– Top 6 Reasons Parents Regret Having Children

6 common reasons parents regret having kids, even if they really wanted them

Julia Pugachevsky


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A woman looking at her young children with regret

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  • Certain parents have expressed feelings of regret regarding their decision to have children.
  • The causes for this sentiment may stem from the loss of personal freedom, exorbitant childcare expenses, or postpartum depression.
  • Engaging in conversations with existing parents and understanding your core values are crucial preliminary steps before embarking on parenthood.

As rewarding as parenting can be, there are instances where individuals navigate this journey with a sense of remorse.

Approximately one in 12 parents acknowledge regretting their choice to have children, as per a 2021 YouGov UK survey. Similar outcomes have been observed in previous studies conducted in Germany, Poland, and the US.

“Many individuals romanticize the idea of parenthood,” remarked Suzanne Degges-White, a licensed counselor and professor at Northern Illinois University, in a conversation with Business Insider. She highlighted that the stark reality of raising a child often leads to a realization of “This was the biggest mistake. What have I done to myself?”.

While the full extent of parenthood may remain elusive until experienced firsthand, Degges-White, who is also a mother, emphasized the importance of adequate preparation.

“Interacting with new parents and those whose children are older provides valuable insights,” she suggested. Immersing oneself in such experiences can offer a glimpse into the nuances of parenting. Additionally, understanding personal values and motivations is paramount. Are you prepared to make sacrifices in your professional life? What drives your desire to have children?

“Assessing the pros and cons of parenthood, considering how it aligns with your lifestyle, is essential,” she advised.

Degges-White outlined several common factors contributing to parental regret, underscoring the significance of addressing these concerns proactively before embarking on the journey of parenthood.

1. Loss of independence

Degges-White highlighted that a prevalent cause of parental regret revolves around the “loss of autonomy and control over one’s life.”

The introduction of a child can alter one’s career trajectory and evoke a longing for the freedom associated with a child-free existence.

“Following the arrival of children, personal freedom diminishes significantly,” Degges-White noted. The transition from independence to the responsibilities of caring for an unpredictable infant can be particularly challenging for individuals accustomed to self-reliance.

2. The cost of childcare

In the US, childcare expenses are notoriously steep, prompting some parents to grapple with feelings of regret, as per Degges-White.

“Individuals may question their decision, wondering if they can afford the financial implications of parenthood,” she explained. Additionally, some parents may lament the financial burden associated with raising multiple children, as expenses escalate.

While systemic issues within the childcare sector persist, effective budgeting and financial planning can alleviate some of the stress associated with parenting.

3. Not having a good relationship with the other parent

Parental regret may also stem from realizing an unhealthy dynamic with the other parent, observed Degges-White.

“This situation can be particularly challenging, especially if one has grown up witnessing discord within their own family,” she remarked. Patterns of dysfunctional relationships from one’s upbringing may manifest in their own family dynamics.

Fortunately, there are avenues to break free from detrimental cycles, especially for individuals exposed to abuse or dysfunction in their formative years.

4. Experiencing postpartum depression

Postpartum depression represents a significant challenge for parents, often overshadowed by the notion of “baby blues,” as highlighted by Degges-White.

The enduring impact of postpartum depression, which can extend over months or even years, encompasses lesser-discussed symptoms like OCD manifestations. While commonly associated with women and motherhood, postpartum depression can also affect men.

5. The timing

For some individuals, the regret may not stem from having children per se but rather from the timing of their decisions, noted Degges-White.

For instance, a parent might wish they had completed their education before embracing parenthood or waited until their career was more established to ensure financial stability.

“At times, the issue lies in the timing,” she explained, citing instances where a parent’s current job demands exacerbate the challenges of childcare and school drop-offs.

6. Fear of the future

Degges-White highlighted that certain parents may harbor regrets about having children due to apprehensions about their offspring’s future. Concerns such as the climate crisis may evoke fears of long-term hardships for their children.

“While they cherish their children, they may regret burdening them with such uncertainties,” she remarked.

Nevertheless, many parents, despite harboring concerns about the future, perceive parenthood as a valuable and enriching experience.