Why It’s Not Okay to Say “I Wish I Never Had Kids!”

by | Jan 30, 2019 | Uncategorized | 140 comments

It's not okay to say I wish I'd never had kids

Lots of parents say “I wish I never had kids!” or “If I could do my life over again, I’d never have children.”

I think that’s so destructive.

This month, in our Wednesday series, we’re looking at the habits we have that can steal our marriage from us, and what small habits we can put in place instead that can help us experience the big, joyful life God has for us. We started off by talking about health, and then last week we talked about video games (and I talked about time wasters in the podcast). Today I want to talk about our thought patterns, and I’ll do it using this reader question I received from a woman who is resentful of being a mother.


Note before the post starts: Postpartum Depression (PPD) is a real affliction that many women suffer after childbirth. Among other symptoms, many women who experience PPD report feelings of disconnect from their children or that their children don’t feel “real.” Studies estimate it may affect 15% of women who give birth, usually beginning within the first month after childbirth and lasting from a few months to upwards of a year. We are not discussing PPD in this post. If you have PPD or have suffered from PPD, this post is not for you and we instead recommend talking to your doctor to discuss treatment options. The reader in question does not have PPD, and it is important to make the distinction. 


 

Reader Question

I have been married for nine years to an amazing man. We got married young, and each knew that the other felt differently about having kids- he wanted them, I was vehemently against it. We got married anyway. Three years ago, I was fed up with fighting and disappointing my parents who desperately wanted grandchildren (my sibling never married), so I gave in. The day I found out I was pregnant was one of the worst days of my life, following the day I gave birth. I hated my child, and I hated my husband for forcing motherhood on me. He had said earlier in our marriage that there was no point in being married unless we were going to have kids, and he felt dutifully responsible as Christians to have kids. Maybe I was wrong to be devastated to hear his opinion on his reasons for marriage, but I was. I did grow to love my baby very much after a few months, and we now have a second (again out of obligation on my side, as well as the desire to get this baby stuff over with as quickly as possible), but I can’t seem to fully recover from my anger towards my husband. Ever since I got pregnant the first time, I feel like the only reason my husband loves me is because of the kids, and so every time he says “I love you”, I feel resentful, and sometimes have to force myself to say it back. I’m trying to let it all go as it is negatively impacting my view on our marriage, intimacy, my view of the kids (I love them now, but I still wish I wasn’t a mom) and on myself, but I can’t seem to beat this thing. How can I just let it completely go?

Okay, I have a lot to say to this one, but before we get started, I don’t want this to be a discussion about whether or not they should have had kids, or whether it’s okay to get married knowing that you don’t want kids. We covered that a while ago in this post on not wanting to have kids with your husband.

But this is different, because this is no longer a theoretical question. This letter writer already has two living, breathing children who need her. Those kids’ needs trump everything else.

Nevertheless, let’s leave the kids until later and deal with the marriage issue first, because that may be easier.

Just because your husband wants kids does not mean that he doesn’t love you or that you aren’t enough for him.

She says that her husband said there’s no point in getting married if they aren’t going to have kids, and she feels that this means that he doesn’t love her.

No, it doesn’t. I would have said the same thing, and yet I loved Keith! You can be totally in love with someone and want to spend your life with them and simultaneously feel that you want to have kids, and that kids are the main reason for marriage. My need or desire to have children does not mean that I love Keith less (if anything, it makes me love him more, because now we’ve created children together and we have this amazing shared experience).

Love is not zero sum. If I love my kids, it doesn’t mean I love my husband less. Love doesn’t divide; it multiplies. Now, maybe there are people who get married only for the children, but this letter writer says that her husband is an amazing man. Why not celebrate that, instead of feeling like you can only really be loved if he doesn’t love anyone else or want anyone else too?

And speaking of your husband:

Your husband needs to feel that his kids are safe with you.

If he’s such an amazing man, then do you think you could do something for him? It is a horrible psychological burden to have to worry if your children are not safe with their other parent. And even if you would never physically hurt your kids, the fact that you are saying the two worst days of your life are when you found out you were pregnant and when your child was born means that your kids are not psychologically safe with you.

You are not loving your husband if you are putting this burden on him. If you love him, then you must get over this resentment you have towards your children.

Okay, now let’s turn to how to do this.

Your life didn’t turn out the way you wanted it to. But no one’s does!

All of us have a picture of what we think our life will be like one day, and very few of us have lives that turn out exactly the way they’re supposed to. Not everyone, however, feels resentment about this.

Resentment about your life going in a different direction really only matters if you’re putting your sense of joy and happiness into your circumstances. Then, if those circumstances fail to materialize, your whole sense of self is gone.

But what if you put your sense of self and joy and happiness into God’s hands instead? 

Matthew 6:19-21

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Where is your treasure? Or if that question doesn’t resonate, how about this one:

What kind of person do you want to be?

Maturity is taking responsibility for your choices (realizing that your parents, your spouse, your sibling did not “cause” you to have kids; that’s a choice you made); and accepting responsibility for the things in your purview. Indeed, that’s part of a healthy soul, and that’s really the definition of boundaries. We often think of the concept of boundaries as telling us what to say no to, but that’s not all there is to it. Henry Cloud and John Townsend, in their groundbreaking book, specifically showed how saying no to things that aren’t our responsibility allows us to say yes to things that do fall into our realm. A healthy, whole person is one who says “yes” to things they are responsible for.

You are a mom. Those kids are your responsibility. If you want to be a healthy person, then you need to incorporate being a mom into your sense of self.

 

Find parenting a slog? These may help:

10 Things I learned About Parenting From Supernanny

Parenting for Connection, Not Punishment

And that brings me to this:

To say “I wish I weren’t a mom” is to say “I wish my kids didn’t exist.”

You can’t say that you love your kids and simultaneously say that you wish you weren’t a mom.

When I was pregnant with my son Christopher, I joined the Down Syndrome Society in Toronto. We didn’t realize that he would die so early; and we were researching early intervention programs to help him. Our doctors also told us it would be good to reach out and get some support early.

About two months after he died, I attended a fundraiser that we had already bought tickets for. There, a mom of a teenage boy with Downs told me “I often wish that my son had passed earlier, like yours did. Don’t get me wrong; I love him. But I often wish he weren’t here.”

That was like a knife to my chest.

I would have given ANYTHING to hold my son for even just five more minutes, and here was this woman telling me that she loved her son, but she wished he wasn’t there. I’m sorry, and maybe I’m too close to this situation, but you have no right to say that you love someone if you simultaneously wish that they didn’t exist. You are lying to yourself.

I know there’s a trend today of parents saying that they regret being parents, and people are applauding them for their honesty, but all I want to say to that is,

“SHUT UP AND GROW UP.”

I know that’s harsh. But you know what? Your child did not choose to be here. You created your child. And your child now needs you. And if you go through life regretting being a mom, even if you never say that out loud, your child will pick up on it subconsciously.

And here’s another thing–we have a tendency to speak these things out in angry moments. If you keep feeding this to your brain–“I wish I weren’t a mom”–then one day, when your children are teenagers, if you’re in an argument with them, it’s quite likely that may come out.

Once you’re a mom, you don’t have the right to regret it. You just don’t. You’re the adult. Your child depends on you not just for food and clothing and shelter, but for that psychological feeling that they are safe, loved, and wanted.

If you want to stop feeling resentment–you have to DECIDE to feel gratitude.

You realize that your feelings have been wrong, and you decide to feed good ones instead. Whatever you focus on expands. Are you focusing on how much you hate being a mom, or are your focusing on gratitude for the people that God gave you to love and to love you back?

And I think some repentance is pretty due here, too. You know what the worst day of my life was? When my son died. For someone to say the worst day of their life is when they found out they were pregnant, when the father was their amazing husband, is just terrible. I know I’m supposed to be comforting to people who write in to me, but I think sometimes we value feelings too much, and we fail to teach people how to be actual good people. 

Some things need to be unacceptable.

There isn’t a magical way to get rid of that resentment. There is only work. And that work involves new habits of changing your thoughts. That’s what my book 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage is based on, and I explain how this verse is the key to living a great life:

 

2 Corinthians 10:5

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
When a thought comes into your head about not wanting to be a mom,  you replace it with something you’re grateful for–and you say thanks to God about that thing.

Even be proactive about it.

  • Every morning, as you wake up, thank God for three things about your life (and try to make them different everyday!).
  • Every night, as you’re going to bed, thank God for three things that happened to you today.

There’s a reason God said, “in everything give thanks.” As we give thanks, we change the thought processes in our brain.

So are you feeding the resentment, or feeding the gratitude? If you want to feed the gratitude, then stop thinking about how your husband doesn’t love you–think about how much he does.

Stop thinking that it’s everyone else’s fault that you became a mom, and start thanking God for all the different parts of your kids that bring you joy.

Stop thinking about how you wanted your life to be, and thank the good Lord that you have an amazing husband, two healthy children, and a great life.

What do you think? How do you stop resentment in your life? Is it okay to resent being a mom? Let’s talk in the comments!

UPDATE: After a long discussion in the comments, I now regret saying “Shut up and grow up” in this post. It was wrong, and I am sorry. Jesus would never have said that. I stand by the thrust of my argument, but I wish I hadn’t have been so harsh.

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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140 Comments

  1. Evelyn

    I grew up hearing things from my mother like “children ruin your life.” And I was a “mistake” ( born 10+ years after my siblings) “I knew I was pregnant with you but I didn’t want to go to the doctor, because I didn’t want it to be true.” Don’t underestimate the damage you do to your kids by saying stuff like this.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Exactly! Thank you, Evelyn. And I’m so sorry that your mother said those things.

      Reply
    • sunny-dee

      My grandmother had a tubal after my uncle was born but it apparently healed, and 10 years later my dad was born. She used to joke that she would have sued the doctor except my dad was her favorite, so she was happy about the doctor’s “mistake.”

      I was terrified the day I found out I 2as pregnant, just because it’s a huge change (and my marriage has its hiccups). But I never regretted it, i truly wanted me daughter, and the worst day was when I found out I miscarried. My true regret was that I didn’t just enjoy the time I had rather than going all Type A and trying to stress over every detail.

      Reply
      • Sarah Brown

        “Shut up and grow up” was my favorite part. I get why you redacted it but I never see the need for bloggers to later apologize for things they thought were too harsh. I think it was appropriate, quite honestly. Sometimes you need to be dramatic. Looking into purchasing your book. Great post. I am so disturbed by these “admissions” and subsequent “good for you!” to follow. I feel like it’s pure evidence that our culture, and my generation especially (millennials), are “me” obsessed. It’s like a loud “it’s not fair!” with their arms crossed that their lives are now “burdened” with little people. And we are bombarded with messages and images of living a carefree, exotic life full of essentially entertainment. It’s like we are being sold a fantasy. Even on what it’s like to actually have and raise children is Pinterest packaged as a blissful fantasy experience. Reality is too much for people that are easily influenced or convinced it is attainable.

        Reply
    • Nicky

      [Editor’s Note: As the mother of a Down Syndrome child, I don’t permit comments that denigrate people with Down Syndrome on this blog.]

      Reply
  2. Kay

    I guess I would like to step further back and say that this young mom probably needs a therapist to work through this because I *do not* think any of this is about what it looks like, and I find “shut up and grow up” to be perhaps the most hurtful and unhelpful response I think you could give, so I confess I am a little caught off guard by your response, Sheila.

    This mom sounds deeply depressed even if it is not postpartum depression. So much of depression is often get as anger. That’s something no one tells you. But I firmly believe more and more that depression is rooted in grief, unhealed trauma, and/or childhood emotional neglect, or a combo of all of the above. I am currently wrestling with what I hope will be the depression to end all depression (for me). I think almost every day right now that I wish I never had children. But then I also pause and ask myself if that it really true. And I realize what my mind actually means is that I wish they were born to someone else and had any other mother but me. Do you know what a painful place this is? If someone told me to shut up and grow up right now, I would wilt. Because I know I am not in an okay place and I am trying desperately to dig out of it.

    If this woman is writing, she also knows she needs help getting out of this place. She needs love and compassion and other women to come alongside her and say, “Wow, you are going through some extremely hard stuff right now. It doesn’t have to be this hard. This isn’t how it is supposed to be. What can we do to help you get to a better place?” I think Therapy is probably where she needs to start. I just started using the Faithful Counseling app and am hopeful that maybe I am turning a corner.

    I guess just please know that a woman who feels this way is in an immense amount of pain too. How can we hold her story AND your story with honor, without lashing out in your pain at her pain.

    Reply
    • Kay

      And maybe I am too close to the issue right now too. But I just have to say, Sheila, that your response is part of the reason why I find it so hard to get help, because if I were a better Christian I wouldn’t be thinking these things. The way you answered here just confirms my deepest fears that I am a horrible person for feeling this way.

      How can we instead say, no, these feelings aren’t normal, but there is hope it will get better. Let’s do the hard work of getting to a better place.

      Reply
      • Sara

        Kay, I feel exactly the same way. I have never been more disappointed in a post on this blog. I was shocked to even read the title. Not only does it invalidate the pain and confusion that many parents (including myself) experience, how can you make a judgment on whether someone else loves their children or not? I am pretty confident that every parent at one time or another has had the thought “i wish i never had kids.” That makes them normal, not someone to demonize. And for those that are having the thought often it indicates those feelings are coming from a place that needs to be addressed. I also really hope that this mom doesn’t just “shut up and grow up” but pursues therapy instead. Stuffing our feelings inside and neglecting ourselves will only led to more damage for ourselves and our families. There are already enough voices out there that want to tell women they are horrible mothers or not doing enough or doing the right things or feeling the right things.

        Reply
        • Samantha

          “I am pretty confident that every parent at one time or another has had the thought “i wish i never had kids.””

          Sara, I can confidently say that you are totally wrong to assume that every parent has thought this. I certainly never have and I would never insult God by wishing someone He so lovingly created out of existence. Once you have children, you have them. I totally agree with Sheila. Not all of our feelings are valid just because we feel them. An extreme example would be to say that a pedophile’s feelings of attraction to a child are valid just because they feel them. That’s incredibly dangerous and sadly the direction our ultra-sensitive society is heading.

          Some feelings don’t deserve validation. They deserve rejection. That’s why we are to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. We are responsible for taking those thoughts captive. God won’t do the work for us. He has made it abundantly clear what types of thoughts we should be taking captive though. Humans have always been lazy but I see Christians getting lazier and lazier and it is really hurting our testimony to the rest of the world. We tolerate an awful lot of crap that we shouldn’t be. I actually really respect Sheila for being as blunt as she was in this article. She was loving too. And society has gotten to a really sad place where people don’t recognize the fact that blunt, harsh truth IS a huge part of being loving.

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Yes, this is what I totally believe, and it’s really my philosophy about so much of marriage and parenting in general: “Some feelings don’t deserve validation. They deserve rejection.”

            That’s it.

            I’m also struck by how Jesus had mercy on almost everyone–except those who hurt a child. He was pretty adamant that that was not okay. When there are children at stake, we need to do something about these feelings that we are having, and not feed them.

          • Sara

            I think in Christian circles that is a lack of understanding of what validation means. It doesn’t mean approving or agreeing. This woman has said that she doesn’t want to be feeling these things anymore. She is looking for assistance because she believes that these thoughts are harmful to herself, her marriage, and her family. But instead of being directed towards resources or counseling, she has been told to get over it. That is what has caused my disappointment.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            I didn’t get the sense that she was looking for help getting over feeling like she didn’t want to be a mother. She said that she wanted help being able to stop being angry at her husband. She didn’t seem to see that regretting being a mom was wrong.

            That was really my issue–she seemed to have no empathy for the kids. Does that make sense? I think they’re the most important consideration here, because they’re the ones who are relying on her. I should have said “get counselling”, though, you’re right. But I’m still really leaning towards the kids’ needs here, and she doesn’t seem to think that it’s bad to feel as if the worst day of your life was when you discovered you were pregnant. Really? That’s the worst day? That’s so downright WRONG.

          • Rosie

            Feelings cannot be right or wrong. They just exist. The right or wrong comes in how we choose to act, or not act, on them. So yes, I would say a paedophile’s feelings are valid, because saying a feeling is valid just means that the person genuinely feels it. Should a paedophile act on this feeling? Obviously not! In the same way, none of you have any right to say that this mother shouldn’t feel regret or anger, because clearly she does feel them. She doesn’t want to feel this way, so she needs help to deal with the feelings. If she is not behaving appropriately towards her family, then she also needs help with that, but there is nothing in the part of her letter Sheila has posted to suggest that she isn’t.

          • Rebecca Lindenbach

            I’m sorry, Rosie, but I just don’t agree with you here. If you were a single mom dating someone who said, “I feel sexually attracted to your child but don’t worry, I won’t do anything about it,” you high-tail it out of there. The feeling is wrong.

            When I personally was struggling with severe anxiety and depression, I had a lot of life-draining feelings that many people may have accepted as valid. It wasn’t until I decided those feelings WEREN’T valid that I was able to get healing from them. Feelings of inadequacy, bitterness, hopelessness, and self-deprecation. Lies come to us in all different forms–and that is a HUGE reason why our thoughts need to be taken captive and given to Christ.

            A pedophile’s goal shouldn’t JUST be to never harm a child–it should also be to get rid of the feelings entirely. Someone with mental illness (like I had) needs to learn not only to control our behaviour, but also to control our feelings and choose what to allow to grow in our brains. We have to stop giving people a free pass to think or feel whatever they want–that’s literally how disordered thinking starts. In fact, the most successful form of therapy right now is about changing how you feel by changing how you think–it’s not just about behaviour, it’s called COGNITIVE behavioural therapy–both sides. Cognition needs to change, too, because not all cognitions (or thoughts/feelings, whatever you want to call them) are helpful, good, or true.

            In fact, one of the best ways to correct future behaviour is to change the problematic cognitions. So this whole idea that she should be allowed to feel resentment and anger as long as she doesn’t act on it simply doesn’t fly with current psychological research. What psychology shows is that if she doesn’t get ahold of the resentment and anger and work to get rid of it, she’ll get sicker and sicker psychologically because these unhealthy cognitions will continue to grow unless they are checked. So the question isn’t just “is this feeling valid?” It’s actually, “Is this feeling a disordered one or one that brings life?”

        • Keith Gregoire

          I understand people want to have sympathy for this woman, but “The second worse day of my life was when I got pregnant with you and the worst is when you were born.”??
          I just feel more sympathy for the child that hears that than for the mother who says it.

          Reply
          • Samantha

            And that is what really scares me, Keith. People have more sympathy for the mother than the children involved. People will jump to the defense of the adult over the defense of the child. Most adults have the advantage of being mature enough, I think, to say, “I am having these thoughts and I don’t think they are exactly right. I should take responsibility for myself and my thoughts and go find some help or at least talk to someone.” That is what this woman did. She came to Sheila. And I fully support what Sheila said in this article. She gave out a dose of tough love. She told her, “yep, it’s wrong to be thinking this stuff.” She also encouraged this woman to continue to seek help to change her thoughts towards her husband and her children. Everyone is getting offended because Sheila didn’t tip toe around the subject. Since when are adults so fragile that they can’t handle the truth? Yes, love needs to be behind the dishing out the truth. But have these people read the Bible? The Bible doesn’t sugar-coat the truth. It is blunt and honest BECAUSE God loves us.

            The mother needs help, yes. But she needs the truth in order to realize just how much she needs help. Children do not have the maturity to go seek help when they don’t understand something they are thinking or feeling. They fully depend on their parents to help them process and understand the world around them and to feel safe in that world. These children need their mother to be emotionally healthy so she is able to guide them. And children grow and change so much in such a short amount of time that they need a totally healthy mom NOW. And they need their parents to have a healthy marriage now too. The importance of a healthy marriage is very much overlooked these days when it comes to raising children.

          • Phil

            Hi Mr Keith. Nice to meet you on what I will say more neutral terms here. What would you say to this? When we talk about porn around here we often talk about the victim of porn. Porn is wrong period. The spouse (usually the woman) is the victim and we talk how the man needs to essentially grow up and stop looking at porn. In the mean time we sometimes talk about how the man or the porn viewer needs to get help. So there are 2 sides to both equations. If someone were to tell me they were watching child porn that is a brand new league and I MUST take action immediately and report etc etc. So the point of view here is focused on the kids (rightfully so) because the impact is on the kids. Obviously we have empathy for the woman because she needs help but yet we have even more empathy for the kids in this case and they come first. This would be the same for a porn situation. The woman (male or female victim) comes first then the perpetrator. Something like that?

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            I think that’s a great way of looking at it, Phil.

        • sunny-dee

          I am confident that I can say you do not really love someone if you wish they didn’t exist.

          I agree that the mom needs therapy, but what she is feeling is not okay. She’s not “justified,” she’s not just going through a rough patch. It is wrong, full stop.

          There may be reasons (for example) why someone cheats on their spouse. Those reasons may be real and they may need to be dealt with for healing to occur, but the adultery is 100% wrong and not normal and shouldn’t be accommodated regardless of what those reasons are.

          Reply
        • Bon

          You all seem like selfish self cantered parents…. you wish you didn’t have kids is selfish and all about the mother how do you think that impacts the child?? No one is talking about that and i assure even if you never say it directly they know.. if you depressed i get it’s a struggle then get help and get it sorted because you will ruin your children otherwise if you don’t. This women who made the original comment didn’t mention anything about depression,she had children for stupid reasons as many people do. It’s a thankless hard tiring task and everyone will tell you that if you are dumb enough to think for some reason your children will be different you are fooling yourself.

          Reply
      • Phil

        Hi Kay – I am so glad you shared. I ran into this issue this past week. A member of my 12 step group approached me after a meeting and told me that I was not empathetic but more advisory and then proceeded to turn his back on me and start a conversation with someone else. He hit me and ran. I let it slide although because taking a shot across the bow is a current topic I have been talking about with others, this was particularly relevant to me. Of course I have empathy. I have been through it just like him. I know where he came from. This guy has been coming around for a about 2 months or so and I never talked to this guy other than a brief hello. How could he say such a thing about me? Well – when I share openly I am direct and I also speak the truth. Often people don’t like to hear the truth because it hurts. It takes work to change. Empathy doesn’t produce change. Work does. Empathy opens the door because we are showing love and it shows we understand the other person. I know who Sheila is and also know she has been there herself so therefore I know what she is trying to say in this post. Tough love maybe? There is so much in this topic to dissect. On the surface I say the woman is taking the first step and getting honest because she wouldn’t have written the email if she didn’t know something was wrong. So yes to your point – maybe some empathy should be given. I feel sorry for her and her family. HOLY YUK. She was also giving and gave to her husband 1 then 2 children. Once we identify our resentment and we see our part then we can make amends for that part and then we make change so it doesn’t happen again. To me that is the resentment undoing process. I agree with you that this is a serious issue and she should seek help. I am learning some things about how I read this blog and what are the messages that are coming from this blog. I am still on board 100%. No I don’t have to agree with Sheila 100% of the time. But when I look at myself first and take the messages that are delivered here as a directive towards me it challenges me to change and be a better person. I believe there are deeper messages that we should be looking for rather than what is just on the surface of what Sheila writes. I hate to see you hurt – I hope you can dissect the truth from this discussion.

        Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I hear what you’re saying, Kay, and likely I was too harsh.

      And I am so sorry for the depression that you are going through. I really am.

      I guess I just still feel that there are some thoughts that we need to just deal with and say, “that isn’t right.” I’m not a big fan of the idea that all of our feelings are valid, just because we feel them. Some things come out of a deep place of woundedness, or out of selfishness, or wherever, but whatever the source, they are toxic and need to be rejected.

      It sounds like you are doing that really well with the thoughts that you’re struggling with–you’re admitting that the feeling isn’t true. You’re rejecting it. You’re doing exactly what I’m saying in this post.

      This letter writer, however, seems to have been feeding those thoughts (and the letter was longer than this; I edited it down). When you are a mom, there are just some things that are off limits because your kids need you. So you need to not feed the bad thoughts and learn how to feed the good ones. I do think therapy is a very good idea for her, and I didn’t mean to sound too harsh. But I’m very disturbed by this trend to say “I regret having kids” which seems to be everywhere these days. That’s just not right. It puts the mother’s feelings above her kids’ absolute need to be emotionally safe. And that’s not fair. At some point, the adult needs to be the adult, and I think our society has given adults far too much leeway in getting out of that responsibility.

      Again, I’m sorry for what you’re going through. I really am. And it doesn’t sound like you and she are in the same boat at all. She says that she always regretted her kids. You’re not saying that. You’re in a fog right now, and you’re fighting, and that’s an entirely different thing.

      My prayers are with you, my friend. You are such a valued member of our community, and thank you for speaking up today, and for speaking truth to me!

      Reply
      • Kay

        Like others have said, admitting that you have certain feelings is not the same as validating them as true. I guess I believe feelings in and of themselves are neutral; they are messengers that let us know that something is going on internally that needs closer examination. Rejecting them because we think (or are explicitly told, as in this post) that you shouldn’t have them in the first place is the opposite of what we should do; we should admit before God and our support system that we have them (without fear of being shamed), acknowledge we don’t want to have them, and then examine them all the more closely to find out what is causing them. The feelings are just symptoms of deeper issues. If we reject them flat out as wrong, end of story, how does that leave room to do the hard work of uncovering what lies behind them?

        You feel she shouldn’t have those feelings, but the fact is that she *does* have them. Whether others think she should or not is actually irrelevant. And telling someone that they are wrong for feeling what they feel is the opposite of helpful, because you can’t just stop feeling what you feel. It is so much more productive to say, “Wow, those are some big feelings. Let’s stop and unpack what is behind them, because there is clearly a lot of hurt and/or unmet needs that would lead you to feel this way. I don’t want you to feel this way, and I can see that you don’t want to either. So let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work. Together.” Shaming people for the feelings “they aren’t supposed to have” is a HUGE barrier to getting help. I am concerned this post and many of the comments set up additional barriers to getting help, because now we have to fear being told “to shut up and grow up” when we admit we need help.

        Please don’t get me wrong; I think it is perfectly fair to let this mom know that something is going on internally that needs addressing, and it needs addressing NOW. For the sake of her children! Because if she does not address it, she is going to unintentionally subject her kids to childhood emotional neglect. It’s okay to let her know the stakes are HUGE here. This is SO much bigger than the marriage issue she thinks it is. But is there a better way to communicate how high the stakes are without adding to her already unbearably heavy burden?

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Kay, I hear you. And I would normally agree with you–IF she had been saying, “I hate being a mom, how do I stop hate being a mom?” But what she was saying was, “I hate being a mom, and I resent my husband for wanting to be a dad, how do I love my husband again?” She wasn’t even seeing that these feelings about hating being a mom are definitely dangerous, and dangerous to her kids.

          If someone wrote to me saying, “I’m really struggling with resenting being a mom”, I likely would have taken your approach. But when someone says that as almost an offhand comment, as if it’s okay–well, my alarm bells just went off.

          Reply
          • Kara

            I think you’re really missing the point either way. Her marriage, biblically, needs to come first. It seems as though she is trying to address that. I understand you feel upset about what she is saying about her children, but she clearly needs help. And I don’t think you truly addressed the issue at all. You are not a therapist and you should have privately referred her to a counselor and let it be. I think you’re too close having lost a child, there are no levels of sin. Your response was definitely not Christlike for all your spouting off of what you think Jesus would or would not condone.

        • Tami

          Kay, exactly. Feelings are indicators telling us something deeper is going on. This woman needs compassion and understanding, not shaming.

          Reply
      • Sarah Brown

        Oh my goodness, no you were not too harsh. The ultra sensitivity needs to stop in this country. Even so many church pastors are falling victim to being too afraid to step on anyone’s toes. You replied lovingly with just the right amount of toughness. Just because someone is hurting and obviously seeking out advice (and good on her for doing that) doesn’t mean there isn’t selfishness at the core of this issue. We have such a tendency to immediately place everyone’s wrong doing or thinking on “well they are deeply hurting, so they’re absolved of complete fault”. It reminds me of this whole movement that says people are born sin-less. The opposite is true. No one wants to admit anyone is wrong. It’s easier to say “they’re deeply hurt and we should only be sympathetic” instead of giving them a dose of tough love and Biblical truth. Jesus was blunt. He didn’t consider “feelings”

        Reply
    • Samantha

      Kay, what you are going through doesn’t sound like what this woman is going through and I think you are projecting your situation onto hers. I agree that this woman needs therapy as well, but I think you are in a much different place than this woman. I think, based on what you said, that you fully acknowledge the fact that you (your thoughts and emotions) are the problem. You aren’t blaming or resenting your husband or your children for cheating you out of the life you wanted for yourself. You are taking responsibility for your feelings and doing something to try to change it.

      This woman needs help and compassion, yes. But she also needs to take responsibility for her life, thoughts, and feelings. I actually think Sheila did a great job balancing out her response with compassion and a harsh dose of reality. People need both regardless of what our overly sensitive culture says. When Sheila said, “shut up and grow up,” I took it as her way of addressing this ridiculous notion that ADULTS should feel like they have the right to talk about children in this way without even considering the damage it does to children to hear these things. Adults need to start acting like adults. An adult who publicly proclaims, “I regret having children” has done nothing to deserve applause or respect. Sure they were honest, but big deal. They are also being incredibly selfish. Personally, I would have much more respect for a person who said, “I never thought I’d want to have kids, but I had them and every day I choose to love them with my whole heart because they need me.”

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Samantha, this really was what I was trying to say, and I appreciate you articulating it so well.

        I do think I was too harsh, and likely should have left out the “SHUT UP AND GROW UP” thing. But at the same time, all I could see was the tremendous psychological harm she is causing her kids and her husband, and that, to me, is the first priority here. The kids need her. Yes, get help. But recognize, as Kay has done, that your feelings are the problem, not the kids. That’s a huge difference.

        Reply
  3. Anna

    I think maybe you’re reading it ( and her) wrong. The anger and resentment are toward her HUSBAND, not the kids. She comes right out and says so. I think it’s possible that she’s angry about her boundaries being happily transgressed, rather than anything to do with the children themselves. And if it’s possible to say your husband can love you just as much, even though he mainly married you to get kids, then it’s also possible to say that you love your kids, even though you wish you weren’t a mom. The human brain can hold both.

    I am not saying you should voice those feelings to your kids, ever. You find someone else to spew that out to. But spew you must. Not speaking something doesn’t make it go away.

    I think it’s possible that you ARE too close to this. It’s easy to say that you should be grateful to raise and take care of a special needs child day after day, year after year, when you’ve never had to do it.

    Reply
    • Kay

      I do think Sheila was the wrong person for that mom to say that to, but I sure hope that mama has someone safe that she *can* say it to. Because that sounds like a place of SO much pain and perhaps even compassion for her child and a desire to spare their suffering. Whatever it is she is going through, right now mourning the death of a child FEELS EASIER to her than what she is doing. THAT IS A LOT OF PAIN. How can we hold that pain with honor?

      I hope this mom found help in those support groups. I work with a lot of special needs leaders in my line of work and I know that this line of thought IS NORMAL among caregiviers of children with profound special needs. She is not a bad mom for thinking it. She is NORMAL. And maybe if we had a safe place to say those things without getting “shut up and grow up” thrown back in our faces, maybe we could hold that pain in healthier and more productive ways going forward.

      Reply
      • Joanna Sawatsky

        Hi Kay,

        I just want to add here that I think there’s a world of difference between an intrusive or unwanted thought pattern and an active choice to believe it.

        I’ve dealt with intrusive thoughts all my life (I won’t share them here but know that they were and are disturbing.) I’m working to distinguish between “my intrusive thoughts” and “me”. They are two separate entities. I don’t need to feel badly about myself because I thought something utterly bizarre… but I do need to deal with it.

        Thoughts like “I wish this child didn’t exist” are like bombs. Understandable bombs, but if not diffused, they have the power to wreak a lot of havoc. So we need to diffuse them. With my intrusive thoughts, I’ve learned to talk things out with my husband, cuddle my baby, fill my head with truth, and pet my bunny (the adoration of a fluffy soft rabbit is a wonderful healing balm). But I’ve gotta do the work. It sounds to me like you and your coworkers are.

        But the woman who talked to Sheila had the bomb go off. It exploded at a grieving young mother and that’s really sad. When I hear moms talking down about their kids in their earshot, I hear bombs going off. When we say on our Facebook wall publicly that we regret motherhood, we’re letting bombs go off. We all need to find appropriate and healthy ways to take care of ourselves, but we also have to recognize that maturity means that life is going to sometimes be hard and that we’ve just gotta do the hard thing because it’s worth doing.

        Does that distinction make sense?

        Reply
      • Karen

        Kay,

        So far, I’ve agreed with all your posts and points of view. I wonder here if this is a case related to PMADS (perinatal mood and anxiety disorders) and I feel that this momma would greatly benefit from seeing a trained therapist who regularly deals with these types of anxiety/depression feelings. I have had my own feelings of resenting kids, resenting my husband, being frustrated at society and the church for portraying having kids as this beautiful thing, when in reality, the day to day slog can be numbing, exhausting, angering, and a whole other slew of emotions. No emotion is bad; this is where we get into dealing with the stigma of mental health because people shame others for their emotions. Sure, maybe some are healthy vs. unhealthy and that is a distinction to be made, but shaming is a characteristic too familiar within the church. I agree being told to shut up and grow up would make me give up and stop seeking help that I am currently seeking. I just had a terrible experience with a licensed therapist who shamed me for having kids as I’m trying to deal with my own post-partum issues (which btw can surface years after birth, not just months). I plan to find another better trained therapist. But we should not be putting this momma down with everything she is feeling. She’s clearly trying to get help and sort through the emotions, which like you said, probably come from even deeper issues (maybe her own childhood!).

        Reply
    • Lea

      “I think it’s possible that she’s angry about her boundaries being happily transgressed”

      This is how I read it too Anna. He waited until they were married to say he didn’t think there was any point unless they had kids, and tried to use Christianity as a reason she was obligated. I don’t think it’s entirely clear how much pressure she felt from him. This is why she sees it as a marriage problem! And I agree with her.

      In that situation, I think maybe what she needs to think about is why she allowed her own boundaries of not wanting children to be pushed, and how to let go of the anger about it to make sure it doesn’t hurt her children because they exist NOW and there is no changing that. And she gives no indication that she is treating them badly at all, but I would be worried about leakage of emotions. I think that is what she is trying to avoid by dealing with this head on.

      I also think many mothers, even when they are very excited about children, don’t always bond immediately and should know that it sometimes happens that way. She says very clearly that she does love her children!

      IMO, she needs to talk to her husband about this.

      Reply
      • Anna

        I’m glad someone understands what was said. Being ambivalent about motherhood is not wrong or a sin. I think it’s clear here why the church is not a safe place to unload some of that ambivalence. [Reference to suicide]. Because you obviously can’t tell people what you’re feeling.

        Reply
        • Rebecca Lindenbach

          Anna, no one is saying that being ambivalent is wrong. But what we are saying is that if someone is constantly allowing themselves to live in a mindset that their children and being a mother is not only what they didn’t want, but actively ruining their life, that is incredibly harmful to the children. Yes, it hurts as the mom to be told “You need to figure out how to get rid of resentment and bitterness,” but it’s damaging to the children for the mom to not deal with it. Maybe yesterday’s post leaned harder on the truth side than on comfort, but I hope that you can see in Sheila’s comments throughout the discussion that her heart is for the children.

          I’m so sorry you’ve been through something so awful as that. There’s nothing wrong with having bad days with motherhood or even bad months–but there’s a world of difference between saying “I’m struggling with this” and “My kids are the worst thing that ever happened to me.”

          We need to find churches that are safe spaces, but safe space doesn’t only mean that people accept how we feel. It also sometimes mean being told when you need to change for your own health and for the well-being of the people dependent on you.

          I hope you are in a better place now and are able to get the help you need for suicidal ideation.

          Reply
  4. Samantha

    Sheila, I actually think you answered this perfectly. And I felt like jumping up and down on the couch and cheering when you said that all these parents who are being applauded these day for saying they regret having children need to shut up and grow up. I couldn’t agree more. Yes, it is harsh. But I think people need to hear the harsh truth these days much more than they need to be coddled. Everyone is too afraid to step on toes these days and that has really allowed a lot of issues to snowball out of control.

    On a side-note, my heart broke when I read your story about what that other woman said to you about her son. What a disgusting thing to say. How can you claim to love someone and wish they weren’t alive? If they are alive, then it’s because God has a plan for them and no one has any right to feel like God somehow made an error by allowing them to live.

    Reply
    • Kay

      See, I was struck by the level of pain one must be in to get to a place where those thoughts feel true. That is a TREMENDOUS amount of pain. And the “what kind of mother are you” comments are exactly why women like that don’t get help with their pain and inability to cope with it in a healthy way.

      Reply
      • sunny-dee

        I have seen those comments, and it’s not pain. It’s selfishness.

        Reply
      • Joanna Sawatsky

        Kay, I hope that I’m not too harsh here, but here’s the thing: I don’t actually think that it matters whether the woman in Sheila’s story was in pain. She acted badly. Full stop. We all have infinite capacity for rationalizing why we do what we do and sometimes we just have to accept that we acted badly. (I say this as someone who struggles with guilt and shame and who DOES also have to do the work of forgiving myself. But what I’m trying to say is that there’s a balance that’s required and I find that our culture today rationalizes eveverything to the point that I think we could just give carte blanche to any action).

        Perhaps there were mitigating circumstances. Of COURSE caring for special needs kiddos is incredibly difficult.

        I had a friend who had a special needs daughter who was a LOT. And it seemed to me that her father didn’t like her very much and that broke my heart. It was entirely fair that he sometimes found her trying, I certainly did too. But it was profoundly unfair for her father not to do the work to like his daughter. That was his job. Sure, he should have found friends to talk to and others to watch her so he could get out. Absolutely. But he also had to exert himself to do the job he was given by God to be her father to the best of his ability.

        Does that distinction make sense? A passing thought or feeling happens, it’s okay. But we HAVE to decide when something is unacceptable and work to fix it.

        I also think from your comments above that you are doing exactly that. So I hope you don’t think I’m too harsh.

        Reply
    • Tanuka

      It’s not horrible. I am going to bet that her wishing the kids didn’t exist would be more accurately phrased “If I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t have made the same decision to have kids”. It’s not like wishing they were gone in the “here and now”. There isn’t anything wrong with reflecting back on ones decisions with regret. However, now that the decision has been made the consequence has to be handled. The kids didn’t have any choice, she did. And now, doesn’t, but has to ensure the children are well. The amount of daily pain on such a big regret is hard. But if it was the other way, let’s say she never had kids and those thoughts were all consuming I doubt she’d get any ‘shut up and grow up’ type comments. But it’s the same thing. Regret.

      Reply
  5. Hazel

    Thank you for this! As a mom of 4 kids I too have had these thoughts. All I wanted to be growing up was a mom and yet it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And lately my thoughts have been so wrong….telling my husband that I don’t find joy in motherhood. Putting the blame on him for having so many. I so needed this and I’m going to start looking for the small joys in my day, and record them on paper. I long to be a joyful mother to my children and with God and a mind shift I know it’s possible!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m glad, Hazel!

      Reply
  6. Sleepy

    This was me but from the side of a man(so maybe this isnt valid) but my wife wanted kids fast I didnt. I wanted kids but I wanted to wait three years. I wanted to enjoy being married. I had so looked forward to get married. It was my dream. I had plans for us but the problem was that we never really talked about the kids thing. She said she wanted kids soon I wanted to wait(we didnt get pre-marriage counseling because there wasnt any here where we live). After we got married and I wanted to use protection she got really sad. I felt bad and decided to have unprotected sex to make her happy. She got pregnant and thats when things went bad. her pregnancy was horrible and after our first kid was born she didnt feel well. My hope and dreams about having a great sex life went down the hill and that hurt. I had looked forward to that my whole life. She started to use birth control with hormones that made her feel awful and now afterwards we understand that she suffered from PPD. I had a really hard time to adjusting to be a father. I constantly felt like this wasnt what I wanted. I served my wife and was there for my kid but I constantly had this weird feeling, like this wasnt my kid. It was like I was a stepdad. I loved my kid but it felt so weird because I had wanted to wait. I made very rude comments to others about waiting and that kidsmake marriages difficult and etc. This hurt my wife a lot. I on the other hand felt like a butler for my wife. I often thought that she just married me to have kids and then she didnt need me since she didnt care about my needs.

    1,5 year passed and suddenly my wife wanted a new kid. Now I try to protest and say that we werent ready. Not financially and not relationally. Our marraige wasnt good , at least not from my POV. My wife had another way to see things. She was convinced things would work out. One day I was weak and she got pregnant again.
    This time things got bad. In the end of the marriage I finally said what I felt. I told her that she is the one who wanted the kids not me. This crushed her heart. I feel really bad for what I said. I hadnt planned on saying it but it just came out. We had a big dicussion. She suffered a lot my poor wife. But this started a change me and her also. She says she later realized that she has neglected me in a lot of things.

    Just as you say it was all about growing up. I joined a online mens group that focused on loving ones wife and I wanted to get better at it and one thing was to be there for her and the kids with my whole heart. So I started to change. Its taken a long time but the resentment isnt there as much as before. I think getting out helped. But also because my wife has gotten better at meeting my needs specially sexual needs but also emotional. Thats where I still sometimes can feel the resentment sometimes. When she puts the kids before our sexual and emotional needs as a couple. Then it can hurt. And sadly it has happened often but she is getting better.
    So as you say the best thing one can do is to grow up and to be thankful for what one has. I love my kids and I am thankful for them. I do put their mom before them sometimes which my wife complains about sometimes. I am still learning I guess but I love them.

    So one can get through the resentment. It takes work but its worth it.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thanks for sharing your story, Sleepy. I’m glad you’re on the other side.

      Reply
  7. A

    I think that this can be an ongoing sin issue a person battles just like anything else. Viewing porn is also unacceptable but it doesn’t mean that a person won’t have to battle it every single day and sometimes slip up. I do agree that if we have these feelings that we need to wage war on them for the health of our families. But I would ask you to reconsider your “shut up and grow up” approach. Because unless you have personally struggled with these awful feelings, it is very hard to understand. It is like unless you have personally felt suicidal, you can’t possibly imagine getting to a point where you would want to end your life. You just don’t get it! The same goes for these feelings. Mental health can also play a part here… Even mild anxiety can trigger these feelings to surface sometimes. I don’t think we should wallow there by any means but instead find helpful ways to wage war on these feelings and fight for joy despite experiencing those confusing emotions from time to time.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I hear what you’re saying, A, and I do regret that choice of words.

      I guess I’m just going all Mama Bear, and I can’t turn that off. I just see two kids who really, really need their mom to grow up, quite frankly. This isn’t like any other sin issue to me, because those two kids are totally helpless except for their mom. At this age, she is their everything. They need her.

      I can be a lot more empathetic about almost any other sin issue, even cheating. I can be empathetic about sin done by one spouse against another, because they’re adults. Adults can deal. But a child just needs to be psychologically safe, and I think a mom allowing herself to feel these things on such a long term basis (saying that the day she found out she was pregnant was the worst day of her life) is just really bad. And I think that is different than regular depression, because she does seem to be deliberately feeding these thoughts.

      But I still do regret my choice of words.

      Reply
      • sunny-dee

        Don’t regret it. Your words were truth. The people having a reaction to it, quite frankly, are excusing sin and quite possibly abusive behavior toward children. I can’t be okay with people being cruel toward children.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          “It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble.” Luke 17:2

          Reply
      • Samantha

        Totally agree with sunny-dee, Sheila! Don’t regret it.

        Reply
    • Sarah Brown

      You do understand that the “shut up” comment was specifically talking to the onslaught of “admissions of hating motherhood” FOLLOWED by or having expectations of being applauded and praised for said comments? It was NOT directed at the girl who wrote in. She was not asking for or expecting praise for her admission if hating motherhood. Google “I regret being a mother” and witness the disturbing trend of not only owning it but being applauded for it. Those people should absolutely SHUT UP AND GROW UP. What an awful, painfully intrusive thought process to be applauded as if the Mother’s making the admissions are doing something heroic instead of battling with what I feel is an extreme disappointment with how you wish your life turned out with some selfishness definitely in there somewhere. THATS who the comment was directed at. Are we to spare the feelings of those people who are proud of this alarming trend? No, I think we need to call it out loudly and boldly.

      Reply
  8. Lana Weeks

    To all the women shaming sheila for her answer and commiserating with a grown woman who wishes her children didn’t exist: do you even hear yourselves? Are you that self centered yourselves that this woman’s selfishness seems normal or even laudable to you? Try, if you can, to drown out all the narcissistic messages our culture is feeding us, the ones that say in essence “no one should ever come before you and your feelings”. Ignore it for a minute and think about these two precious kids who need their mother’s love and who are absolutely picking up on her “wish I’d never had kids” vibes. Feel their pain and then, maybe, try not to get offended when someone rightly tells a grown woman who knows better than this to shut up. Get over yourselves. There is more to life than our own precious feelings.

    Reply
  9. Rhoda K

    While my hubby and I have a solid relationship, and we have 3 kids, I am one who wishes I didn’t have the last two kids. You de, both were not planned, (the doctors don’teven know how the third one could be conceived scientifically. Both of my last two kids have special needs with one being severe. And, yes, I love my kids deeply. I am their momma, and as their momma, I show them love, it’s what they deserve and need and I don’t take that responsibility lightly – I love my kids! But I do have to say, I think your wrong here. I will not pretend that I just love being a mom, I don’t love it. If I knew I would feel this way, I wouldn’t had kids and I would have gotten aa hysterectomy to make sure. I do not go around, telling my kids I wish I didnt have them, and I don’t resent them, but I think people need to be real about things and to put it simply, I dont like being a mom and I wish I wouldn’t have had kids. It is what it is. And I don’t feel guilty for saying it! Attached is a blog post I wrote on the same subject.

    Reply
    • Kate

      It’s very obvious you didn’t read Sheila’s post, but instead skimmed through it and got all into your emotions. Sheila, just said, if you don’t love being a mother then you HATE being one. Which means you hate your kids! To wish something didn’t happen is to say, if you could redo it again, you will remove these current children for your selfish, comfortable existence, because these current children don’t fulfill your selfish desires. Instead of saying you don’t love being a mother, try saying, life is difficult but through Christ I can do all things, even if my sinful flesh desires otherwise. I don’t even know if you’re a follower of Christ. But if you’re, know you live in a fallen world. In this world you will have trouble but take heart Jesus has overcome the world. I repeat, if you don’t love being a mother then you hate it. In another words you hate your kids. But admitting that is harder. Tragic!

      Reply
      • Anna

        “If you don’t love being a mother, then you HATE being one”? That is simply nonsense.

        Reply
      • Ari

        Please, it’s not that black and white. It’s not one or the other

        Reply
  10. Kate

    In addition to what you wrote Sheila, if she genuinely didn’t want children then she will have gotten her tubes tied. People like this have a fork tongue. They say one thing but mean another, totally untrustworthy. I grew up with a mother who didn’t want me and i’m a broken vessel today because of her. The child will always know they were never wanted because your action will display it daily! And like you said, it eventually came out of her mouth when i was a teenager. That’s why today i have no relationship with her. She doesn’t miss me, never checks-up, never calls, i don’t exist in her world. She’s attempted on multiple occasions to kill me as a child. I had a horrible life. When people talk lovingly about their childhood, i shutter to think about mine. I on the other hand am completely the opposite of her. I can’t wait to be a wife and a mother!

    Reply
  11. Faith

    I am not a parent yet but I agree with a lot of this. My parents adopted 5 kids then had two biological (one was me). I never heard my mom complain a peep even though I’m sure it was crazy. My husband’s parents had 4 biological, but often mention that they almost closed shop at 2. Seems sad to the other two to hear that. We got married young and my MIL has always encouraged us to “live our lives first” so to speak. Before having kids. They say that your entire life changes and it won’t be better until they move out. They waited 8 years. I want to wait a little bit but I LOVE kids. My husband, growing up with that mentality, thinks that kids will be a huge burden and that we will never be able to do anything as a couple anymore. If I bring it up he thinks that he is not enough for me and that I won’t be happy until we have kids. I am incredibly happy right now. And kids will add happiness but also challenges and I realize that. I just don’t want him to regret having kids because it “takes me away from him”. I for one think that there are steps to help with spending time together. Date nights and getaways, spending time together can be squished in there too.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Totally, Faith! And we honestly found that having kids was fun. It brought us together. But you have to decide that you’re going to see it that way, too.

      Reply
  12. Bethany

    There is an immense difference between saying “your feelings are valid” in the sense of “you are having this feeling, it is impacting you, you can express it to a safe person in a safe way” and saying “your feelings are valid” in the sense that “your feelings are reality because they are your feelings.” I think you tend to interpret that phrase in the latter way. I would interpret it in the former, and saying “shut up and grow up” does not help people to work through their feelings to a place of health, it just creates secret shame. Yes, no one should say that to their kids, and it is not helpful to repeat “I regret having kids” to yourself, to make it part of your identity.

    But to not be able to express those things to a trusted person without being lambasted as a horrible person is so so so harmful. This article really horrified me, and really lessened my trust in your work.

    I do not regret having kids, but I struggle so hard with my feelings about being a mother. I am not a natural at it, I often find myself not enjoying it as I’d like, and to feel like these feelings must be suppressed and never spoken of is very frustrating. Perhaps you should not have edited this letter for length, because it is very easy to extrapolate it from this specific situation to other situations.

    Not everyone enjoys motherhood in the same way. I sometimes get the sense that you don’t understand that, and that you judge mothers who do not love it in the way you do. Just saying “well you should love it” does not help women who struggle. (I know off topic by this point, but I get this vibe from your writing on parenting rather regularly).

    I hope you reflect on this a lot. You have so many valuable things to say about marriage, but this article was really ill-judged. You seem like you are projecting.

    Reply
    • Bethany

      Honestly, this was an overly-harsh response too. I think the whole discussion just needs a lot more nuanced discussion.

      Reply
  13. Sarah O

    It sounds like the writer needs validation and appreciation from her husband that she completely sacrificed her vision for their family out of love for him. And if I’m right, she needs to specifically ask him for that and think of ways he can show her that appreciation.

    I very much agree that children need to be sheltered from the fallout of our own feelings and struggles – especially while they are small. But often for me, a hurt left to fester quickly becomes more complicated than it needs to be. I think her problem is not the kids.

    She and her husband went into the marriage knowing this was an issue and both fully expecting the other one to eventually “give in”. Now whether intentions are perfect or not, she has put her spouse first and now is a mother to two young kids. That is an intense time of mothering. So every day feels like a sacrifice to her for his happiness. Meanwhile, at least her perception of him is that she is only meeting his expectation, that he was right and she was wrong and now she’s admitted it and they should move on.

    I know I’m inferring a lot and this may only be her perception, but I think most moms can identify with the frustration of having a HARD job and getting ZERO thanks. It feels like pushing yourself to the max is just barely “meeting the minimum”. And that’s for women who readily wanted kids!

    While I do think we need strong reminders of how much our words, thoughts and deeds impact our kids – and we need strong accountability there – I do think the wife needs some validation from the husband, and the husband needs to recognize the perspective of the wife. And the good news is that’s a pretty common challenge at its core, so the odds of overcoming it look a little less hopeless.

    In the meantime, do challenge yourself and pray that the hurts of the “wife” do not leak out of the “mother”. This is a marriage problem, not a motherhood problem. There is literally nothing the kids can do to fix it – but they will internalize it and take responsibility for it if they are aware of it.

    Sheila – I am so sorry for Christopher. He was a beautiful baby. I know parents need to vent, but we do need reminders in a culture that celebrates parental whining that our kids are huge gifts and that there are ears around us suffering with infertility, pregnancy and child loss. I don’t know how I would deal with child loss, and I have no idea how I would have responded to this question if I had.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thanks, Sarah. Those are all really good points. And I think that’s a great point about having to more clearly ask the husband to validate her sacrifice and to appreciate her.

      You’re probably right that it’s more a marriage issue than a motherhood issue, but when I read the letter, I heard huge wailing sirens and went full Mama Bear mode, because all I can see is those kids. And so that’s really what I was writing about. I likely could have stressed the marriage part more.

      People think that I’m reacting because of Christopher, and that is partly it. But it’s more two other kids I know who are very, very close to me, whose parents always regretted them, and made that clear. And those kids are now in their twenties, and they’re floundering, and they were WONDERFUL kids. It was all just so cruel, because the parents couldn’t get their heads straight. When kids are involved, I lose a lot of sympathy, because kids are helpless. They need you. So they need you to do the work.

      I also think of my mom, who was left when I was just 2. She had to build a life for us all on her own, and it was HARD. And she personally went through a lot. But she always made sure that I came first. Always. Because I was the child, and I needed her to get her act together. And that’s really why she did–because she knew that I needed her, and I had no one else.

      Sorry, I’m ranting again. I’ll go!

      Reply
      • Sarah O

        That sounds so hard. I have some kids who I adore that were basically abandoned by their dad and we’re starting to see the fallout now that they are teenagers and you’re right – it is heartbreaking. Not only do kids not have a choice about being born, but when mistreated they have no choice but to struggle and it’s so unfair!

        I think I am just giving her benefit of the doubt that her letter is totally private, unfiltered ranting and not something she ever says or portrays. The birth-being-the-worst-day is a really strong statement though…

        This whole thing has so many triggers all over the place that it’s hard to even zero in on a single issue – marriage, child safety, child advocacy, motherhood, maturity, prioritization, responsibility, communication, etc…

        I appreciate that you tackle the tough. I think I’ll leave this one alone though can’t think of anything helpful to add.

        Reply
    • Kate

      If moms feel like they are doing a hard job with little thanks, then they are doing their job for man and not for God. The Bible tells us, “In everything you do, do unto the Lord and not unto man” – Colossians 3:24. If you live for the approval of humans you will die by their rejections. Missionary work is a thankless job too, in fact there is more praise and accolade for mothers than for people who save souls, yet they don’t care because they’re seeking the approval of God not mankind. Perspective and priorities will change the attitude of many people, but especially Christians.

      Reply
      • Sarah O

        Hi Kate – thank you for your response. I would caution you that that exact line of reasoning has been used to justify abusers fairly frequently. I doubt that was where you were headed.

        I agree that a wife/mom’s priority and focus should indeed be on pleasing God. But so should my husband’s. Does that mean I’m ok to never show him any appreciation for anything he does for our family? Since he should get his thanks from God alone? I think gratitude is very becoming of a Christian character and is one of the ways we “encourage each other and spur one another toward good deeds”.

        Sheila did a good post on “never having expectations in marriage”, (maybe she’ll link to it) that kind of addresses this.

        Reply
        • Kate

          I have never seen that verse being used to justify abuse. So i have no idea where you’re going with that. All i’m saying is, don’t wait for people to thank you for doing the jobs God has placed before you. If they thank you, great and if they don’t also great. A good friend of mine works in the ER. His patients curse him out more than they show gratitude. However he doesn’t let that affect him because he’s doing the work God has planned for him. Whether humans acknowledge you or not just know God is acknowledging you. That’s all.

          Reply
          • Sarah O

            Thank you for giving that example Kate, that was a great illustration and I agree. Good for your friend working in that field – it is certainly tough.

            I also am really glad you’ve never heard anyone use that verse wrong – I hope that means it’s drying up. I’ve heard it used in the past as a response to spouses saying their mate completes withholds affection, love, time and attention, and even when a spouse is overly critical and hurtful. The counselor/mentor/whatever uses this verse to avoid actually addressing the offending spouse’s behavior, saying instead that basically any time you feel hurt or let down by your spouse you’re sinning because you’re seeking love and approval from your spouse.

            It’s obviously crap and not the meaning of the verse (what exactly is marriage for if we aren’t going to bother loving each other?), but I’ve heard it enough times that I thought I’d mention it in case anyone here is being similarly miscounseled.

    • Ashley

      I’ve been reading through all the comments, unsure how I even feel about all us this. Then I found your comment, Sarah. I think you are right on!

      Reply
      • Sarah O

        Thank you Ashley! I got a little spin around myself. This is clearly something good to talk about though if it got this many people spinning.

        Reply
    • Samantha

      Sarah O, I really like what you say here and totally agree that she needs to talk with her husband and needs validation from him. Because the thing is that she ultimately did make a sacrifice for his happiness. And making sacrifices for the people you love can bring a lot of joy and satisfaction when you are in the right frame of mind. It sounds like she just let things fester and as you said, that just makes things more and more complicated as time goes on. I actually think and truly hope that if she and her husband talked and worked through this together that she would find herself feeling less and less like she wishes she weren’t a mom.

      However, I do think, based on what she said, that she does have a very real issues with how she views motherhood and her children that need to be addressed along with her marital issues. She doesn’t seem to realize how conflicting the statements, “I love my kids,” and “I wish I wasn’t a mom,” are. You can’t simultaneously love someone and wish they didn’t exist. It just doesn’t make sense. I think people these days, in an effort to make everyone feel better about themselves, allow others to make these contradictory statements and rush to say, “oh yes, that’s normal,” when really it isn’t. I think she definitely needs help with addressing these conflicting emotions so she can fully love her children and be thankful that she gets to be their mother rather than wishing she wasn’t. I actually feel very bad for this woman. She has been incredibly blessed and I hope and pray that she comes to a place where she fully embraces those blessings.

      Reply
      • Sarah O

        Really good points Samantha. I sort of got tunnel vision and was only thinking of the writer as I read the post, but as I read it again I do find some statements alarming.

        I don’t necessarily agree that wishing you weren’t a mom = wishing your kids didn’t exist. I think that’s a little bit of an extrapolation and may not have been the intended meaning. Like in the really hard times, when you’ve just been woken up for literally the fifth time so someone else can throw up on you while you’re also sick and can’t get rest, you might wish you didn’t have to be the mom. But I wouldn’t say that means you don’t want your kids to exist, just that you can’t even fathom how to get through the task at hand.

        However, there were a lot of other comments in there that were very alarming. The “worst day” statements are very chilling. Really? Nothing in your whole childhood or adult life was as bad as that? Lethargic attitude is a very real problem, I agree.

        I think this reader needs some help, but I’m not even sure what kind. Maybe she needs to figure out what about motherhood was so unappealing to begin with. The whole “do I want kids?” question has really only existed in the last century. Having kids used to just be a normal part of life that everyone expected to happen. Every kid should feel loved, wanted, cherished and celebrated.

        Reply
        • Sarah O

          *that whole attitude, not “lethargic attitude”…nice leap there autocorrect…

          Reply
  14. J. Parker

    These children are still very young, and I want to speak up for us moms who really did not enjoy the exhausting, overwhelming, self-sapping infant/toddler stage. I know some moms love it, and that’s great! But some moms who love their children really struggle with this stage—as I did—and I want to give some hope to those in that season that it will get better. Raising children is always a challenge, but it can be particularly hard on some of us when they’re very young. And resentment can build generally and for your husband because the wife typically bears more responsibility with her body being involved in the process in a way his isn’t. You have to intentionally let go of that resentment, but I do understand the tendency toward it.

    Regardless, as Sheila has pointed out, you are where you are. And your husband doesn’t love you less because he also wanted children. Moreover, children can become a beautiful blessing in your lives. I’m now on the flip side with an empty nest, and I cannot begin to express how much I not only love but like my grown children. (It was around preschool/elementary that they became enjoyable, or mostly enjoyable, for me.)

    Pray for God’s comfort, His wisdom, and your attitude. May you see your children as the blessing they are and unite with your husband to raise and enjoy them. And hang in there on those days that seem to last forever. With hindsight now, I know they really won’t.

    Reply
    • Natalie

      Oh, I’m hands down one of those moms who is going to do MUCH better with children who can actually communicate back to me than children who just cry and scream as their form of communication. They’re super cute at that stage when they’re being cuddly and sweet, but even for the best baby, that’s no where close to being the majority of the time. It’s extremely draining! I’m going to have 2 under 2 here soon, and I’m already looking forward to when they’re 5-10 years old and are a little more independent (meaning I have more of my independence and personal time back). However, I also know that I’ll look back fondly on thoughts of them sleeping peacefully in their cribs or being sweet and cuddling up to me cooing at me with that adoring look in their eyes. That’s at least what I tell myself to get myself through the rough patches.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Yes, exactly! And I think there’s a huge difference between saying, “Life is just hard when kids were young” and “the worst day of my life was when I discovered I was pregnant” (which is before you even had kids and realized they were hard). Life IS hard. You are tired all the time. It is exhausting. But kids are also a real joy, and we have to see them that way. We really do. I wonder what our culture is becoming when so many don’t see children that way? It does worry me.

        Reply
    • Mary

      Yes! I love this comment- I feel like perhaps this hits the spirit of the question best of everything I’ve read here today.

      Yes, PPD could be an issue in a case like this as others have suggested, but it didn’t strike me as being the case because she describes her issues beginning from well before her pregnancies.

      I do think she needs to take some thoughts captive as Sheila suggests and work on practicing gratitude. But perhaps what would help her frame of mind more than anything else in this particularly trying stage of motherhood, would be to carve out some couple time. Her parents are on record as being enthusiastic Grandparents. Capitalize on that! Have them take the baby for a few hours on a Saturday morning… or whatever time suits, so that you can go do some of the things that you used to do together as a couple before you had kids. I am NOT a baby person and this helped me enormously to get through those early years. Things are much easier now my kids are in school and I have grown to genuinely enjoy them.

      Reply
  15. Natalie

    This is exactly why adoption exists: some people who birth children end up finding it the biggest regret of their lives, and others want nothing more in the world than to be parents and would literally give anything for having children!

    Don’t kill your babies physically before or after birth. Don’t kill their spirits by verbalizing (either to them, those around them, or just saying it out loud to make yourself feel better) that you wish they’d never been born. If you don’t want children and you are 100% confident, get your tubes tied and have your husband get a vasectomy just to be safe. Children literally are the future, and the world is already pretty sh*t enough as it is. There’s already so much hurt and pain and not enough Jesus and love. There’s no need for you to seriously damage your own flesh and blood, and thus damage the moral and emotional integrity of the next generation too.

    If you find yourself pregnant and don’t want kids or find yourself wishing they’d never been born, put them up for adoption!!!! At least here in the states, there is a need for American children who are eligible to be adopted by fellow American couples.

    Reply
  16. Sarah

    I’m just not sure how people can say these things and think they are justified when they also claim to be Christians. What about dying to self and putting on Christ? “Your” life js not about “you” – it has never been and will never be about you. It’s about being more and more Jesus and less and less “you”. This woman and everyone talking about feelings are delusions by our me-centric culture. It’s not about you or what your dreams were or your personality is. God saw it within His plan to bless you with kids – if you truly are a Christian you will realize that your life isn’t yours and your job is to be Jesus in whatever situation God places you for His glory.

    I stand with Sheila.

    Reply
    • Melissa

      Amen! So, many people are “me” focused it’s crazy. It’s easy to make Jesus your savior it’s another thing to make Him Lord of your life.

      Reply
  17. LS

    I have struggled with these thoughts, but the deeper emotion behind them is an overwhelming guilt and feeling of inadequacy, when I get angry at my kids for their poor bahavior and don’t feel anything pleasant towards them, it’s normal. No one likes being around someone who’s acting badly. But even if I handle it well, aftwards I feel guilty and worry that my kids will believe that I don’t like them. I never wished that they didn’t exist, though. I don’t even wish that I never had kids. I am really looking forward to being friends with them as adults, though. So, in that, I can sort of relate, because sometimes I do think about all of the sacrifices I’ve made for motherhood, and is it worth it? Sometimes it doesn’t FEEL worth it, but I know that it still is.
    The day to day stresses of having four kids aged (1, 3, 6 & 8) are high. Especially if you’re homeschooling. But one thing that really renews my spirit is when I feel really, deeply connected to my husband *as his wife* (not the mother of his child). As a stay at home mom, I need my husband to be fully invested in our marriage, not just giving it the leftovers after always prioritizing the kids. I need to have an identity besides just mom, I need to remember that I’m a person. (I’ve recently started college online, and that’s helped a lot. Suddenly I have something to talk about besides my kids!) But the most important thing is feeling like our marriage is the centerpoint of our family, and not our kids. If that’s out of order, I think resentment naturally follows.
    I agreed with your response over all to the left writer, we all need to remember the kids are innocent in all of this. But I also think that the problem has been with her marriage from the very beginning. If her husband really loves her, he’s going to have to acknowledge their problems, and prioritize HER so that she can then turn around and give that love to her children.

    Ps. Something that I found really helpful in changing the pattern of negative feelings towards my kids was to tell them each night at bedtime “You are good, you are kind, you are important” (for all you “The Help” fans), “You are strong, you are healthy, you are beautiful/handsome, you’re smart and you’re funny and I love you, because you are mine. No matter where you go, no matter what you do, I will always love you.” Their little faces would light up and it was like they were basking in my words. I wanted that to be their internal dialogue, so I started saying it, but I found telling them that changed MY internal dialogue about them as well.

    Reply
  18. Lydia purple

    I could say a lot about this.
    I think there are a bunch of underlying issues here, most of all the idea that we create our own identity, destiny, calling or life. It‘s lie that runs deep in our culture and it has seeped into the church. We do not create ourselves and we are not the makers of our children’s lives. God made us and God made our children. Yes we have an active part in it, but we can‘t create life where God does not ordain it. Because God gave this woman children he called her to motherhood. He created her, too, and she will only find true fulfillment when she will start walking in obedience to God. He authored her life and purpose, He made her and He knows best what she needs. Somehow we have come to believe that we make up our own identity and that we get to decide how our life turns out, if and how many kids we‘ll have, what career to choose and where and how to live. We came up with birth control and abortions and sugar coated it under the cause for women‘s right when in reality it is all selfishness and rebellion against God’s design. We started believing the lies of feminist propaganda who told us that motherhood is somehow miserable and inferior to a career. Motherhood is one of the highest callings because a mother is ordained by God to grow, birth, nurture, shape and guide the next generation that God desires to be godly people who grew up with a firm foundation in God’s love and as his disciples. It is hard work, but it is a high calling that requires a clear vision and a long term obedience. The hard and boring things of motherhood (like always feeding somebody, waking up on your babies schedule etc, the constant needs of the little people) are all opportunities in the ordinary to show unconditional sure love to our children and to give our lives for theirs. But we have to give it freely if we hold on to what we give and resent we haven‘t actually given it. We are still trying to get something out of it, some recognition or whatever. Motherhood requires sacrifice, but many of do what is required but we never let quite go… we serve meals with side dish of guilt, we feel pity for ourselves and whine about how run down we are and we know we should be joyful mothers but we struggle with resentment because we have somehow bought into the lies of this world. We do not need to self actualize, we do not need to pursue our own path to happiness. We need to die to ourselves daily in love and obedience to Christ and we need to loose our life to find it. We were created to serve God and to serve those around us. We need a gospel vision for our calling as mothers and we need to make up our mind that we will give freely and sacrificial whatever it takes. We must not hold back. We have no reason to hold back, our own ideas of fulfillment and self are pathetic compared to what God has in store for us. Let’s not be fooled by the thinking of this world.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I completely agree, Lydia. There’s an undercurrent in our society that says that I should get to determine my life. We’ve stopped asking, “What does God have for my life?” and we’ve started asking, “How can I get God on board with my plans for my life?” It’s two entirely different things.

      Reply
      • KellyK(@RNCCRN9706)

        Sheila, I think that people don’t consider what God has for their lives is because it’s not ‘cool’ to be a Christian. I think we see that in today’s society a LOT! With people like the Kardashian/Jenner clan making MILLIONS for doing what exactly? We are in the end days.

        Reply
      • Angela

        Thank you to both you and Lydia…as well as some others on this blog tonight. I needed to hear every single one of these words. i was struggling with the overwhelming job of being a parent just tonight. This here, however, shows me that other people struggle with this too. So, perhaps I was feeling so strongly so I can pray for these ones, and I did write down about it being sacrificial. It is the day in and day out job of parenting that can seem so mundane and difficult at times. So, I appreciated Lydia’s post, because it addresses that. This entire post, as well as comments, have been used by the Holy Spirit to speak to me. And I am so grateful. Reading this is breathing life into me and helping me to reject certain thoughts, and take in others. So, thank you. <3

        Reply
        • Angela

          I just want to make sure, Sheila, that you know I was saying thank you to you. I don’t always understand where/how to reply. : )

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Got it, Angela! 🙂

    • Emily

      Very true.

      When I was in the thick of the baby and toddler stage with my 3rd and 4th kids, a friend (who was also in the thick of it with her first two) made reference to the “Sacred Mundane”.
      The idea that the endless rounds of laundry and nose wiping and Boynton books and diapers and cooking and cleaning and back to the laundry… there is something sacred in that.
      She took the verse “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31 and totally applied it to the chaos of caring for small children.

      Reply
    • Samantha

      Totally agree, Lydia!

      Reply
    • Phil

      Lydia – this is great. I always enjoy your perspective. This morning I was talking to a guy about just this. He is not happy with his life. I quit sales 3 times and tried to change my career path. I finally surrendered that I am supposed to sell stuff and he gave me the most wonderful situation I absolutely love. I am where he wants me. I have three kids instead of the two that I wanted/we planned. I could go on. When I surrender to God’s plan and look around and see what I have is a gift from him, it changes my perspective. I am really good at sitting and creating what I think is a good plan. When I let God plan for me it is so much more awesomer. <—- yes that is a word. 🙂 I want to add one more thing here: When my wife told me we were pregnant with baby #3 I was beyond pissed. Yes extreme selfishness. I knew what that meant for us financially and I knew what that meant logistically etc etc. For me 3 kids was pure insanity. I did not want any of that. Turns out my youngest is a chip off the old block and is just like me. My wife has a special place for all our kids of course…but number 3 is just like me 🙂 This factor enhances our marriage. A friend of mine told me during that selfish period that I am going to need that child. I found out really quick what my friend was talking about. Yes I need that child. For me 1 kid is like having a fish. 2 kids is like having a dog. 3 kids – I NEED GOD LOL. I say that with the utmost gratitude. God knows what I need more than I do. There is so much more.

      Reply
  19. nylse

    This is a tough one. People feel what they feel right or wrong. Now what they do with those feelings is something else. I do believe that she can take those feelings, all the things that seem horrible about her life and pour them out to God. He knows our feelings even the dark ones, he was in all points tempted like as we are and so he can provide comfort for this mother. If she would start there she would get the necessary insight she needs. Shame would be removed. She may even confess and repent for feeling this way. God is an amazing God and can deal with whatever we bring to Him. The Bible makes it clear that a mother can forget her child, not that it’s ok but it can happen and that He is still there. “Can a woman forget her nursing child, [a]And not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget,
    Yet I will not forget you. Isaiah 49:15
    The point in referencing this verse is that nothing in human nature surprises God and we can bring it all to him.

    Reply
  20. Melissa

    I think that what Sheila is getting at when she says “shut up and grow up” is to take responsibility for dealing with your own issues without it being at the expense of your children’s well-being. We live in a social climate where it’s popular to put everything out there. Express yourself! Be yourself! Speak your truth! But guess what? It’s not all about you! As with most social movements, it’s swung to the extreme. There is something to be said for discretion. Clearly, to me, the writer of the letter has some deeply rooted issues that have been around for a long time before she ever had kids. She needs to deal with her anger and resentment toward her husband, while at the same time being mindful of not giving her children the impression that she regrets having them because it could be extremely emotionally damaging. As parents we need to be careful. We don’t get to just run around saying whatever we want. Kids can hear better than we think they can.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Totally agree, Melissa. I was talking to my daughter Katie about this today and she pointed out that young children are very, very adept at reading adults’ emotions, because they have to be. That’s all they have before they’re really verbal. They have to be able to read people. And so kids sense our emotions towards them, even if we never say the words “I don’t want you” and we do say “I love you”. They know how we really feel. So we have to do what we can to deal with these feelings, because our kids don’t deserve that. Our kids need to know that they are safe and that they are loved. They just do. And that’s our foremost job as a parent, and it’s non-negotiable.

      Reply
      • Jules

        Sheila, this is so true. Infants and toddlers download information and cues from others at an incredible rate – more so than adults. I guess we learn to tune a lot out. I work with this awesome age group and they pick up on signals from peers and adults in such a short space of time – before adults have even recognised what has been communicated. So even if this mother has never voiced her feelings, her children know it. Perhaps they don’t yet fully understand what it means, but they will. Whether this mother is broken or selfish or ignorant, she needs to change for her children’s sake as well as for her marriage. Neither children nor a husband can be expected to withstand that level of resentment forever.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Yes, it’s amazing what kids can pick up! They say even babies in the womb pick up on emotions. It really does matter.

          Reply
  21. Pamea Memmott

    I agree that once you are a mom, yes, you are responsible for your child and that includes making them feel loved and wanted. I’m not disagreeing that she should ever tell them “I wish I never had you.”

    But I don’t think that’s really the issue here.

    She says “I did grow to love my baby very much after a few months” so its not that she doesn’t love her kids. It’s that she was coerced into having them and that is damaging her relationship with her husband. Forcing a woman (through any means) into childbearing is abuse. My heart breaks for every woman placed in such a difficult position. Hugs to you dear woman who wrote the question. Lots and Lots of hugs.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Pamela, she wasn’t coerced. Just because your parents want you to have kids doesn’t mean you have to have kids. Just because other people are telling you to do something doesn’t mean you have to.

      This is what boundaries is about–taking responsibility for the things that are in your realm. This was a choice that she made. If she honestly didn’t want kids, she could have gone to counselling with her husband. But in her letter she was blaming her parents more than her husband. I’m pretty sure they weren’t responsible for the conception.

      Abuse is a real thing which I fight against ad infinitum on this blog, but it doesn’t help that fight when we conflate things with abuse that aren’t abuse. She says that her husband is an amazing man; let’s not throw the word abuse around, because it takes away the severity of what many women are going through.

      If we’re going to talk about abuse, I would say that the abuse I’m really worried about is the psychological abuse that she’s putting on her own children, saying that the worst days of her life are when they were born. She may say that she loves them now, but if she’s also saying that the worst days of her life are finding out she’s pregnant and having her baby, then those kids are going to pick up on that, even if she never says the words. Kids need to feel safe.

      Something can be difficult to deal with even if it wasn’t abusive, and they likely do need to talk about how she felt like she should have kids when she didn’t want to. Counselling would definitely help. But she says that he loves her. She says he’s amazing. She says that she never wanted kids, but felt pressured by her parents. That’s not abuse. That’s people not taking responsibility for their own choices.

      Reply
      • Ashley

        Sheila, as I said to another commenter, I have read all the comments not sure how I feel about all of this. I do think parents shouldn’t say they regret having kids because that can cause great harm. But some commenters are saying she was forced to have babies against her will, and you say no she wasn’t. I just don’t know. What if we were talking about marital rape instead? As you covered so well in another post, there are lots of ways a woman can be mentally/emotionally coerced into having sex against her will, but it’s still rape. With that in mind, I think a person can certainly make a case that this woman was forced to have kids. I don’t know; I’m not arguing that that’s the case. I just think it’s worth considering.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          In the longer version of the letter she talked a lot about the pressure she had from her parents to have a baby. I really took it like that. She wasn’t just mad at her husband; she was mad at everyone who was pressuring her to have kids. So that’s how I took it.

          Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        I want to say something else here that occurred to me.

        Do you all remember the story of Jaycee Dugard? She was kidnapped at 11 and held in captivity for 18 years. During that time she had two daughters who lived. In all the interviews I’ve read of her and the documentaries I’ve seen, she was an amazing mother. She put those kids’ needs first, even though she was barely a teenager herself and was in an impossible to imagine situation in its horror. But she loved those girls.

        That’s really the point. Let’s say that this woman was abused (which I don’t believe she was). That doesn’t stop the fact that those kids need to be loved. They need to feel wanted. That, indeed, is our most basic need as human beings. And that is the most basic thing that a mother needs to give her child. Really, the mother’s needs come second to the child’s in this case.

        If the mother can’t give her child that feeling of being wanted, then the mother really needs to get to counselling and straighten herself up, because the harm she is doing to her children is incalculable.

        Now, having periods of depression when you don’t like your life, or when you can’t cope, is not the same thing as what this woman is showing. In those periods of depression, you still love your kids and you still want your kids, and you’re battling those bad feelings. But this woman doesn’t even realize what she is saying is so horrid. She throws around phrases about the “worst day of her life” without any recognition of what she may be doing to her kids.

        And that, in stark contrast to someone like Jaycee Dugard, really is horrifying. Those poor babies.

        Reply
  22. Sheila Wray Gregoire

    Thanks for all your comments today, everybody.

    As I’ve been thinking about it, I do think that I was wrong to say “shut up and grow up”. I honestly can’t picture Jesus ever saying that, and so I do regret that. I agree with the thrust of what I wrote, but I shouldn’t have been that harsh.

    Thanks for all your feedback and the back and forth; it makes us all better!

    Reply
    • A

      Your wisdom and humility keep me coming back to your blog even if we don’t always see eye to eye on everything. 🙂

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Thank you, A.

        Reply
  23. T

    I think we are talking about sinful or negative thought patterns or negative thought cycles. When we are talking about an individuals thought patterns that negatively affect them we have no issue saying this is a bad (detrimental) thought pattern and needs to be corrected. In this case it’s a negative /sinful thought pattern that is (likely) affecting everyone around her.

    Children are incredibly perceptive and pick up on way more than we give them credit for. It’s important for this detrimental thought pattern to be halted. For the benefit of the children. They after all did not ask to be born and are blameless in this situation. If this person recognizes that the thought pattern is bad / sinful and are asking for advice / help then we should try to be empathetic and help. If however the person doesn’t recognize the thought pattern is detrimental in nature they need to be told it is.

    Once I heard negative thought patterns being described as bats flying towards us / around our head. If we are reacting appropriately to them we would try to swat them out of the sky so they won’t cause any more harm. A not so literal bat-Minton game. If we recognize the thought is wrong and do our best to swat it out of the sky. Acknowledge it and the danger it poses. Deal with it. And move on. Then I think we are doing what we should be. If we don’t recognize the thought pattern is wrong Than I hope someone would tell us. I think this is what Sheila was trying to do. Perhaps a bit harsher than some would like.

    Overall though these types of thought patterns are detrimental. And I think most people have something in their life that they should be called on from time to time. I have detrimental thought patterns that surround my parenting as well. Mine start more as ‘what have I gotten myself into’ and then sometimes spiral. It’s far better for all involved when I recognize the initial triggering thought pattern and stop it in its tracks. It was a lot harder for me to do in the immediate post partum. I enjoy being a mom but when I’m suffering from an acute attack (I have a chronic disease) and I have two children demanding my time it’s easy to spiral.

    I always thought the Bible had an innately practical nuance when it talks about visiting the iniquity of the father onto the children down to 3rd and 4th generations. It’s not because (in my humble opinion) God will punish the 3rd and 4th generations but because we have such responsibility as parents and when we fail we often translate downwards through multiple generations sinful patterns. Our failings as parents translate to our children and from them to their children. Etc. It’s our responsibility as parents to attempt with Gods help to break those cycles. And so we need to be vigilant and when we are unable to see the detrimental thought patterns we could be visiting on our children we should be called on it. It is my sincere hope that someone close to me would call me on it.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you for that, T. That’s really, really perceptive.

      In terms of my approach to the letter, I completely agree with you here, and think you summed it up perfectly:

      If this person recognizes that the thought pattern is bad / sinful and are asking for advice / help then we should try to be empathetic and help. If however the person doesn’t recognize the thought pattern is detrimental in nature they need to be told it is.

      In terms of your interpretation of “visiting the sin to the 3rd and 4th generation”, I think you’re totally right. Like, when we sin, we raise kids who are hurt and wounded, and in their woundedness, they may perpetuate negative things (even if it’s different negative things). Kids at a young age are just so susceptible, and they need us. They really do.

      Thank you for your perspective!

      Reply
  24. M

    Sheila, I appreciate your willingness to continue the conversation with all your commenters but I appreciate even more your willingness to speak out on the issue of parents expressing regret for their children. A lot of people have commented from a parent’s perspective but I wanted to add something from the perspective of a child. Kids really aren’t stupid. They know when they’re wanted and when they’re viewed as in the way or a burden. I’ve heard a parent say how much better their life would have been without me. There aren’t words to describe how awful it is. I’m an adult now. I can look back with compassion on the depression and marital frustration that led my parent to say those things. We have a good relationship now, but still hurts to remember. And there have been many moments since then that I’ve doubted myself as I seek out friendships and romantic relationships. I catch myself fearing that I’m only in the way or will ruin someone else’s life like I did my parent’s. Even with great healing the scars remain.

    Reply
    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      Yes, M. And that is what deeply concerned me as soon as I read this reader question. Your story perfectly describes what I fear might happen if this mother continues to allow herself to think things like how she resents her children. Because if you think it enough without correcting yourself, it can come out in a moment of anger and you can never take those words back.

      Reply
  25. SEB

    I think that this woman is hurting because she feels her husband’s (and possibly her parents’) love for her is conditional, with the condition being motherhood. (She did specifically say that AFTER they got married, her husband told her that he thought having children were a necessary obligation in marriage.) It sounds to me like she married this guy for love, but then he put conditions on that love that she would have to have babies, even though she didn’t want them. So she did it, to try to appease him, and it sounds like it did— but it left her resentful that his now free-flowing love to her ONLY came after she had children; she wasn’t enough on her own. I’m picking up too that this could be a pattern of insecurity in her life, because she mentioned having kids to appease her parents as well. (I do wonder if perhaps her parents pushed her to marry this guy too, which may have made her disregard any red flags before marriage?) It sounds to me like she was trying to earn her parents’ love or approval by having kids too, which likely backfired because there is no one more criticized in the world than a mother. I think everyone is surprised because you are normally empathetic to women in ways that the church and others are not— you are a safe place to share the things that we cannot say out loud to others for fear of judgement, like “I don’t like sex” or “Sex is hard with my husband because I/he gained weight.” Having “shut up and grow up” as the most memorable line for what was made out to be an advice article seems very off-brand for you, especially because “shut up and grow up” is not real advice— it’s literally telling someone that you don’t want to hear about her problems and you are rejecting her as a person because of her problem. I think you had some good advice in her that you could have expounded upon instead, but I believe that this post ended up being more of a venting session than an attempt to help anyone.

    Reply
    • Samantha

      The first time I read this post, and every time after actually, I did not read it as Sheila telling this woman to shut up and grow up. And I don’t believe that’s what she intended either. I read it as her response to the idiots who post it all over social media that they regret being parents as well as all the idiots applauding them for their “heroic” honesty. And let’s be honest here. They do need to grow up and shut up. If you reread the post those people are clearly who that line was meant for and not the woman who wrote in to Sheila for advice. Yes, this woman does need to grow up. That is a fact. Adults must learn how to handle life as adults. That includes learning to accept and embrace the life we choose for ourselves. Holding onto a wish that your life was different or that you didn’t have kids when you already have them is pointless and destructive and will ultimately drain all the joy out of your life. This woman describes her husband as being an amazing man. Considering how honest she is about everything else, I have no doubts that he is actually an amazing man who she genuinely loves. And I’m sure he genuinely loves her too. People need to stop assuming that he must be the evil villain twirling his mustache and laughing as he ties his wife to the railroad tracks of motherhood. She knew he wanted kids when they got married. He knew she didn’t. They got married anyway. Someone was going to end up getting their way. He did, but it’s not because he forced her against her will. She made the choice.

      Reply
  26. Liz

    I get that some people find this post harsh. However, as a mom who has been struggling with a version of these exact thoughts, I needed to read this blog. This week, for the first time, some of my resentment came out, and it was ugly and horrible. Yes, I went through PPD. Yes, it was really hard. But now that time is past, and I need to shut up and grow up. I am responsible. YES. Thank you for this post. Please rest in the knowledge that you just delivered a perfectly-timed truth bomb to a mom who is fed up with baring her soul and having other moms just nod their heads and agree. My 4-year-old and 2-year-old need me; they rely on me. It’s time to take these selfish thoughts captive, replacing them with thankfulness for this incredible family God has given me.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Liz, I’m glad that it was just what you needed to hear! That did make me feel better.

      One other thing: I notice that one of the most common things for Christian mom bloggers to post is about how exhausting motherhood is, but how you can all do it. It’s like all we talk about is how awful mothering is. You know what? It honestly doesn’t need to be that way. But just like you say, if you start talking about it, everyone nods their heads in agreement. Maybe we need to start saying something like: “Wow, that does sound tiring. What have you tried to get more rest?” And just help each other troubleshoot, rather than assuming that this is just inevitable and that it’s so so hard? I just think we’re all contributing to the culture of “mommyhood is awful”. I find it sad, actually.

      Reply
  27. Melissa

    I don’t actually disagree with anything you said but I think you missed the mark. I think she needed to be told to stop wallowing in self pity for sure but you took it to 11 when maybe a 5 would have sufficed. I also think you focused too much on the kids and not enough on her husband and her relationship with him.

    You made it sound like she was abusing her children when she’s probably not. She says she loves them and feels better towards them than she did at first. I agree people need to stop complaining about their children though, it put me off having kids entirety all I ever hear is bad things never good. I also think Christian circles expect women to devote everything to their children whether they want them or not whole men’s lives stay the same. The letter didn’t say how involved her husband is in childrearing but if she had to give up her career and hobbies and friends whole he barely helps when she did this all for him I could understand her misery. I agree she needs to deal with her feelings but you were very hostile to you and I don’t think you realize not all women are maternal nurturing types who dreamed of pregnancy from early childhood and for many it’s a quagmire of conflicting feelings.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I likely did take up to 11. But I just want to say–just because she’s not abusing her children doesn’t mean she’s not hurting them greatly. When you resent your kids, they know it. They just do. So many women have commented here and on Facebook about how horribly that affected them growing up. We have to fight those feelings, for the kids’ sake. That’s actually one of the worst things you can do to them. Feeling unloved and unwanted is worse in the long run than often going hungry. Emotional abandonment hurts worse.

      I agree that she likely needs to get her husband more involved. But that’s the thing–if she can’t handle mothering, then do something about it. But don’t wallow in that feeling of resentment. It really does hurt the kids, profoundly. I think we’ve forgotten that, and we’ve put the mother’s feelings ahead of the children’s. I just get worried about that, and that’s why I reacted too harshly. But it does matter.

      Reply
  28. Samantha

    Sheila, I’ve really been giving this post a lot of thought. And I’m about to go on quite a lengthy rant. I think you showed a lot of grace and humility yesterday while responding to an awful lot of backlash. I read through your original post several times and I think you balanced out the harshness with plenty of genuine concern. Yes, you focused a lot of your concern on how the children involved are likely to be affected by the mother’s attitude if she doesn’t work to change it, but I still fail to see how that should have gotten so many grown women worked up. When children are involved you have to get brutally honest if they are in a situation that isn’t exactly healthy for them. Are adults, specifically women, so fragile these days that they can’t tolerate a harsh dose of reality when it’s needed? Do we really have to tip toe around adults and their feelings as though a harsh word could cause their mental stability to come crashing down in ruins? What has this world come to if this is truly how we have to handle grown men and women when giving them constructive critism? Can we even give constructive criticism anymore? Is every person in need of advice so close to a mental breakdown or life crisis that they must be handled like an unstable mental patient who could snap at any moment? I mean no disrespect to people with actual mental issues who do actually require delicate handling. There are definitely people out there who require special attention. However, the woman who wrote into you sounds like a mentally stable human being who just needs help sorting out her relationships and taking responsibility for the direction her life has gone. She is also in desperate need of some guidance when it comes to her negative feelings surrounding motherhood for her own sake, the sake of her marriage, and especially for the sake of her children.

    Reply
  29. Samantha

    In all honesty she sounds like she truly loves her husband very much and probably fears that he doesn’t love her the same way because he wanted children along with wanting a wife. That isn’t an unnatural desire. She obviously craves and needs affirmation from her husband in regards to the sacrifice she made to help him to achieve his desire for children. That isn’t unnatural either. I think every woman desires for her husband to appreciate what they go through to bring their children into the world even when a woman personally desires to have children. And I know when I had my first child I really struggled with a lot of fear that my husband wouldn’t love me like he did before we had our daughter and that our relationship was going to be damaged. I talked with my husband though. I let him know I needed extra affection. I made my fears known. I don’t believe that this woman is married to an insensitive boarish man. I think he would probably respond quite well if she expressed her feelings to him. He may be caught off guard, but if he truly is an amazing man, then I’m sure they will work through it even if it requires some counseling. The marriage issues aside though, she does need to face the truly destructive attitude she has towards motherhood and realize why it’s wrong to wish she wasn’t a mother when she already is one and has children who need her to WANT to be their mother. Frankly, I think you were harsh but not unnecessarily harsh. If this woman was so weak that she couldn’t face a bit of critism, then I severely doubt she would have written into you when her letter could potentially be made public.

    Reply
  30. Samantha

    All the people saying things like, “I hope this woman finds a safe place to share her feelings” and “this is why people don’t go or shouldn’t go to Christians or the church for help,” are really just projecting their own emotions onto this woman. They are assuming this woman can’t handle a bit of critism. Frankly, if this were me, I’d be more annoyed and offended by people assuming I was too weak to handle a harsh dose of sound wisdom that I ASKED for. And yes, I just projected my emotions onto this woman, but since pretty much everyone else took the liberty to do it, I don’t think I’m doing anything off the wall by offering a different perspective. It would be a totally different if this woman responded in the comments that she was hurt by what you said. Why do people just assume other people don’t have a backbone? And to be fair the church doesn’t always handle situations correctly. But nothing you said here contradicts the Bible. It is sound advice even if it isn’t sugar-coated to suit the sensitive palate of our ultra-sensitive society. Last time I checked God and Jesus were both harsh at times throughout the Bible. The Bible doesn’t sugar-coat the truth. The truth is delivered without frills or a spoonful of sugar. But God’s love for us is at the heart of it all!

    Reply
  31. Samantha

    Are women really so fragile these days that they can’t handle critism or the critism of other women? Women don’t seem quite so eager to jump to the defense when men are the ones who are on the receiving end of critism. The recent post about the book Love and Respect comes to mind. Some comments left by women were full of a lot of harsh critism towards men (some totally reasonable and some dripping with a lot of extra venom), but I don’t recall any other women rushing in to say that they might be hurting men’s feelings by being so harsh. So we can expect men to be able handle the harsh truth when they aren’t behaving as they should, but women are too weak and easily hurt to handle it without a massive amount of emotional padding around every word spoken in order to soften the harsh blow of reality? Give me a break. Women don’t suddenly become as fragile as a child simply because they have a child. Women who are responsible for raising the next generation need to be stronger than that. They need to be able to handle critism when it is necessary. In this case I’d say it was totally necessary. This woman asked for advice. You gave it to her. Let’s give her the benefit of the doubt and respect she deserves and not assume she can’t handle the answer like a mature adult.

    Reply
    • Anna

      First of all,this woman didn’t just receive “a bit” of criticism…she got quite a lot. And nothing
      IN HER ACTUAL WORDS indicated that she goes around saying this to her kids or in front of them. It’s pure speculation to assume that she does. So she could actually be following Sheila’s advice, as well as that of a lot of the commenters. But that’s not enough for some people. An awful lot of this post is nonsensical “advice” that is just basically saying, “Stop! Stop feeling that!” I don’t know how that is supposed to be helpful. Do Christians have some special self-brainwashing power? When us regular people need to change a behavior or thought pattern, we usually need to talk it through with someone. A therapist is good, but we can’t all afford that. So we make do with friends.

      And I do agree with Sheila that those negative feelings shouldn’t be spoken in front of kids, but now she’s made it into, “If you even FEEL it, your kids will magically know, and that’s your fault!” Come on, now. Be reasonable . When I was suffering with loneliness and resentment and depression, you can bet that I woke up every morning and practically put on a show for my small children, in an attempt to compensate for it, and avoid ” leaking” negativity onto them. I am not sure what more one is supposed to do. And nothing in what was printed in that letter and made available to read gave any indication that she was parenting in less than good faith.

      Reply
  32. Tjajka

    It would be interesting to hear from a man who felt the same way and how they have resolved it. I’ve heard lots of men expressing doubt in their wife’s love for them after having children. ”She only wanted the children, she doesn’t care at all about me”. Many men also get jealous and feel a Little resentful of their children as they get so much attention from their moms/the wives. Maybe this is a similiar thing?

    But you are right that she needs to work this out. It sounds as if she feels trapped under others’ expectations and wants. She can’t however blame anyone else. She married despite knowing that they had very different wishes regarding children and no mutual agreement in how to handle that. That was a mistake, especially as she felt so very strongly about it.

    Besides working on finding joy in her children (and you gave her some good advice there), I think she needs to work on learning to trust her husband’s love for her. That love is not conditional, depending on her having children. That is a lie she needs to fight.

    I know what it’s like to resent your life. I often have to fight that special feeling of despair and sadness. The only thing that helps is getting close to God. You also need to be honest with God about how you feel, even if that’s not how you are supposed to feel as a believer, and then listen to what God responds. It’s hard not to be afraid to listen as you expect rejection (because deep down you already feel rejected), but the answer will not be rejection. It will be love and slow transformation. The Holy Spirit will start to work in your heart and mind and as time goes by you will hear God speak more clearly. You will no longer hear nothing, you will hear love. That love will nurture you and give you strength to live the life you have been given. I think this is that woman’s greatest need. She needs to feel loved. She needs God.

    Reply
  33. Anonymous

    Amen! Amen! Amen!
    I personally loved this post. I grew up being reminded by my mother that she could have chosen to abort me because she was a teenage mom….as if it was MY fault I “ruined” her early adulthood.
    There are too many parents that need to hear “shut up & grow up” because their kids didn’t choose to have unprotected sex.

    Reply
  34. Amber

    You have nothing to be sorry about. You were not harsh in the least bit. I don’t have any children of my own, although my husband are trying, but I have 4 nephews and a niece. I have helped raised every single one of them, one actually is my adopted son. I love him as if he were my own and the happiest day of my life was when I legally adopted him. I have had two miscarriages already and this woman does not know how lucky she is to have two beautiful children of her own. And honestly if she hates it so much then she should just leave. Her children may be better off without her. I can’t believe that anyone in good circumstances with no medical or psychological reasons would hate their children or resent their husband for their own choices. No one forced her to have those kids. You are right she needs to take responsibility and be grateful for having all of those people to love. And I agree with “shut up and grow up.” Children are not an accessory or something to wish that you never had, they should be cherished and loved. So many people in this world never know the blessing that children can be, and some people just shouldn’t have children. This woman is one of those people that should have never been blessed with the greatest blessing of them all. Especially because she isn’t grateful. She should remember that love is infinite, you can always give more without taking it away from anyone. Perhaps her husband doesn’t love her as much as he used to simply because he knows that she resents him and wishes the two greatest gifts she could possibly give him, she would rather not have.

    Reply
  35. Kris

    My husband’s mother was very sick when she was pregnant with him – it was an Rh Factor incompatibility pregnancy. He was only 2 pounds when he was born prematurely. She told him many times over the years that she wished she had flushed him down the toilet when he was born because of how sick “he made” her. It brings tears to my eyes when I think of that hurtful comment and for how many times he had to hear it. It’s definitely affected his self-worth – something he still struggles with 50+ years lately. If this mother’s kids have any inkling that she doesn’t want them, it breaks my heart for them. It also breaks my heart for this mother who can’t appreciate the wonderful gifts she’s been given. She definitely needs to see a counselor. Your original answer was a little harsh – but I think it stems from the loss of your son. Her question poked a wound and you yowled in reply. I appreciate your humbleness in acknowledging your harshness and for apologizing.

    Reply
  36. KC

    Wow this is a very interesting statement/question. The women who wrote the question is very brave and obviously wants help. I cant imagine how hard that would be to confess that. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to feel that. She honestly might have been happier to never have children but she did and once u do then they are a Gift from God and u Had better love them and take care of them. It is the desire of the Lord that we take care of children. I don’t think there is anything worse in this life then to grow up unloved and dislike by your mother. And know that she regrets u and that she didn’t want u. It haunts u for the rest or your life….. It would be a kindness to put your child up for adoption to a family that would love and cherish them. Its just such a hard thing. My husband doesn’t want children now and I don’t want to force him especially after reading this. Some ppl do change their mind after they hold their precious child for the 1st time But if it doesn’t change u then Only the Grace of God can.

    Reply
  37. Casey

    I’m not friends with women who complain about their children, who can’t wait for them to be out of the house. I didn’t get to meet my husband until I was 35 and we had children as soon as we could after we were married. I had once wanted 7 children but that’s not possible now. I’ve had a lot of time to think about what I wanted and what I didn’t and to watch the people around me. People who don’t like children are selfish. They don’t want to sacrifice for these little people. I’ve been blessed with a normal amazing girl and an amazing boy with Down’s syndrome. They are so wonderful, they love each other fiercely and they are loved devotedly by my husband and me . I’m curious to see how they turn out knowing that both their parents love them because I grew up thinking my father hated me. There were six of us and we all thought he hated us. I thought I was worthless and began praying to die when I was 11 years old. I had zero self worth. My siblings and I are convinced our mother saved us. She is an angel and my father didn’t deserve her. We had each other too. Turns out he had terrible anxiety, it is no surprise he struggled so hard. He was also a policeman so that didn’t help. He’s on meds now and is so much better than he used to be. It took me years to discover that I had worth. I often wondered what you mentioned in your article, “I didn’t force myself on them, they were the ones who wanted me.” It is horrible to do that to your children. Pray to love them, never hurt them like that.
    You sacrifice for those you love and love those you sacrifice for.
    What is wrong with working hard and giving up things for your children? My belief is that if I were working and I changed jobs my co-workers would eventually forget me. My kids never will. So who is more important?
    This is long but my mom went back to college when we were in high school and got her degree to be a special ed teacher. You’ll have a lot of years to do what you want to do. Life isn’t over because you had kids, it’s better.

    Reply
  38. Kelly

    THIS is one of my, if not, the biggest fear I’ve ever had in my life. I’m newly married, and watching my friends have children and raise their families has been such a joy to be a part of. That being said, I battle with crippling depression. I don’t even have kids, and it’s very difficult (especially when I’m playing/babysitting my friends’ children) to break out of the thought patterns of “What’s the point? I’ll be a terrible mother, I’m a worthless person, my future children deserve better than what I have to offer, I feel like I have nothing to offer.” Therapy, medication, and an amazing supportive husband and friends help me to process how these adverse thoughts aren’t normal. I know I’m at risk for PPD/PPA/PPP, and I see so much of myself and my possible future in this woman. The love I have for my friends’ children is unlike anything I’ve felt, and I can’t imagine how much my heart will grow once I have children. I don’t think I could ever regret them though. The pain of depression and self-loathing is SO, so real. For years, I suffered without help in fear of being lectured about sin. My genetics isn’t my fault, and occasionally I get upset at my parents for knowingly having me despite a family history of mental illness (both of my parents were spared, but a few cousins and aunts/uncles have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia). I sometimes resent my parents for choosing to have me as they don’t and will never understand the struggle of mental illness. I was raised Catholic and have much guilt about my mental health, as if I didn’t pray hard enough or as if my illness is a result of sin, and that my negative thought patterns are a sin itself. I suppose because of self-awareness, at least I’ll be prepared when I have children. Additionally, us women with mental illness often get left out of the conversation in Christian discussions. Sometimes I even think if it’s a good idea for me to have children-I’ve been preached “Get married, have babies, procreate because God says so.” So these women do so, then resent their children/themselves. But, if we don’t have children, we’re not following God’s word.

    Reply
  39. Brievel

    Especially in America, parenting has become a thing to be seen as a horrible evil that ends your life. The current governor of Virginia is pro “post-birth abortion.” Yep. “Hilarious parenting memes to make you laugh” are all about what horrible little monsters babies and children are and how persecuted and pathetic mothers are.

    Won’t say the day I realized I was pregnant was the most terrifying day of my life (the day we were evicted and became homeless still claims that honor.) I will say it was the most shocking, the most startling. One of the most joyful. And now I’m pregnant again (I’m not ready I’m not ready I’MNOTREADY we’re not ready we’re still living with my judgmental critical in-laws who are going to throw us out as soon as I begin showing even though they’re really oblivious to all the signs being there and the fact that I’ve missed two periods and our first is only a year old and we’re all living in one 12’x12′ room and WE’RE NOT READY) and we need to start stocking up on diapers and baby clothes again. ^_^

    Reply
  40. Dana

    I did not think you were harsh, Sheila. As someone who only wanted to be a wife and mom, when I actually became a mother it was a harsh reality as to how hard it really is! And to be honest, I wondered what I had gotten myself into. But it was time to grow up and take care of my children and die to self. Now my children are young adults and I wouldn’t trade them for the world! I wish we had had more children. They are wonderful friends and we have a lot of fun together as a family. They are sold out to the Lord which is a blessing and God’s grace since my husband and I made our share of mistakes. We have been through some very hard times as a family — outside of our control — and I think that brought us together in a way that only trials can. I also homeschooled them so we were around each other many more hours than most families. I tell young moms, to hang in there. The hours that you invest will be rewarded a hundred fold! I wish I could be my younger self sometimes and cherish it more. You never will believe it will go fast, but it does. I am now cherishing every time we are all together.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I feel the same way, Dana! My girls are such good friends of mine. They make my life infinitely richer, and I can’t imagine life without them.

      Reply
  41. KE

    Thank you for saying we must take our thoughts captive and learn to focus on the good. I always wanted to be a mother and live it. However, I did want to wait a bit and establish a career a bit better before having children. But my husband was 9 years older than me and wanted to start a family right away. So we got conceived on our honeymoon. But I regret giving into the pressure and not staying firm on what I wanted. Soon after, my husband expected me to return to full time work and become the breadwinner in the family, while having children. I couldn’t cope with that and became resentful of him asking me for more than what I could give. I have forgiven him, but he still thinks I can have multiple children and be the breadwinner. As a result, we are unable to be intimate. I love my kids, but I hate the pressure to be superwoman, of being expected to work full time, look sexy, have a spotless house, honor roll students, etc.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, dear, KE, that’s a very difficult position to be in! I think figuring out the breadwinner issue here is the main one. You just can’t take on that much stress if he’s not doing his share. That’s not right. I do hope you can get that one sorted out!

      Reply
  42. Natasha

    As I am the writer of this initial post, please allow me to weigh in. Perhaps I am a terrible writer, as I was grossly misunderstood. I did just have a horrible day, so perhaps I did make things sound worse than they normally are. I ADORE my children NOW (present tense). When I relayed how I FELT when I became pregnant and had my first son (notice the past tense there?), I was just trying to convey how much I was against having children- my state of mind AT THE TIME. Perhaps it was unnecessary. I would be irreparably devastated if I lost my kids now. My children could not be in safer hands, I cover them with kisses constantly, thank God for them, and shower them with love. I have moments where I miss the times before I had kids for various reasons, but considering where I started, I think I’ve make pretty good progress. My issue here is not that I don’t love my kids. The issue here, is I am having a hard time not resenting my husband for often pushing my feelings to the side for his more important thoughts and feelings. You couldn’t possibly make an accurate judgment call based on my short post, as there are a lot of pieces to the puzzle you do not have. While my husband is a wonderful man, he is also very stubborn about having his way in all things, even if it means pushing my thoughts to the side. Remember I mentioned we married very young- I was barely out of high school. When you’re young and inexperienced, you have certain expectations. Not only did his comment make me feel as though he would never had married me if it wasn’t for the promise of kids (something I now see as reasonable), but he also has made me feel rejected intimately, as he is a VERY low drive man and often turned me away even in our first year of marriage. There are many things that piled on, and this last thing was just one more thing. I treasure blunt honestly- beating around the bush irritates the daylights out of me, and I despise being coddled, so I greatly appreciate your bluntness, Sheila- even though it was more of an attack than a help. You don’t think I’ve heard all that before- telling me how wrong and foolish and selfish I am? I wasn’t looking for validation- I know I’m off in my thinking. But my mistake. I should know better than to reach out by now.

    Reply
    • Sheila Gregoire

      Hi Natasha,

      First of all, I’m sorry that you feel you were misunderstood. I also appreciate you reaching out and asking for help; that’s a really important thing. We get many reader questions and I to answer them as best as I can, but I do hope that you have people in your life that you can have difficult conversations with about these hard issues. It is impossible for me to respond to one email with the nuance and knowledge that I’d have if we were chatting with a friend who I know “in real life.”

      My overriding concern in situations where kids are involved is to protect them, and sometimes I go overly “mama bear” in my desire to keep them safe. I definitely think I was too harsh in my response, and for that I apologise.

      We all have bad days and I’m glad you’re feeling better now. One thing I hope you’ll do is to look through the comments from women who had parents who told them they regretted having them. I don’t at all mean to say that that means that you are in the same boat as their parents were, but I do want you (and frankly, all of us) to be aware of the fact that a word spoken in anger can have huge effects on others, which can even persist for the rest of their lives. So while asking us for advice is a good first step, perhaps it’s a good idea to process your personal history with a trusted friend or, better yet, a trained counsellor, who can help you work through it so that those thoughts and feelings don’t bubble up on a bad day and explode into words you can’t take back.

      Reply
      • Angela

        But she shouldn’t be asking an internet blogger for help. Her issues should be kept between her and a therapist. Someone who is qualified to work with her and not turn it into a sensational blog post rant. And you still tell her to ‘ask people what being told by a parent that they wish they didn’t exist.’ Nowhere does she say that she has ever let the children know anything but her love for them.

        Reply
      • Fiona

        My mother had an affair when I was a teenager and she felt that my brothers and me cramped her style and she’d be out of there if we hadn’t been born. She did tell me that she wished she’d never had children. It smarted for a while, but I really didn’t take it seriously and I knew she didn’t mean it. Her actions before and since have shown me this.

        Reply
  43. Mila

    Mhm this is exactly why you don’t tell someone who doesn’t want kids to have them just because their partner wants them

    Reply
  44. Ramona Jeuschenak

    Hi,

    I just across this article….and i found it to be honest, inspiring and spot on.

    And i personally don’t think you have a thing to apologise for.

    I am one of those kids (now in my forties) that was told by her mother that she never wanted children. It was horrific and i often think about why she felt the need to tell me this. It may have helped her in some ways, or she figured being honest was the way to go, but honestly, it damaged me for a long time. Whatever her reasons were it was selfish and irresponsible. And something she can never take back.

    Our relationship is once again broken….and i often think yeah, you should never had children!!!

    Some truths do not have to be spoken!!!

    Reply
  45. Shiloh

    Editor’s note: Shiloh posted a comment with her story and her experience that was simply too far over the word count limit for it to be let through since it would take away from other users’ ability to read the engage in the comments. We really feel for you, Shiloh, and if you’d like to re-post a shorter comment we’d be happy to let it through.

    Reply
  46. Amy

    My son has autism. He cries continuously and won’t communica. He can’t potty-train, dress himself, and requires expensive, tedious and time-consuming therapy. He will likely burden us for the rest of our lives. I definitely wish I never had him even though he was planned. It’s easy for mothers of typically developing children to be so self-righteous.

    Reply
    • Jules

      Amy, I hear you. I have supported children with special needs in primary schools and can easily understand where you are coming from. I loved my work immensely and felt privileged to be trusted with such a responsibility. I did have such admiration for parents of these children and could ony imagine their struggle. This post does not address your situation, but now that the dust has settled, it has only re-enforced my belief why no one should be addressing such feelings in a letter to an internet blogger.

      Reply
  47. Guest

    Finally. Not even a parent and agreeing with this. You choose to have that kid, so deal with it. I do think that society needs to stop pressuring women to have kids though.

    Reply

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