate being a mother” in 2006, almost nothing came up. Now, it would generate tons of hits.
No matter what you do as a parent, you are always judged and found guilty. Yes, I love my kid and would die for her, easily. Daily living, while balancing all these contradictory demands, is wearing me out. Not even mentioning the immensely stressful process of navigating our constantly changing landscape (and growing costs) of educational and medical systems…
Maybe people just don’t feel pressure to have kids anymore. Why does it have to be about helicoptering?
I read a book about this a while back called “All Joy and No Fun” that made the same point.
As to this, “Maybe people just donâ€™t feel pressure to have kids anymore. Why does it have to be about helicoptering?” Do you seriously believe people have only felt the urge to have kids because of external pressure in times past? If you look at any other species on the planet, I think you’ll see it’s a pretty strong biological imperative. Yes, modern society distances us somewhat from our biology, but it doesn’t erase it.
Powers — because it’s not about people who don’t have kids, it’s about people who already have them and regret it. That’s not about pressure to do or not do it, since they’ve already done it.
I would argue that the greater cause would be the financial strain and lack of support for families from government / companies/ society. This is what most people I know are concerned about – how to keep their jobs while being a parent and how to afford both the necessities and ‘extras’ that add up to 100s of thousands of dollars. Just for my two children I am paying over $30k in daycare and before/afterschool care this year. I would love to have more, but between financial and time constraints, there is no way.
A quote I read said, “Parenting was so much easier when I raised my non-existent children hypothetically.”
I don’t know if the actual demands of modern motherhood are too overwhelming (I don’t think they are) but I am glad there are so many choices for mothers to work (part-time, flex-time, virtual office) and still be active and involved parents. There’s no right or wrong balance, it all depends on the family. I also think some people shouldn’t have kids, just like some shouldn’t be pet owners. It is a commitment, not a life sentence, but it’s not for everyone. Hey, our planet is already overpopulated so I don’t see anything wrong with a low birth rate. Even without helicopter parenting and other intense approaches to raising kids, having a family is expensive and not everyone can afford it.
@Powers, In any given case of not wanting to be a parent it could easily be about any number of factors having nothing to do with helicoptering. But to say the overall trend has nothing to do with helicoptering would be a leap. It is so much a part what young adults are hearing about parenting from their elders.
I’ve seen the comments sections of numerous articles where parents describe the current insanity of what parenting is like (largely due to helicoptering being mandatory though they rarely ever say that). And the follow on comments are a lot of parents saying amen, grandparents saying “it is so much more work these days”, and a lot of people of childbearing age saying…. “No way am I ever subjecting myself to that! I am so, not going to have kids.” Or, “Thanks for the reminder why I keep telling my boyfriend/girlfriend that I have no intention of becoming a parent!”
Even the reduced pressure to have kids is related to helicoptering. Sure there are save the planet people who are bringing the pressure down. But they are a small group. More often than not you hear the helicopters saying “If you aren’t going to *be there* for the kids, don’t have them.” *”Be there” meaning to be literally there all the time, utterly enslaved to the kids. And then there are the exhausted parents who love their kids who answer with “If you love kids, go for it. But don’t let anyone pressure you into it. It is a lot of work.” Or ” Think long and hard, and make sure this is what you want. Because this decision is irreversible.”
Then there is the all important issue of are the young adult’s own parents pressuring that person to become a parent? Will the helicopters who pride themselves on how much they suffered for their kids, and who have spent years saying “I just want my kid to be happy” going to wish all that work on a kid who hasn’t declared a longing for parenthood? If the kid asks “should I” will they keep the sigh of exhaustion out of their answer? Will they say, “I sucked it up for you, now you need to give me a grand kid!” Or will they fall back on usual form and follow the sigh of exhaustion with “I just want you to be happy. Do what makes you happy.”
It’s upsetting that as soon as we conceive, we are under chemical and ultrasound surveillance and become suspect persons. We are then profiled by the physical evidence of sippy cups, strollers, tiny violins and haggard features.
More and more, we are gestating, raising, and educating our children for the state or the retailer’s purposes, though we don’t yet know exactly how they will be used. We are subject to thousands of potential land mines that we may innocently trip while going about our day no malice aforethought, and which can lead to criminal records and removal of our precious wards.
Local misguided do-gooders have joined Big Brother’s enforcement army to make sure we get what’s coming to us for daring to make choices, though they are paid only in fleeting praise and a moment of fame. Ultimately, there is no way to do everything right, so even these do-gooders can be caught in the net they helped to weave.
I would like to see stories about people who report a kid alone in a car one day, and then get busted for running out for eggrolls or showing anger in public the next day, and realize how they set the stage for their own demise. Maybe this would open some eyes and begin the process of resetting expectations for parents.
First world problems.
>”Millennials just donâ€™t want children as much as previous generations did”
That’s probaly because we grew up in the beginning of helicoptering. Not ALL of us were, but that just means we saw the contrast between how we were raised and what was considered normal. For us, that meant that WE were the “weird kid(s)” whose parents wouldn’t let us do developmentally appropriate things.
And so we looked on in longing, as our peers went to sleepovers and walked home from school, and said the proverbial “when I grow up, I’m NEVER doing this to my kids.”
But as we got older, the “weird” way we were raised became more acceptable, even encouraged. So I’m guessing a lot of us saw this go from ‘odd trend’ to ‘practically mandatory’ and said “well, if this is the way I MUST raise any kids I have, then I just won’t HAVE any kids!”. Because we know that “socially acceptable” isn’t the same as “normal”.
I can’t even begin to imagine that it’s helicoptering.
I could make a list of a lot of things before I’d think it was helicoptering
I bet women my mother’s age (born in the 20s) had a list of things they gave 2nd thoughts to as well, but they didn’t have the internet to bitch about them, not the internet to deliver an audience. She also might have regretted the social norms that led her to being a homemaker and not something else. Who knows.
Lollipoplover said – “A quote I read said, ‘Parenting was so much easier when I raised my non-existent children hypothetically.'”
THIS. This is why I often regret becoming a parent. It has nothing to do with helicopter parenting or the societal demands. I am not a helicopter parent and I generally care very little about what people think about me. It has everything to do with the life-style changes needed to raise a child the way that I want to raise my child being more bothersome than I thought they would be going in. Things that I knew I would be giving up and thought “no problem” in the abstract are actually very missed. I miss far more than I thought I would being able to do whatever I want to do at the drop of a hat, moving from place to place on a whim, traveling much more than I do now, loosing myself in a book all weekend, eating cereal for dinner every night for days because I don’t care, eating chocolate cake for dinner because I am adult and there is nobody to tell me I can’t. The mundane chores of adulthood are just not my cup of tea and they are far more needed if you have children than if it is just you.
I adore my child. I would die for her. I do not wish her away. I enjoy having her hanging around most of the time. Although tweenness is setting in, she has been a remarkably easy child to raise since the awful colic phase ended. However, if I had known before I knew her and fell in love with her how much I would miss my “single” life once I had a child, I might have made a different choice.
I think the upsweep in women regretting having kids is largely tied to the fact that it is so much more of a choice today than it was for previous generations. My mother, grandmother, etc., didn’t decided to have children. Marriage and children were just the natural, expected result of being an adult. There wasn’t this myriad of other choices and there is no point regretting a decision you didn’t actually make. And the regret has been simmering for awhile; we are just now being willing to speak it.
When I had kids in the early 2000s, I thought I was going to be able to raise them the way I had been raised in the 1970sâ€” meaning that my parents provided a safe home, nutritious meals, craft supplies, and freedom to roam, as long as I communicated where I was going and when I’d be home again.
Imagine my shock when I found out that I was to chaperone my children, or arrange for a chaperone, every waking second of each day. Under threat of punishment from the authorities!
Well, I don’t think I would have done it if I had known what was going to be expected of me. There, I said it. I’m glad my kids are finally of an age where no one looks at me sideways when they go somewhere on their own, but man, that was a long 15 years of swimming upstream and stressing about it.
The falling birth rate is seen in pretty much all Western countries, at least among the native populations. Certain immigrant groups understand that demographics are destiny.
That said, modern society has made lots of promises to parents (especially mothers) that can’t be kept. No one can “have it all” in the sense that they have a successful career, a full family life, and a full social life. Although I’ll no doubt be accused of all sorts of things, there’s a reason why “dad works while mom cleans” homes were successful in the past: One person focused on taking care of the house and the children, while the other focused on the world outside the house.
Helicoptering does play into the decision about having children, but there are lots of other factors too. Health, for instance – women can have children much later in life, so the pressure to have children early is relaxed a bit (although once you account for higher rates of birth defects, there’s not a lot of benefit of having kids late in life). Which leads to another issue – selfishness. Yes, if you decide you’re never having kids, it’s most likely a result of selfishness. Not that it’s bad (we’re all selfish in some way), but it points back to the data that indicates individuals in our society are more selfish than in the past.
Lots of stuff go into the decision to not have children, and I’d think helicoptering is probably farther down the list, more related to a reason than a reason itself.
I think part of the drop in interest in having families is because of all of the sour and dour things we hear now: “If you can’t do XYZ then you shouldn’t have kids” or “Your kids should be your entire world.” When I was younger it was expected that parents have interests, hobbies, jobs, activities that did not revolve around their kids. Even the stay-at-home moms didn’t devote the obsessive amounts of time fawning over kids the way so many (albeit not all, I know) parents seem to do now.
It seems way more overwhelming that it actually needs to be.
There is so much overinvolvement going on it’s unbelievable. Most of the parents I know seem to think they have to spend every waking minute with their kids and no life of their own. They do homework with their kids (my parents never spent a minute with me doing my homework. ) They refuse to get babysitters for any reason, so they forgo all adult parties, dinners, meetings, concerts, drinks at a bar, etc. If their kids are playing a game of any kind the parents *always* join. There is no such thing as “You kids go play outside while the grownups talk.” These people don’t believe there is any conversation or activity a child should be excluded from. When I read about people bringing babies to bars, fancy restaurants, cocktail parties, etc. without being invited I imagine a lot of people now have the same mindset. And now schools expect the parents to volunteer there several times a month (or week) and go on school field trips, etc., etc. It is just so foreign and incomprehensible to me that I feel I must have been a child 100 years ago instead of 35. It’s no wonder to me some parents these days feel they can never have a life of their own again and regret their decision to have kids. They are more slave than parent.
I think you’ve hit the nail on the head.
I do think helicoptering plays a role, but not as much in the way the article claims in does. Rather helicoptering teaches children to be selfish and insecure. Selfish insecure people generally don’t want to be bothered with even the non-helicoptering basics of having children and insecure people are too afraid they will do it wrong, especially in a world with too many this ways or that ways. And when selfish and insecure people do have children they tend to compensate for their feelings of insecurity through other ways like by driving their kids around in an SUV. To quote from Keith Bradsher’s book High and Mighty ” SUV drivers are frequently married with children, but often are uncomfortable with both…if you have a sport utility you can have the smoked windows put the children in the back and pretend you are still single”.
Helicopter parenting just isn’t creating a majority of young adults who are mature enough to want children. Granted with the earth being overpopulated I’m not sure that is a problem though.
@Kirsten Not sure from your post if you have kids, but one of the HUGE problems with getting babysitters is cost. When I was a kid I think my parents paid a babysitter $2 per hour, when I baby sat as a teen I think I got paid about $5 or $6?, by the time I was a young adult I got paid $10-$12, and now where I live a babysitter will run you close to $20 an hour. There are few things I see being worth spending $20 per hour not to bring my kids too (granted I don’t do any fine dining). And I’ve actually seen kids go outside and play plenty while grown-ups talk.
@Donna “I miss far more than I thought […] eating chocolate cake for dinner because I am adult and there is nobody to tell me I canâ€™t”
This made me laugh. But I get it – there are things I don’t do because I do not want my children to see me doing them and I miss them.
“I think the upsweep in women regretting having kids is largely tied to the fact that it is so much more of a choice today than it was for previous generations. ”
I agree. Plus, saying “I dont want children” is less of taboo for women now then it used to be. It used to be that if women does not want children, there is something wrong with her. Women were not supposed to have careers and hobbies and many single friends to party with in the past.
Being a fulfilled adult is about setting your priorities, your way. As a parent, even with helicoptering as the norm, even with societal expectations and the concern of busybodies reporting us to DSS, we still have choices.
My elementary-age children know I’m not going to entertain them, or make their lunches, or clean up their messes in their rooms or keep their bathrooms clean for them. They know that I will cook one dinner for the family, and they eat it–or cook their own alternative (including cleaning up!). They know that there will be entire weekend days when they need to find ways to amuse themselves, because as a full-time working mom I need time to kick back, read a book, and not actively parent. They know that when I pick them up from school at 3, and my husband takes one of them to an after-school activity, the other one has to fend for him or herself–because I’m still working from home.
Yet, they are happy, healthy, well-adjusted kids. I love them to death, and they love their parents. They have learned to find fun things to do on their own (things that don’t involve turning on the TV or computer!). Sure, they complain at making their lunches and at the other work they are expected to do. They even tell me that I am a mean mom quite regularly–but we are all clear that my job is to be a mother, not a servant or friend.
It does help that they’ve been attending Montessori schools since they were 2 1/2. Montessori schools and the parents that frequent them tend to be less helicopter-prone, and you can find a community of parents that expect children to be responsible, independent young people, from an early age.
I have no regrets whatsoever about having children. We spend tons of fun times together, reading, cooking, working out, and exploring the world around us. I enjoy being at their swim meets, and chaperoning playdates… It’s been a much more amazingly wonderful experience than I could ever have imagined.
It’s up to each of us as parents to make these types of choices, to find ways to parent responsibly without getting hit by crazy laws–and to not fall prey to the heard mentality of helicopters.
@Katie I found out that I enjoy those “adult parties, dinners, meetings, concerts, drinks at a bar” activities less and less the longer I have children. For one, I just can not catch on missing sleep as easily as before, so I avoid activities that go into night. Because me feeling bad next day, having lower productivity in work, being nervous on children is not worth it. I used to be able to sleep long and do nothing a day after a party. It is impossible for me now and it makes party/concert less attractive.
Contrary to that, with job and kids, the time when I can do nothing and just do nothing is much more awesome then it used to be. Plus, I have less free time, so I have to pick and choose. I used to tag along to activity I don’t care about (but don’t mind doing), I don’t do that anymore.
These social activities are great when you go with same group of people often, but if you go only once in a while you become outsider to group anyway. You don’t have same experiences and have different lifestyle, so you end up just listening their stories having nothing to contribute which can make you feel like you don’t fit anymore. Again, that makes it less attractive.
I also found that my hobbies changed when I had children. I read different books, play different games. I guess that different lifestyle can have a consequence that different things become enjoyable.
As a single full time Dad I can say that having a kid and raising her into a wonderful young person has be the greatest gift I could ever imagine and it helped my personal life because women saw how dedicated of a father I am and it was a large part of the reason they were attracted to me. So I guess I began to attract better quality people in my social life.
I am a stay-at-home mom, yet I greatly sympathize with those women. I always wanted three children, but after having one, I decided that it is more than plenty. After my husband begged me for a second kid, I finally gave up and finished my child bearing years with another one. If I were born again, then I would devote my life to career without kids. I do not regret having them, though, but I feel as if for one life there is not enough room for both – children and your demanding job. For me, the feel of responsibility and my children’s well-being was deeply overwhelming.
If you decide not to have kids, I guarantee you’ll be voicing regrets about something else. That’s life. Having or not having kids is not the key to happiness or unhappiness.
However, having children teaches you how to become less selfish.
Think about that word, Selfish, and what it means. It’s a negative term.
Now think about colors: Red, Green, blue.
I might say something is redish, greenish, or bluish. But adding the “ish” doesn’t add a negative connotation. For some reason we all know being unselfish is a positive goal.
I think Jen has it right. I’m sure the time commitment and stress plays a factor for some, but the overwhelming cost of kids, even if you’re relatively sane and don’t buy a lot of the unnecessary stuff companies peddle, is the primary factor here. When you’re dealing with stagnant wages, student loan, debt, mortgages, etc, the thought of adding daycare to that list can be crippling.
I really do feel like so much of an increase in ppd here in America is cuz we really have a society and culture that does not help mother’s enough. you need a vilkage and an online village isn’t enough. It’s isolating and lonely not having anyone because everyone HAS to work till they drop dead for the capitalist machine. we need to reevaluate what is realot important in life.
I am not sure this is new. 😛
Though I often think that it would be hard to recommend this gig to a prospective parent, because it’s so hard to find legitimate ways to let kids be kids. Sometimes we have to say “no” when we feel the right answer is really “yes.” This happens more and more. What kind of life can the next generation of parents give their kids?
Maybe I’m being too gloom and doom. Maybe we just need to look at things a different way. I don’t know. I just know I find it a depressing thought.
Every so often I come across an article that goes on about how we should give our kids old-fashioned responsibilities etc. etc. Well, those must be written by someone who isn’t raising young kids today. Young kids have tons of responsibilities I never had. What the hell with research papers (complete with bibliographies) in 2nd grade? And having to start building their resumes in primary school? How about having to read and test on over a hundred books throughout the school year? And they have to “be somewhere” all the time, because God forbid they be caught running around “unsupervised” before they have a driver’s license. And every kid needs to have a trophy room to fill with physical proofs of their self-worth. I don’t know what happens to a kid who doesn’t have some sort of trophy or medal these days. (FTR I never won a trophy or medal and I seem to be OK.)
Yes, I know we could opt out of some of that, but what is the alternative – you still can’t send them off to find their own adventures.
So you will often hear me saying that I’m glad I’m past __ stage of child rearing and I feel sorry for those who still have to go through it.
Workshop: “That said, modern society has made lots of promises to parents (especially mothers) that canâ€™t be kept. No one can â€œhave it allâ€ in the sense that they have a successful career, a full family life, and a full social life. Although Iâ€™ll no doubt be accused of all sorts of things, thereâ€™s a reason why â€œdad works while mom cleansâ€ homes were successful in the past: One person focused on taking care of the house and the children, while the other focused on the world outside the house.”
I agree with you. I remember a long feature article in the Washington Post Sunday magazine a few years back about how modern couples split up their household responsibilities, featuring several “egalitarian” couples. They also threw in one or two more “traditional” couples who had separate realms of responsibility almost as an afterthought.
Although the journalist assumed egalitarianism was unquestionably better – even a moral imperative – what struck me about the article was that all the things the mainstream couples said brought out how stressed and overwhelmed they were all the time, and how much tension it caused in their marriages, whereas the couples who followed an old-fashioned division of labor seemed relaxed and happy in their marriages.
Certainly in my family, there would be little time for developing family friendships and traditions if I weren’t free to be responsible for those things.
I LOVED being a parent of babies, toddlers, and teens. Even at the worst ages, my kids were easy for me and I ENJOYED them.
Why? Because I let them be and they rose to the occasion.
I feel so sorry for the parents I see today….they complain about having to “do” so much….and most of it, they really don’t have to do at all.
They will regret not enjoying their kids when the kids are grown. I can promise that.
So true. My fourth grader had a Harry Potter movie party after school because the class had just finished the book. The parents received an email request for parents to come chaperone and hand out popcorn. After the party, we got an email thanking all the chaperones who came and helped. The teacher wrote how the party was a success and “we couldn’t have done it without you.” So the kids couldn’t have made their own popcorn and handed it out and pressed play? On that note, teacher and coach emails are out of control. I know they do it because parents expect it, but I just don’t have the time.
All of the above are likely contributors.
Then there are also people that are just lazy shits.
I do well enough that two incomes aren’t necessary. My wife had the option of going to school, being a housewife, continuing working as a lab tech, etc. School was too much work, and lab tech didn’t make enough of a marginal difference to be worth while, so she chose housewife.
She resents our kids because she wants to be like her shopaholic, daytime wine drinking, housekeeper having friends, and I will not subsidize a “Real Housewives” lifestyle. It wasn’t an issue before kids because the house stays clean, etc. pretty much on it’s own with nobody home.
She is definitely not a helicopter parent. I had to fight for one extracurricular activity once a week for each kid.
I made a mistake assuming since she had a decent job and managed alone she’d be fine, but found out after kids she just wanted a sugar daddy.
So one reason for regretting kids doesn’t fit all, or even most. There are many reasons, some reasonable, others selfish and entitled.
Personally, it would be a privilege to do more with them, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
Correction: a growing number of moms ADMIT they regret having kids. Pedophobia has always been rampant in modern Western cultures, but in the past it was just politically incorrect to admit it.
There are things I strongly dislike about parenting–the main one being homework. Yes, homework. I can count on one hand the number of homework assignments I had before entering junior high in the 7th grade. My kids, on the other hand, have had homework practically every day since kindergarten. Two completely different school systems, by the way.
Society has lots of additional demands on parents that it did not have in the past. The demand to helicopter parent is one of them. The other is the expectation that any failures your kids make are YOUR fault. Gah.
Also, I hate playing Barbies with a burning passion, and thankfully we are passed that stage, but geesh, how boring. Give me Lego bricks any day!
Does anyone know when the term “Stay-at-home-mom” cropped up and started to replace “homemaker”? (Or “housewife” I suppose.) Therein is a great example of how our words shape our views. A homemaker does just that- makes home for the whole family, whereas a SAHM (or SAHD, though a homemaker can be a man and I would describe my FIL as one) is entirely focused on the children and they are the only reason for not being employed outside home. A homemaker may or may not be a parent.
Absolutely correct. People used to be forced to hitch themselves up and carry on while experiencing their regrets without dwelling on them too much, simply because there was no outlet to write and write and write and share and share for everyone to read
Sounds like you’ve got some major problems in your marriage, and they’re not particularly related to child rearing. Did you just call your wife a “lazy shit”? I’d suggest either a good marriage counselor or a good divorce attorney.
You’re making a big leap from helicopter parenting to not wanting kids. It is more socially acceptable for women to focus on their career and not have kids today, too. Also, with the terrible overpopulation that’s plaguing the world today, fewer people having babies is a very positive change.
Helicopter parenting remains a problem, and it’s very sad if parents regret having children because they feel obligated to spend every minute with them. I love my children dearly, even when they make me crazy. I’d hate to live my life wishing I hadn’t had them. But adults choosing to have a child-free life is not an inherently problematic thing, whether they make that choice for environmental reasons, career reasons, or so they don’t feel the constant pressure to be deeply involved in everything their children do.
I agree with those who say that saying “I sometimes regret having kids” or often even “I don’t want kids” was much bigger taboo in the past. Women in the past were supposed to be naturally happy in the home with children and if she was not, there was something wrong with her.
Maybe women in 1965 spent three hours per week less with direct care about children, but once they had children proper middle class women was expected to be only at home. Afaik, on average they spent ridiculous amount of time by cleaning to occupy themselves.They had much bigger depression rates then now and tried suicide more often too, so I guess they were not on average so much happier.
Once it was ok to go to work too, those who thought it is indeed better for children or simply preferred it needed to rationalize the choice. Are you staying because you are lazy and if you are not lazy how come you chill while kids are playing alone? It is not just society pressure thing, people need purpose and feel useful. It is hard to feel useful when the kids play outside, house is nicely clean anyway and all you do is hobbies or other pretend-work activities. Some people find themselves in that situation, but many don’t. Besides, stereotypes about women of that era don’t exactly suggest ‘respect’. After all the difference between ‘welfare queen’ and stay and home mom is how much husband earns.
I’m pretty sure “SAHM/D” was invented because someone thought “housewife” or “homemaker” was a putdown.
Personally I don’t understand all that. I’ve always had a full-time job, so I get the other stigma – “letting other people raise my kids.” Whatever!
Women are their own worst enemies. I really think it boils down to that.
Someone above mentioned that it’s harder now to let kids be kids, and I’ll add to that that it’s harder now for adults to be adults.
The seeming expectation is that parents must give up all their own interests and embrace their children’s interests, otherwise they shouldn’t have had kids.
No one hires babysitters because no one else is good enough to take care of the kids, and if you want to go somewhere without the kids you shouldn’t have had them.
We can’t allow sleepovers at a friend’s house (and a night alone for mom and dad) because the dad or older brother might be a pedophile, and if you wanted nights alone you shouldn’t have had kids.
If there is anything that we DO like to do as adults, we have to take the kids along no matter how inappropriate (I’m not talking inappropriate like a strip club; I’m talking inappropriate like a 3 hour long slow-moving baseball game, for example). And really, if you wanted to keep going to baseball games you shouldn’t have had kids.
There’s no break for adults unless we take the bull by the horns and create one and, when we do, our culture shames us.
“I can count on one hand the number of homework assignments I had before entering junior high in the 7th grade. My kids, on the other hand, have had homework practically every day since kindergarten. Two completely different school systems, by the way.”
And the two different school systems likely explains this more than the passage of time, except possibly in the manner that the passage of time tends to affect our memories. A more accurate comparison would be if you and your child actually attended the same elementary school.
I had plenty of homework in elementary school. Some every night. And bi-weekly book reports. And bigger projects – research reports, science fair, building things in shoe boxes – several times a year. I spent half of my 4th and 5th grade years in detention. I would blow off my homework and then once or twice a month my teacher would give me detention where I would make it up. It was less of a deterrent than I think the teachers intended since I essentially only had to do homework once or twice a month as opposed to every night. I think the goal was that I would get in trouble at home, but I was the first run of latch-key kids so my mother never even knew about it since I still made it home before her and had stellar grades.
Nor was this unusual. Watch most kids programs set in the 60s, 70s and 80s and homework factored into them in some way. The plot of kid telling mom that there was a big project – generally requiring supplies of some sort – due in school the next day that they’ve had a month to work on, but hadn’t mentioned was extremely common.
My daughter has far less homework than I did in elementary school (different school system in a different state in a different part of the country). She does about 15-20 minutes a day and has never had a book report or project outside of the end of year project required for the gifted program. In fact, she has far less homework than my brother who attended the same elementary school as her (not just same school system, but the same exact school) in the late 80s/early 90s.
We now know that you’ll be a parent on your own. There are no more tribes. Everything you can’t manage, you’lol pay for. Maids, daycare, fast food etc. You’ll have to be a mother, breadwinner, homemaker, etc etc.
Maybe it’s not parenting, but parenting in a vaccumm that is so daunting.
“And really, if you wanted to keep going to baseball games you shouldnâ€™t have had kids.”
Your point still holds, but _amusingly_ my wife and I *STARTED* going to “3 hour long slow-moving baseball game(s)” because of our kid.
He likes sports.
Starting from as far back as he understood the concept. My wife and I had basically no interest.
We’ve since been to several hundred “3 hour long slow-moving baseball games.” 🙂 Plus a few hundred 1-2 hour long little league (and related league) games in which he was participating. We have flown 1,000 miles because a player that had been on our local minor league team was playing in some small town and we were going to be “in the area” … where “in the area” means within 1,000 miles 🙂
Maybe it is more fun when you realize how absurd it seems to everyone (including you!) because it *IS* absurd. But you do it anyway 🙂
By the two separate school systems I meant my kids are in two separate systems and they’ve both had homework in the younger classes.
I’m 43 so elementary school in the late 70s and early 80s.
@Mark R, I’m not opposed to kids at games, and yours sounds great, but seems to be of an age to understand and like the game. I’m referring to infants, 1-year-olds, 2-year-olds…toddlers, all of whom I see at the 25 games per year that I go to, whose parents spend the entire game trying to keep the kid occupied, fed, and meltdown-free.
Baseball games *are* long, and even to lovers of the sport they can be boring at times, so I’m not sure what your repeated quotes of my description was supposed to prove.
Actually, I think the number of women who regret having children has decreased over the past century, dramatically. In the modern world, not having children is a viable option, both socially and practically, as is, to a large degree, controlling the timing and number of the children you have. In the past, birth control options were much more limited, and the truly reliable option (being single and celibate) carried other social problems in a society where a single woman had limited ability to support herself and control her own financial and legal affairs.
So a lot of people had kids they didn’t want because that’s what you did. Or they wanted the first couple, but by kid eight or nine, another baby was nothing but a burden. Some kids got a decent childhood out of it – the parents stepped up, or other relatives stepped in – but a lot of others got really crappy upbringing, with resentful or neglectful parents, or had their physical needs met, but parents where were indifferent or cold.
The recent spate of media activity is more a backlash against the incredibly strong taboo against *saying* that you regret having your kids. It’s a shameful secret you confide in whispers to a trusted therapist, or a best friend who can be relied on to not share it with anyone. You can humble-brag about the drudgery and exhaustion of raising kids, but always with a “but they’re the best thing in my life and I wouldn’t change it for anything” footnote – you’re may be a martyr, but it’s for the true faith.
There is a pretty good reason for the taboo, though – the person on the other end of it. I still remember how devastated a friend of mine was, back in elementary school, at overhearing her mother tell a friend that she shouldn’t have had her. Knowing you’re not wanted, and your mother things she would have been better off if you had never been born, is a heavy burden for a kid to bear.
My only sister and only sibling does not want children. We have three and wish for more. I truly respect her decision though, and when asked once, she simply replied ‘I am too selfish, I don’t understand kids, they seem loud and smelly and childbirth seems awful’. She is blunt and honest about how she feels and her partner respects this. They are in no rush to get married and conform to society either. True, she and I live completely different lives with completely different views and values, but I am glad she can recognize this for her own life, and not bend to peer pressure. Of course, being a mom, we know that ‘having your own children’ is different somehow… but I would never tell her she is wrong for feeling the way she does.
@Beth And really, if you wanted to keep going to baseball games you shouldnâ€™t have had kids.
I really can not relate to that attitude. The time when people had more kids and wanted more kids was time where kids were pretty much everywhere and adults were used to that. At least in our local culture (Simultaneously adults would not see kids presence as a reason to talk differently nor anything like that. They would also assert themselves against overly unruly kid.).The demographics who kept kids with babysitters and more away were demographics that had less of them (at the same time).
Besides, employed parents want to be with their children during weekend and want to do their own activities. It is mostly that they do not know strategies how to do that and have no one to learn them from. Because culture is that most people don’t know how to do it. Maybe employed parents do spend more time actively around their kids, but they are not constantly passively around kids the way mothers used to be while kids were little. The mom was doing her thing, but the toddler was playing in the same room interacting every few minutes which makes situation much different for parent who dont see the children at all for almost 10 hours a day (allowing travel and lunch a shop trim on the way home).
I’m 46 and had homework in elementary school. So did most of the people I know of similar age and even older. I know this because at a recent party we had a lengthy discussion about ridiculous school projects of.our youth (instigated by a parent complaining about a child’s school assignment). Participants ranged from 40 to 66 and grew up in several different states and one foreign country. All remembered homework in elementary school. The shoebox diorama seemed particularly prevalent – and often ridiculous – for those who were in elementary school in the 70s. Models of the solar system and volcanos were also pretty common.
I am not a supporter of homework. I just think the belief that it did not exist in the 60s, 70s and 80s is not reality. And even if it was reality for you specifically – and not just selective memory – it was definitely not universal.
I feel like the needle of parental involvement is slowly being pushed toward overdoing it and helicopter parenting instead of a fluid, adjustable style dependent on the situation that takes into account the individual child. I do question myself if I am doing enough, when my instincts tell me to lay off and let the kid take more responsibility and accountability and learn from the experience, even if it’s bad. It’s like grooming eyebrows- once you overpluck and do too much it’s hard to get that natural shape back so best not overdo it in the first place, right?
OT- but somewhat related- someone sent me this article and I want to bang my head against the desk:
So recruiters are looking at…. parents? Will parents get free room and board at the college also to ensure the student athlete has a good transition? Are college students even considered adults anymore??
@test, *I* do not believe that – I was saying that’s what our culture believes….even on this very site.
Look at any of Lenore’s posts about kids being left in vehicles for a short errand. Invariably, some people show up to say “If you didn’t want to take your kids into the dry cleaner you shouldn’t have had kids”, usually followed by an admonition not to be so lazy.
“I think the upsweep in women regretting having kids is largely tied to the fact that it is so much more of a choice today than it was for previous generations. My mother, grandmother, etc., didnâ€™t decided to have children. Marriage and children were just the natural, expected result of being an adult. There wasnâ€™t this myriad of other choices and there is no point regretting a decision you didnâ€™t actually make. And the regret has been simmering for awhile; we are just now being willing to speak it.” – Donna
Good point! There were probably always women who weren’t suited to motherhood, but back then, nobody actually said so.
“That said, modern society has made lots of promises to parents (especially mothers) that canâ€™t be kept. No one can â€œhave it allâ€ in the sense that they have a successful career, a full family life, and a full social life. Although Iâ€™ll no doubt be accused of all sorts of things…” – Workshop
Not by me! I knew before I had my son that I would have to give some things up. I know my own limits and energy levels, and that I could not have handled the busy lifestyle some people seem to manage or even thrive on. I took several years off when he was little, and then went back part time.
“Although the journalist assumed egalitarianism was unquestionably better â€“ even a moral imperative â€“ what struck me about the article was that all the things the mainstream couples said brought out how stressed and overwhelmed they were all the time, and how much tension it caused in their marriages, whereas the couples who followed an old-fashioned division of labor seemed relaxed and happy in their marriages.
Certainly in my family, there would be little time for developing family friendships and traditions if I werenâ€™t free to be responsible for those things.” – Anna
I agree that it all has to do with time. There are so many things that I know I would have let go if I worked 40 hours a week. I believe our lives are calmer and happier because I’ve “stolen” a chunk of time from work to take care of things at home instead of both of us running around every evening trying to get everything done. (And I’m not at all saying it has to be the wife who stays home or works part time!! I think whoever has the personality for it should feel comfortable doing it if they want to.)
“This is just shocking. Iâ€™m sure there are a million reasons our birth rate is going down. But it is possible that our culture of worst-first thinking, of forcing parents to prepare for every possible risk, no matter how small, is not something people are eager to sign up for.” – Lenore
I definitely think it’s one reason. People nowadays think about whether to have children (whereas it used to just go along with getting married) and some of them make a rational decision that modern parenting isn’t for them. I also think many are scared of all the bad things about our society (there’s that 24-hour news coverage and worst-first thinking again) and just don’t want to bring children into it.
Gosh, interesting stuff. I was lucky enough to have the reverse of the women mentioned in the article. I had children expecting to suffer through the preschool stage until they became ‘interesting’ somewhere around primary school. I was shocked to find that I enjoyed the babies right from birth. Not every minute, of course, and not every stage, but in general they were really cool and a lot of fun. That said, two of them were pretty self-contained kids from when they were mobile, the kind who could concentrate on something that interested them for hours, so I guess I was pretty lucky with them. El Sicko, the middle one, made up for needing a lot more attention by being cute and cuddly (even to now, at 17 🙂 ).
Admittedly though I live in a culture that isn’t quite helicopterish yet, and might manage to avoid going down that track, because we get so much from America in the way of articles etc, and people are often shocked enough by the outlandish stuff to agree to ‘never do that!’ :-).
I also confess to be overly proud of being a SAHM too, now that I’m almost completely through that stage. I think that there is a benefit to having a person able to assume the bulk of the parenting responsibility if you have no other family support (which we didn’t) but for my own kids I am going to try to provide some childcare support (if they want it!) and encourage a bit more work/parenting sharing between them and their spouses. We were/are possibly a bit too traditional. Worked ok for us, and I don’t think I would have stuck with my husband if I had been financially independent (which would have been a shame, as the marriage has worked out fine after some issues), but maybe two parents working part-time/full-time in different cycles and helped out by other family members would be a better, more balanced model.
And take the pressure off that one, main caregiver.
“I also confess to be overly proud of being a SAHM too, now that Iâ€™m almost completely through that stage.”
Same here. I’ve done every combination of the work/life balance (full-time with childcare, part-time with preschool, SAHM- I am childcare, and now part-time work-at-home they no longer need childcare) and there simply is no magic bullet. It doesn’t exist. Being at home is by far my most relaxed and content stage of parenting, maybe because I’ve come to realize they will be just fine without overdoing it. After 15 years of raising kids, I understand the power of saying NO without guilt (that took a while). Having a budget and living within our means (when it seems so many of their friends are given everything) teaches more important life lessons than working like a dog to pay for lessons, elite sports teams, and more of everything without the satisfaction of really enjoying it all and raising spoiled kids. Hard work, chores, responsibilities, seem to get lost when parents do and provide everything for kids. We do not (they can buy expensive clothes and electronics with their own money). I can honestly say I enjoy spending time with my kids and having them around-NO REGRETS-mainly because they aren’t bratty, spoiled kids who expect me to wait on them hand and foot.
I think a lot of milennials are not planning families because the future they were promised just isn’t there. I am on the older end of this generation, so I fared a little better, but many are doing what they were advised to do: education, internships, etc. and can’t find a job to pay for their degree or even earn a living wage. Who can think about affording to take care of a family when you will be living with your mom and using tip money to pay student loans for 20 years?
When did parents riding in the backseat of the car with their child become a thing? And at what age does it end? Do they still do it for the second kid? Or is the first kid goo enough company for the second?
I have been single my child’s whole life so this was not a possibility that I had (nor would it have been one I would have engaged in), but it seems to be a thing from talking to my younger friends who are just now in the baby/toddler-stage of parenting. And yesterday while I was cutting ivy off a tree near the road, my neighbors drove by and waved – mom driving and dad in the backseat with the almost 1 year old.
I know that this would discourage me from having babies.
“When did parents riding in the backseat of the car with their child become a thing?”
Who’s driving? Do these people have chauffeurs?
One parent drives while the other rides in the backseat with the child.
I’m not saying that I disagree with these women. Obviously, these women are absolutely entitled to feel regret or unhappiness with having their children.
But….13 hours a week? I understand that those hours must mean actively engaged with your child. Meaning, for a smaller child, on the floor playing with him or her. This doesn’t represent hours that you’re “with” your kid, but they’re doing their own thing. (Like right this minute, mine are outside playing with the dogs while I eat lunch and type this- this wouldn’t be counted in my “hours spent.)
Still, that’s only 7% of the week. If we’re including bedtime routine and eating dinners together, say five days a week out of the seven, that’s at least 10 hours that I’m present with my kids. Plus we typically do something together on the weekends like a movie or something- I’ve just bypassed the 13 hours right there.
I guess I’m just having a hard time wrapping my brain around that little amount of time spent with your children. (I’m NOT AT ALL JUDGING.) I just honestly don’t see how it’s even possible to have such a low number of hours. And only ten hours? Even during the era of “go outside and find something to do” I have a hard time seeing how that could be possible.
Again, I think there are a number of factors that are involved that could contribute to the unhappiness of mothers but I’m having a hard time believing those figures are accurate.
â€œWhen did parents riding in the backseat of the car with their child become a thing?â€
I don’t know about a major trend, but I actually did that for a brief period in 2001. My son was starting to feel carsick (we know now, though he couldn’t explain that at the time) when riding backwards. I would sometimes ride in the back with him to distract him so my husband was less distracted while driving.
The day he turned one and we turned his seat around (advice was different “back then”) the problem stopped and I went back to my usual seat.
“My son was starting to feel carsick (we know now, though he couldnâ€™t explain that at the time) when riding backwards. I would sometimes ride in the back with him to distract him so my husband was less distracted while driving.”
We had the same thing happen to us- also in 2001- when our son was born! He would vomit in his rear-facing seat routinely.
I didn’t often travel with my husband to watch for baby to puke all over himself so I bought one of those Safety First mirrors to *see* him while I was driving (because taking my eyes off the road to look at a puke covered baby is such a good idea-not). One day while working, I parked my car on the very top level of a parking garage in direct sunlight. I came back to my car interior smoldering from the fire on the roof because the mirror burned a large hole from reflecting the sun. We got rid of the mirror (dumb dumb dumb) switched the kid around and never were backseat riders again.
@donna we did backseat driving because we found it tiny bit more practical, especially during longer trips. Mostly for handing fallen toy or food or just when the kid was nervous. We never read any advice, it is just what we did. I don’t really care whether I sit in the back or front when I am not driving. We never seen this as “parenting decision”, only one of those things you do one way or the other without real consequences.
There was not enough comfortable space in the back for two child seats and adult, so second child was only with sibling. When there was only driver and first child, the kid was alone.
@lollipoplover The prevalence of those stupid mirrors are just a reflection of how illogically some/many parents are. If one wants to keep their kids safe they should keep their eyes on the road. The chances of something happening to the child that could actually be prevented compared with the risk of getting in an accident obviously favors getting in an accident. Worse they add danger for other road users, particularly vulnerable road users. In fact those mirrors should be banned.