A friend of mine recently sent me a link to an article that I’ve had a hard time wrapping my mind around. The author was investigating “the growing movement of women who wish they’d never had kids.”
I read every word of the article, completely bewildered. The notion that enough mothers feel remorse over having had children to constitute “a movement” is tragic and heartbreaking. Especially to a woman, like me, who absolutely loves being a mother (12 times over)!
Although I don’t relate to the emotions expressed by the women interviewed for this article, I do see how current societal standards could contribute to their feeling the way they do about motherhood. These cultural norms include:
1. Fragmented families: Parenting was meant to be a two-person project, but with skyrocketing rates of divorce and single-parent households, the full responsibility for child training is often born by the mother alone.
That’s a heavy task for one set of shoulders, and I can see how it might cause a woman to question her life choices. But rather than blaming innocent children for our personal unhappiness, we need to embrace the life we’ve been given, learn from past mistakes and try to make wiser decisions going forward.
2. Altered emotional states: The past few decades have been marked by an explosion of prescription drug use. Two of the most common — hormonal contraceptives and antidepressants — have both been shown to lower libido and adversely affect the feelings of love a woman has for her mate.
Is it possible that these drugs might also interfere with mother-child bonding and have a negative effect on the love a mother feels for her child? Could the growing trend of “mother remorse” be more reflective of the drugs circulating in women’s bodies than of the secret desires of their hearts?
3. Desire for instant gratification: We live in a society that hates having to wait for anything. We want what we want, and we want it now. But child rearing is an endeavor more akin to constructing cathedrals than to playing Candy Crush. It takes grit and determination and perseverance.
Building a family is a multigenerational undertaking. Although we can take joy in watching the slow, steady progress made in our lifetime, we know from the beginning we won’t likely live to see it to completion. The work will continue long after we’re gone — all the more reason to entrust it to God from the beginning.
4. Loss of faith in God: I don’t know how anybody can muster the level of devotion required by parenting without maintaining a vibrant faith in God. God grants wisdom and strength for living. He provides a beautiful example of the kind of self-sacrificing love a mother should have for her child.
When we throw God out of the equation, we throw out hope and reason, as well. Where there is no understanding of eternity and accountability, life devolves into a continual striving after fleeting temporal pleasures, then feeling cheated when we can neither grasp nor hold on to them.
5. Devaluation of life: Since 1980, more than 1.5 billion babies have been aborted worldwide. As a society, we have decided that babies are more of a burden than a blessing and are therefore expendable.
Unfortunately, that wrongheaded but pervasive attitude trickles down and affects how we treat even the lucky children who are given a shot at life. Mothers commonly try to outdo one another with complaints about how much trouble they have with their kids — and often within earshot of their children. Think what messages we are sending them!
Meanwhile, many women who are single or struggling with infertility would gladly lay down their life for the privilege of having a baby all their own. It hardly seems fair that someone who has children could so deeply regret ever giving birth, while another who so desperately longs to be a mother might never be given the opportunity at all.
6. Hectic schedules: Perhaps the “trapped” feeling some of these remorseful moms describe has something to do with the misguided brand of parenting they are attempting.
If I were constantly having to run my children from one extracurricular activity to another to another to another, I think I’d feel trapped, too — but it would be in a prison of my own making.
Constant activity is not a prerequisite to raising successful, well-rounded children. Kids need downtime, too — time to think and wonder and dream and plan; time for unstructured play; time spent at home, totally unplugged from the digital devices that so permeate our lives these days. That endless state of go-go-go and more-more-more that has become characteristic of so many households tends to separate the family in unhealthy ways and ultimately does more damage than good.
7. Lack of knowledge and experience: Most women in our society — myself included — are woefully unprepared for the responsibilities of marriage and motherhood when we first take them on. The home economics and child development classes of yesteryear have been replaced by women’s studies requirements that do nothing to help us become better wives and mothers (in fact, they actively work against it). The good news is, on-the-job-training is still quite effective for motivated students, even though the learning curve may be pretty steep.
8. Differing notions of success: How do the women’s studies courses we find on university campuses today “actively work against” our becoming better wives and mothers? They do it by pushing a social agenda that turns traditional family structure on its head.
Women are taught they must enter the workforce to realize their full potential. Those who would opt to stay home baking cookies for their kids instead of climbing the corporate ladder are cast as brainwashed dummies with no drive or vision.
Society at large echoes these sentiments, and many women have bought into the lies without question. Is it any wonder that a mother who has been conditioned to think in such a vein would feel trapped and miserable in the role of stay-at-home-mom?
I’m not arguing that career women can’t do meaningful, fulfilling and important work. Many of them obviously do, and I’m grateful for all the dedicated women whose work has both directly and indirectly impacted my own life.
What I am saying is that there is a much broader scope for industry, influence and meaningful work in the home than our current culture seems willing to recognize, and that — for mothers of young children especially — the potential that exists in the home for shaping the next generation should not be minimized, ignored or surrendered to others without careful consideration.
9. Unbridled selfishness: It would be oversimplifying to blame the “mommy regret movement” solely on selfishness, but selfishness definitely plays a role.
As a society, we have become so self-absorbed and me-focused that we often lose sight of the needs of others. In doing so, we’ve neglected our God-given responsibility to take at least a portion of the gifts and resources He’s given us and use them to invest in the lives of others.
One of the many benefits of becoming a mother is that raising children helps root such ugly selfishness out of our hearts.
Or, at least, it will… if we let it.
Jennifer Flanders is eternally grateful for the blessing of children and grandchildren, and for the opportunity God has given her to pour her life into raising a family and creating a home. To read more from this author, please visit https://lovinglifeathome.com.