Regretting Motherhood is a very interesting non-fiction book by Orna Donath. Donath did qualitative research in which she talked with mothers that regret having had a child. Some participants are young and have only just gotten their first child, some are already grandmothers of several children.
What makes this book so notable for me, is that it's the only text I know that dares to discuss this really sensitive topic. I don't have any children and I don't want any, ever. Because I'm a woman, barely anyone respects that decision. I don't want to be pregnant, I don't want to birth, I don't want to adopt, I don't want a fertility treatment, I don't want to care for a child, I don't want an adult child visiting me in the weekends, I don't want grandchildren and I don't want to spend any time or money on any children either. Nevertheless people will make up any argument about having children to try to convince me: You'll change your mind, it will be great once the child is there so just do it, there will be no-one to take care of you when you're old, what even is the point of living then if you won't leave something behind and be remembered when you die. But I absolutely hate one argument the most: You'll come to regret it.
I don't think I will ever regret not having children. However, I do think I would regret having a child if I had ever succumbed to the pressure. It's something that felt too taboo to ever say. Surely such women don't exist because 'children are great once you have them!! they're worth every downside because love!!!'. This book was such a confirmation. Regretful mothers exist. They're not evil, but when they open their mouths, their lives are over because of the backlash. This is why the study behind this book was very risky for many participants.
The question on most people's mind (mine at least): why take children then? The mothers questioned are from Israel, so contraception and abortus are available. Some interesting reasons that were mentioned:
- I never thought about what having children would be like, so it just happened because it's what's supposed to happen.
- Pressure from society was too great, being childless is too stigmatizing.
- Thinking it would be better because of the unrealistic portrayal of motherhood as fantastic and holy and the best that can be done with one's life.
- Too much pressure from husband/own family/in-laws to do it.
- Believing the argument 'I guess I will like the idea better once the child is here because then magically feelings change'.
The book also explores other difficult but interesting topics such as how one can combine loving a child dearly but still regret being a mother, and whether or not ever letting the child know about your feelings (most mothers were dead set against that, but not all).
I personally really believe having children should be an opt-in situation for people who really want to raise children. A conscious choice. Having children shouldn't be the default that you have to opt out of with lots of stigma, shame or judgement. However, I don't judge any women with children either, whether they were planned or unplanned, wanted or unwanted. I think this book really shows that these women, despite regretting motherhood, are not at all evil or dumb or any other prejudice one could have. But the book does show that our societal attitudes surrounding motherhood, children and choice are highly questionable and very sexist.
Have you read this book? What do you think about this topic? Do you have any other interesting book recommendations for me about not wanting to have children as a woman?