One in 12 parents regrets having children: What to do if that's you

·5 min read
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Parenting isn't all good times....(Getty images)

While some may claim having children is the best thing they've ever done, others may find the sleepless nights and toddler tantrums can lead to questions about their choice to become parents in the first place. 

And there might be more mums and dads feeling this way than you might think. 

YouGov data shows that while the vast majority of parents (83%) insist they’ve never felt this way, a significant one in twelve parents (8%) say they regret having children, while another 6% have previously had regrets but don’t now.

Of the 8% who said they did regret becoming a parent, the strength of feeling was split between those who felt it to a “great extent” (1%); those feeling it a “moderate extent” (2%) and those who felt regret to a “small extent” (5%).

While there’s no difference between mothers and fathers, the survey suggested regret was more common among younger parents with just over a fifth of 25 to 34-year-olds either regretting having children at the time of the survey (13%) or having done so previously but did not any more (9%).

However, the percentage of parents who regretted having children steadily decreased with age, from 11% of those aged 35 to 44, to 8% of those aged 45 to 54, and 6% of those aged 55 and over. 

Read more: Are you in the 40+ Club? Naomi Campbell and the rise of the 'older mother'

There was no difference between men and women in terms of parent regret. (Getty Images)
There was no difference between men and women in terms of parent regret. (Getty Images)

Why are so many parents feeling this way?

“Parenthood has so many highs and lows and at times when there are more low than high moments it’s not uncommon to mourn your old uncomplicated, carefree life," Cathy Ranson, editorial director at ChannelMum tells Yahoo UK. 

"A time when you had uninterrupted sleep, very few ties and where the little things like drinking a cup of tea whilst it was still hot wasn’t a novelty." 

While many of those experiencing regret about their decision to have children will feel the need to silence their thoughts, Ranson says it is ok to admit how you're feeling. 

"It’s ok to feel regret and you’re not alone, opening up and talking to friends about it can help. On balance the highs outweigh the lows which is why most parents go on to have more than one child.” 

Watch: Mothers who gave birth during pandemic 'twice as likely' to suffer from post-natal depression. 

Pascale Lane, therapeutic relationship and life coach, and author of How to be Happy in Life and Love: A Guide to Living the Life You Deserve, says these feelings of regret often come about because there is a difference between the expectation and reality of parenthood. 

"The fantasy of having children and the picture-perfect life we are sold is, in reality, a million miles from what we get," she explains. 

"Having children is, for many, a wonderful thing, but it is also incredibly hard, and puts enormous pressure on your relationship."

While some believe that having children will bring them and their partner closer together, Lane says it can often do the opposite, causing arguments, financial problems and sleep deprivation amongst many other things.

"So much changes when we have children; our relationship, friendship circles, career, financial freedom, ability to be spontaneous, sex-life, sleep... the list is endless," she says. 

"The simple reality is that having children is a game changer. And while it's certainly not all bad, even the strongest of couples will feel the pressure with a newborn in the house, especially if there are other children to juggle too."

Read more: UK birth rate in England and Wales hits an all time low, here's all the reasons why

It is important to consider whether post-natal depression could be contributing to your feelings. (Getty Images)
It is important to consider whether post-natal depression could be contributing to your feelings. (Getty Images)

So what can parents who feel this way do about it?

While you may feel you need to hide your feelings, Lane says the first thing to do is to acknowledge them and talk about it. 

"By acknowledging it you are taking the pressure off yourself to be the 'perfect parent' you are trying to be," she explains.  

"When we talk about things that are hard for us, we de-stigmatise it." 

Lane says opening up about your emotional struggles can also help you to feel less alone. 

"This isn't about not loving your children," she stresses. "This is about recognising that you may have made the wrong decision at a certain time in your life, or that you might have opted to wait for the right person to start a family with or done some healing on yourself before having a child to fill a need."

Read more: Women are more likely to suffer from post-natal depression during coronavirus pandemic

According to Lane, it will also help to remind yourself that there's no such thing as a perfect parent. 

"We are all doing our best to raise happy little humans whilst being happy humans ourselves," she adds. "It's not easy and you should try not to judge yourself too harshly. The timing or circumstances may be hard now, but like everything in life, there are phases and with each phase of life comes its own challenges and rewards."

It should also be noted that post-natal depression is a huge issue for so many mums and still, remarkably, remains a taboo subject. 

"It can, for some, have a lasting effect, not to mention feelings of regret and failure," Lane explains. 

"If you think you have PND, or have been affected by this in the past, please speak to a health care advisor who will be able to offer you support and guidance."

Watch: New mums take government to court over financial support scheme. 

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