“I will not have any more children! This is my last one,” said a mother as she looked at her young son lying on a hospital bed. This mother was my roommate because some time ago, Naneni was hospitalised for a week in hospital.
While it was the first for us, in the four years of Naneni’s existence, it was not the first time this mother and child were hospitalised.
Her emotions did not at all shock me. Children are a lot of work but the job is even harder for those who care immensely. Is she a bad parent for being so frustrated that the experience has put her off of having more children? Certainly not. There is nothing more draining than the worry and experience of spending time in the hospital with a sick child. At some point, she developed a migraine from the constant stress.
Of course, in this case, my pediatric ward roommate was only denouncing motherhood out of sheer frustration but some actually look at their children and regret becoming parents. Did you plan the child/children you have? Did you want to be a parent? Were your children an accident? Not all children are planned and contrary to popular belief, not all children born in holy matrimony were planned either.
What exactly is planning for a child anyway? Logically (to me) when one has sexual intercourse, the most favourable outcome is pregnancy and pregnancy leads to the birth of a child. Yes, there are many ways one can prevent pregnancy from occurring, but that is beside the point. When sexual intercourse occurs, one should be prepared for the possibility of conceiving.
Even though you didn’t actively plan to have a child, you knew of the possibility, and this, in my opinion, erases all the excuses one may have for not “planning the child”.
However, sometimes even the parents who plan a child, end up regretting the decision because parenting turns out to be more than they expected. Or perhaps their life circumstances changed after having a child which negatively impacted how they perceive the child’s presence in their lives. Sometimes, maybe the parent assumed parenting was a poetic experience, only to find out that there are sleepless nights and a lot of self-sacrificing.
What do you then do when you stare at your children in their faces and wish they didn’t exist? Many parents have and will feel this way at some point in their life but to varying degrees.
In a conversation with my male friend some months ago, he spoke of his young son and said, “this fella messed up my life. I received a scholarship to study abroad before he was born. I had to turn it down.” He, however, speaks affectionately of his son. Many parents including myself have had to make choices that benefit the children at their expense. Just like my friend, studying abroad would be a great experience but that has not been an option for me because there was no way I would leave my young child in the care of someone else. But when I see my peers obtaining their qualifications from an international university, I do become cognisant of the fact that Naneni’s existence has held me back in certain aspects of my life. However, I do know that I would make the choice over and over again in a heartbeat.
While some parents run away from children they do not want, others who feel the same way stay but unfortunately the frustration turns them into abusive parents. And neither of these scenarios is ideal, not for the parent and not for the child/children. It is psychologically damaging to a child to feel or know that he/she was a mistake by constantly being made to feel unwanted.
What is important to note is that feelings of wishing you didn’t have children, is a common experience. What matters is how you deal with these emotions and how you navigate through them. How you can cater to your children, while simultaneously ensuring that you do not overwhelm yourself to an extend of walking away from parenthood. It is important to acknowledge that you are struggling with parenting and to seek help. Acknowledging these negative emotions does not make you a bad parent and seeking help instead of running away or abusing your children is almost heroic.
If it’s any consolation, I can almost guarantee you that in a few years, when your children are adults and the responsibility to raise them is off of your shoulders, your regrets may become a thing of the past. In the meantime, the children are already there, so how do you make this experience pleasant for everyone?
* My name is Paulina N. Moses (PRP), mother to my four-year-old daughter, Naneni. This column hopes to create momentum for positive parenting by candidly discussing everything about parenting, while a network of millennial parents who support and cheer one another on.
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