Women who fake it

A few days ago, Julie Marsh sent me a link to this article on Jezebel about the mothers who hate motherhood. And just in time for Mother’s Day. The thoughts were all pulled from Whisper, which is something of a cross between a slam book and an anonymous confessional. (Think Post Secret without the filter.)

I have absolutely not stopped thinking about it for three days straight. Take a look and you’ll see why.


Mothers who regret motherhood on whisper - mom-101.com



I hate my son on Whisper via Jezebel - mom-101.com



Motherhood regret on Whisper via Jezebel - Mom-101.com

It’s tough to read.

Then, if you can stomach the bitterness of the comments section, the overall consensus on Jezebel (a site with little love lost for motherhood in general) is that these are the secret thought of all parents. Deep down, every mother hates her kids. Anyone who says she doesn’t is lying.  And to prove it, nearly every commenter seems to offer up some version of the  well every mother I know tells me she actually hates her kids and not to have them and I’m so glad I listened! story.

But I saw something totally different reading that post.

(Perhaps because I’m not actively seeking proof that parenting sucks?)

I look at these anonymous Whisper postings and I see that there are mothers who are depressed and need help.

There are mothers with so little help from family or spouses or deadbeat exes that their burden is overwhelming.

There are single mothers who are so stressed and busy keeping their families afloat, they cannot see their way to a fulfilling relationship in the future.

There are mothers who had children young and still miss the partying and nightlife and semi-reckless abandon of single life. (Though trust me, when you’re my age you actually won’t  miss those things; 40-something women doing body shots off each other on weekends look like idiots. See also: Real Housewives.)

There are mothers in emotionally abusive relationships that leave them battered and raw, with little energy left for finding joy in even their own children.

There are mothers who had such tenuous relationships with their own mothers, it paralyzes them.

And let’s be frank, there are women who exaggerate, or completely fabricate thoughts on places like Whisper because attention–anonymous though it  may be–from the Internet can be a very alluring drug.

Overall, what I think when I read those Whisper comments is not that “the anti-June Cleavers of the internet are venting their socially unacceptable frustrations,” as the author describes. Documenting the difficulties of motherhood or mental health issues has been wildly public–even turned into best-selling books–for years, if you have ever read Scary Mommy and Motherhood Uncensored and Her Bad Mother and The Bloggess and of course, Dooce, for the past decade. What I think instead, is that whether the women on Whisper are anti-June Cleaver, or putting on a June Cleaver mask every day, deep down, they may be struggling.

They’re asking for help.

Or worse, maybe they’re not asking.

Personally, I love motherhood. My girls bring me joy every day, and even with the challenges and stresses and ups and downs (and boobs that no longer stand at attention by themselves, poor things), I have never regretted having children for even a single second. However I have confessed that I didn’t like being pregnant at all. Couldn’t stand it. And I now have the distance and objectivity to see how depressed I was then.

The combination of modified bedrest, the changing body (where did those stray hairs come from?), the fear of toxoplasmosis the second time around,  and other emotional factors that I won’t elaborate on, created a bitter stew of feelings that manifested itself in not-so-productive ways. I ate my weight in chocolate chip pancakes and the weight gain made me feel even worse about myself. I isolated myself in bed with my laptop, passing countless hours on anonymous message boards, feeling snarky and angry. I went days without showering. I rationalized my feelings by furiously typing out the same kinds of sentiments I saw in the Jezebel comments:

Anyone who says she likes pregnancy is lying.

I said it. I wrote it. A lot.

And if there had been Jezebel then, I probably would have said it there too. But it wasn’t true. There are people who love pregnancy; but to acknowledge that would have hurt too much.

Parents who share their joys all over social media aren’t “secretly miserable,” any more than that newly engaged friend who posts 274 photos of her ring is secretly miserable. Plenty of women are happy with kids. Plenty of  women are perfectly happy never having kids. I am an unwavering supporter of both, and do my best not to be cynical about either.

Of course it doesn’t mean any of these women are dancing on rainbows every second of every day. And good God, if that’s what we’re aiming for these days, then we’re all screwed.

However if you find yourself more miserable than not, more regretful than not–especially if you have children–I hope you find the support you need beyond anonymous postings on an app. There are so many resources.

Start with Postpartum Progress. Katherine Stone is a brilliant and compassionate community leader, and has taught me to see the world of depression and mental health problems in a different way. Her site offers, among other things, a list of PPD support groups in the US and Canada plus comprehensive suggestions for great books about depression and related issues.

Articles about mothers who hate motherhood make for juicy clickbait, sure. It’s hard to turn away. And I hope we don’t. I really hope that instead, when we see women reaching out for help, in whatever way, that we try and get past our own initial instincts to crack jokes or roll eyes or pat ourselves on the back or pass judgement, and actually, you know. Help.


69 thoughts on “Women who fake it”

  1. Insightful, Liz. I think every parent has the occasional moment where he/she “hates” the kids for intruding on his/her life — social, martial, professional. But if the thought is more than occasional, more than fleeting, it probably is a sign of a much deeper problem within the person or his/her relationships. Talk to a friend, talk to a professional, don’t write it anonymously on a website. k

  2. I’ve had a number of mothers confide to me that they might have made different decisions about marriage and parenting had they known then what they know now, but they still love their kids and try to be great moms. I’m with you. There is heavy emotional work in parenting (says I looking in from the outside), and I hope these women find the resources they need and the compassion from others to find a better ground for themselves. It’s so easy to judge, but it’s so much more satisfying to our humanity to reach for empathy and help in what ways we can.

    1. You have been on my mind Elan. I had your whole “someone asked me if I felt left out on Mother’s Day” bs comment in my head all day too. I actually wrote a whole thing about that in here but since I was already approaching novel territory, I took it out. Another post perhaps.

      I really appreciate your input as a non-mom here; and I hope that equally, the women who are happy as mothers can accept that oh my God, YOU are happy too.

  3. So sad on so many levels. Sad, as you say, because there may be some underlying depression. And sad, ,because for so many mothers, children rate right up there as one of life’s single biggest joys. How sad to miss that feeling. I think you have very much added to the discussion, Liz, with these great suggestions of wonderful bloggers to read.

  4. I’ve recently entered the teen years, with a son who is diagnosed with ADHD and depression. For the first time in my life, motherhood became HARD. Not “sleepless infant nights” hard, or “small child won’t listen” hard, or even “new math homework” hard, but “keep my son alive” hard. It was eye opening. It was draining. I struggled with my own sense of depression, guilt, and weakness. And still…I wouldn’t change a thing. He’s my son. I love him. I hated what was happening to all of us. I hated how his fear and anxiety made him act out. I still hate that we have SO VERY MANY teen years to go.
    But, I love that we can have very deep talks about feelings and emotions. I love that he can ask me to do more to understand him. I love that I learned that asking for help for him or for me, did not mean failure. It meant we needed more than love to get through these things. And love made me drop my pride and ask for help (a very “un-me” thing to do.) I love him. I love motherhood.
    And I love looking forward to how hard it will likely be when his sister hits her teen years, but I know that my love for them and my love of being their mother will get me through.

    1. I had a depressed suicidal teenage daughter. She’s 30 next month and getting help when she was 15 and 16 is what kept her alive and me sane. You do what you have to at that moment. And you love them openly. And most times it gets better. And one day they’ll tell you that what you did mattered and kept them here and they love you.

  5. I’m going to have to agree with you on this, Liz. I am intimately acquainted with these very thoughts… and they were most prevalent at the height of my depression and anxiety. Even when life takes us in directions we hadn’t planned, or when our actual plans surprise us with unintended outcomes, we all have the ability and the right to be happy. When someone is miserable most or all of the time, they are most likely drowning and need help.

    1. Thank you for sharing this Jenni. I think it’s important to know that there’s a way out of depression and I hope someone who needs it, sees your comment.

  6. Wow, that’s just so sad. There are certainly women who aren’t meant to be mothers who find themselves there, but I agree with you that what I see in these statements is a terrifying lack of support.

    I had such a nice, snuggly day with my kids yesterday, and I’ve been struggling with the reality that my time under my own roof with these people I love so much is limited. They are growing up so fast and I’m proud of who they are and who they are becoming, but I will miss them so much when they move on one day. I hate that I don’t have time for all the things that interest me, but I don’t in any way hate my kids.

    I can’t think of anything more depressing than a child being unwanted.

    1. I also had a great day with my girls, and cherished it knowing it won’t last long. (Even if I did spend Mother’s Day doing more dishes and cleaning more messes than I usually do in a week. Whee!)

      And yet I couldn’t stop thinking of all the people struggling on Mother’s Day. I don’t want us to avoid sharing our joy because of others who might be lacking in it, but I think it’s good to try to be mindful that our own situations–good and bad–are not the only ones.

  7. It’s funny, Liz. I see exactly what you saw in those comments. People who need help, whose lives have not turned out how they expected or hoped, for whom life is a struggle and they can’t see the way out. There are days when parenting is scary and overwhelming and crazymaking, and I have a good life and support system. Imagine how it is when you don’t have that support system. My heart breaks a little bit for those families.

  8. My first thought was: These are mothers who need more childcare and support. (And gee, it sure is nice to have money to afford high quality childcare and not be stuck in some anti-daycare narrative.) So I agree with you!

  9. First, Liz, I must thank you AS ALWAYS for being so supportive of Postpartum Progress. I feel so lucky to have you as a friend.

    And second, thank you so much for writing this. I absolutely agree with your perspective. I hate that Jezebel chose to pick out all of these “whispers” as reflective of how many mothers feel. I don’t take issue with moms being frustrated, complaining, or having a regret or two when they’re frustrated and exhausted. I understand that a billion percent — I’m right there with you ladies!! But when I see a mother saying she regrets having her kids “every single day,” or saying she “hates” one of her children? That says to me this mom has some emotional issues that need to be addressed. Maybe, as you said, she feels this way because she’s alone, has zero support and is suffering toxic stress. Maybe it’s because she had a very damaged or abusive relationship with her own parents. Whatever is contributing to these feelings, though, they’re still unhealthy. If a mom doesn’t get help for them both she and her child may suffer serious damage. That saddens me. We need to talk about the fact that there’s a difference between every day frustration and being annoyed and wanting to whap your kid with a stick (even though you won’t, of course) versus being in a space where you are 100% miserable all the time and don’t like being a mom or want to be a mom in any way. There IS a difference between those two states. And if you find yourself in the latter category it doesn’t make you a horrible person – it means you are struggling mightily and you need help. And that’s okay. As someone who struggles with anxiety, I need help and I’m not ashamed to say it. And I’m glad I get it because I know it makes a difference not only in my life but in the lives of my children.

    Anyway, sorry for the diatribe but this is such an important topic and I’m so glad you addressed it.

    1. Not a diatribe at all! I’m so thrilled to have you lending your perspective. You have really shaped my views, as I’ve said. I look at mental health issues in such a new way now. And I think that women at large should feel so fortunate we live in a time that sites like yours exist to help.

      You’re amazing.

  10. Even at the height of my worst bout with depression, I adored being a mother. Every day. The good, the bad and the downright hard. I spent my mothers day, driving seven hours in a snow storm through the mountains trying to make it home from my parents house. I’d of been downright miserable…except I had my kids with me. They sang and told stories and looked for zombies in the fog and despite it being the exact opposite of how I wanted to spend my day, it ended up being good. Because of them.

    I think you’re right on. The article was written to upset people and more than likely the mothers who wrote those Whispers (I refuse to go read comments over there.) are depressed or very young. I’ve been on that app. It seemed to be all teen mothers or people wanting to find sex partners. Shrug.

    ps. the one about wanting a daughter just hurt my heart. I was one who never cared. I know a few people who really did when pregnant and then didn’t after the baby was born. I’m sure there are people out there though who still care after and it’s just so sad.

    1. I wanted a daughter and still sometimes wish I had had a daughter, but that doesn’t mean I would trade in one of my sons! I love them for who they are.

      1. That I totally get. It was the thought of someone despising their baby because it wasn’t what they wanted. Just made me sad

        I have a cousin with five boys who still wishes for a girl. Just not five girls. 😉

  11. As usual, you’ve tackled this subject with insight and compassion. As for the writers at Jezebel — I have always imagined them as particularly young women. I know that I had similar disparaging thoughts about mothers and motherhood when I was in my 20s, and I was probably dismissive of mothers in general when I was hitting my stride in my early 30s. As you point out, the nice thing about being an older mom (and I am quite a bit older than you) is that I haven’t felt I’ve missed anything by staying home at night with the kids (and actually hate going out on weeknights because I don’t bounce back so quickly any longer). That doesn’t mean I’m happy 100% of the time – no one is. I would hope these dark thoughts these women are expressing are fleeting ones, but I fear that you are right: too many moms are doing the best they can without the support they need. This country pays a lot of lip service to “family values” and “respect for life” — but our policy makers have done very little to support families. It angers me and is what fuels my interest in politics (another thing I ignored when I was in my happy-go-lucky childless years).

    1. Donna you bring up such an awesome point. So many of the commenters there talk about the fetishization of motherhood (in so many words) and yet that flies in the face of lack of resources for the real challenges of motherhood, or widespread support for daycare, paid maternity/paternity leave and so on. I’d love to see your own political take on this!

  12. Oh, Liz, I so often weep for children who seem to not be given a fair shake, but you’ve reminded me of the parents. We all deserve the things we need to make it.

    It’s so important to pause amid all the noise from time to time and actually listen.

    A beautiful, important post. Thank you.

  13. Just one tiny thing from the cheap seats: I wish that women without children weren’t fetishized as mom haters. It’s so tiring, and it’s done by sites like this, perhaps unwittingly, but probably not. From birth to now, at no age did I dislike moms or think (beyond isolated incidents where I didn’t like what a person was saying or doing or thought it was crap and she happened to be a mom and/or what she was saying or doing was related to that role) disparaging thoughts about them. That’s like saying I’d disparage bread or the sky. You are everywhere. We all live together, and I think a lot of the time the reverse judgment is as scary as any mom judgment, but that’s another story (and that’s not what I’m reading in your post, I’m just ruminating.)

    That said, I find it entirely reasonable that a person would end up with children and not like them or what she had to do because of them. I’ve known people who were visibly uncomfortable with being parents, or who had a kid because their husband wanted one (I know this person) and the idea was that her mind would change and it just did not. Was she a bad parent? Lord knows I do not judge this at all. But I do know it wasn’t her best gig. I had a weird mentoring situation with an early professional mentor of mine, who felt completely overwhelmed by parenting and thought she sucked at it and loved her kid but really didn’t like the role very much. I was a sounding board for her, a role I felt completely underqualified for but I didn’t have much choice at the time. This stuff is complicated.

    People need help for all kinds of things, and what I see overall is that so many perfectly capable and loving mothers see themselves as less-than, as bad (I believe that adjective has been discussed in this community at length. :)) and sometimes I think that just because people don’t live up to the projected love of motherhood they see all around them that they feel like maybe they don’t like it at all, or enough. And maybe their perspective gets skewed? “Comparison is the thief of joy” is one of my very favorite quotes, and nowhere does it seem to apply as consistently as in parenting, specifically mothering, situations, whether you’ve got kids or not. Spending the past decade in the life blogo…sphere (do we still call it that?) has given me a dissertation-level interest in the cultural judgments of and distinctions between women based on reproductive status/choice/not-choice/whatever, and if I thought there was enough coffee in the world I’d write it.

    I agree with you that some of these messages sound like depression, and sure, because depression is rampant and often undertreated, and hard to treat when it is being treated. It requires vigilance and concern for oneself that a lot of times a depressed person (speaking as one, for many years, who has a stronger center than ever now but did not for a very long time) just can’t muster up. Just days like yesterday online? If I were teetering. Help me Rhonda.) Thank God for Katherine and the many others who speak up, and advocate, and thank God for the million little moments of connection between friends in real life and the internet that really can save lives –just with empathy, with stepping outside of our own little bubble to ask someone else if we can help, with responding to a chat or text or email with an “I’ve been there.” That’s what saved me when I needed it. (Sorry for the book, Liz. :))

    1. I love your books Laurie. Thank you so much for leaving me with one of them.

      As with Elan, I had written a whole thing about you and your perspectives on such things but…also a book. And now I could probably write another one in response to all your smart points. But I’ll limit it.

      To your first paragraph: I don’t assume for a second that women without children are parent haters. It’s so easy to say “all moms are _____” or “all child-free adults are _____” and it’s stupid. On both sides. That’s why I so so so appreciate all the different perspectives that always get shared on my blog. It’s a great reminder to me every day that there is a community of women (and a few guys) with all different perspectives and backgrounds and lifestyles and political stripes, who can discuss all kinds of topics thoughtfully, without attacking one another. Even–and especially–when we don’t agree. The blog[osphere] gets criticized for groupthink, but sometimes I wonder if people realize how diverse we really are. And that just because it’s not an argument doesn’t mean everyone is of one mind. I love the shades of gray that you and others in the community (lots here right now) provide so frequently. There are so many things I’ve learned, or changed my mind on, or tried to fix about my way of thinking, after reading comments on posts that showed me another way.

      Aaaaand I’m off on a tangent.

      And that quote is damn good.

  14. I don’t have a lot of friends who have children. Because I don’t have any, I think I gravitated towards people like me. I have two longtime friends who have children and neither have ever mentioned that they regretted it. Both are incredibly successful (One a pioneer in Autism, the other at Homeland Security) and had husbands who co-parented equally.

    That being said, I’ve never for one second regretted not having kids. I always joked that my career was my child and demanded way too much of me to share. But since two of my friends combined both motherhood and career, I know it can be done. Just not by me.

    Have people called me selfish? Not to my face. I enjoy my freedom, the traveling, the fun. And yes, the endless ENDLESS career issues.

    1. Living without regret is one of the greatest gifts we can give to ourselves.

      Ugh did I just say that? Stick that in a crappy typeface and put it on Pinterest.

  15. I started work for a new client recently – their customer base is expectant parents. Naturally they’ve done some market research, and it focuses primarily on moms. In describing it to me the client said “these women are excited but they’re also mourning their former selves.”

    I don’t know that men can fully appreciate the scale of transformation that women experience when they reach “motherhood.” Yes, men experience a transition, but I think it’s different. (please don’t beat up on me, dad bloggers.)

    Sadly, I think this lack of perspective has a lot to do with how little we actually do to support moms. I’m not sure I have answers but I think it starts with making sure every mom’s basic needs are met.

    1. You always have great insight on this and I’m glad you bring up the gender differences. It’s really hard to explain that to men; they think you’re one-upping them instead of identifying a true physiological and emotional transformation, like you describe. It’s profound. And YES YES YES can we keep talking about the lack of institutionalized support forever? I’m sure so many of these feelings could be addressed with some basic changes in our society.

      You’re awesome David. I always love seeing your face pop up here.

  16. I clicked over to the Jezebel / Whisper link before reading your post, and my thought was actually the same as yours: I felt sorry for the women (I assume) publishing these pictures and comments, thinking they need help, not a bandwagon.

    I just had lunch with a guy who told me he and his wife have decided not to have children, and it made me a bit sad. I understand why they so chose–he’s in a band and owns a restaurant; she is a producer for HGTV; they both travel all the time and work all the time–but I couldn’t hide my being a bit sad that they won’t get all the privileges of being a parent that I’ve enjoyed and know they would enjoy, too. That said, I am only able to work a lot, travel a lot, and keep up a lot of old friendships because we can afford help for house cleaning, yard work, and baby sitting while letting my wife work (mainly at night) from home. If I were a single dad with a low household income, I probably would feel depressed and trapped, too.

    1. I think this goes back to the post about whether someone can be happy without kids. It’s natural to want to share the joys you feel–it’s lovely. But I think it’s good for us to learn not feel bad for couples that make other choices. There’s no one path to happiness. I’m sure there are plenty of reasons your friends feel bad for you, ha. Thanks Michael. (And love the new branding!)

  17. I find it hard to imagine that any mother can really “hate” her kids. “Resent”, perhaps, in the sense of a robbed youth or lost career, but hate, I can’t see, in any mother but one that’s seriously disturbed.

    1. Well, someone wrote those words right? So then either it’s hyperbole for attention (which I suggested) or as you say, having some real problems that need addressing.

  18. I am a depression survivor. One of my most recent posts on my blog was titled “When Becoming A Parent Is Hard.” I think, for me, that the fantasy of a baby and the reality of being a parent was where I fell down the hole.

    Somehow our society has bought into the idea that life should be happy all the time, and I believe that compounds the problem when those of us for whom life is difficult for any number of reasons and are struggling. Life isn’t supposed to be happy all the time. It’s supposed to be worth it. Things that are truly worth it are rarely easy and fun. The fulfillment of your life comes when you rise to the occasion. When I spoke up and said, “I’m struggling with these feelings and I need help,” is when the tide turned and I became ABLE rise.

    Articles like this with the accompanying comments make me feel sad, too. The greatest gifts of my life have been my children, even with all of their noise and mess and worry and medical needs. It’s through parenting them that I came to know myself.

    1. Extra thought: I have personally never judged a woman for deciding NOT to have children. I have a few friends for whom parenthood just wasn’t what they wanted for their lives. I appreciate a woman who doesn’t cave to the societal pressure – it’s gotta be tough. I can’t help but wonder how many women decided to have children because it was what was expected of them, instead of an actual desire.

    2. I’m really honored by so many of you sharing your own stories of childhood and motherhood. While not everyone who has huge problems with parenting is depressed, I think it’s great that we look at what we can do to help them. I’m so glad you came out strong on the other side, Karen. We need you!

  19. Oh my goodness…I could write a novel in response to this but I will try not to and I usually don’t comment on things like this. 🙂 My initial reaction to reading these pictures was deep sadness. I am the child of parents that didn’t want me. And I was the wrong sex. If there was going to be another child it should have at least been a boy. While my father did tell me this when I was quite young and many times through out my growing up, he wouldn’t have had to tell me because I already knew it. I felt it. Now my father being an alcoholic and my mom an abused depressed woman, all of this is understandable. But growing up knowing and feeling unwanted is a horrible feeling. And just reading these statements causes me to cry for these unwanted children. I want to tell these parents to get help NOW before their children have to feel this any longer than necessary. If parents think their children don’t know they are sadly decieving themselves. As long as they stay in this state, they will pass this on to their children and it will go on and on. It is selfish to not get help becuase their children didn’t ask to come into this world and make life miserable for them. Children that grow up knowing that they are not wanted and that their parents are miserable will grow up believing the are responsible for their parents happiness and the cause of their parents unhappiness.

    Because of this, I grew up not wanting children. I swore I would never ever have children. I remember crying myself to sleep and begging God to put me in home where I was wanted. Carrying the responsibility of my parents unhappiness nearly destroyed me. I started using drugs and alcohol and cutting myself and starving myself to deal with all these emotions. I went until I nearly died. I found help and found my way to people that wanted me.

    Ironically I have 7 children and there has not been a single moment I have regreted having any of them. I don’t always like them and I have bad days like any other parent but they are wanted with every fiber of my being. They are now 33, 32, 31, 27, 25, 9 and 8 and are happy healthy people whom have never had to experience living in a home where they were not wanted. Thank God I found help and hope so I didn’t pass this down to them. So if you are reading this and you think your children don’t know you secretly don’t like being their mother or father or want them, stop fooling yourself. They know. They can feel it.

    1. Thank you for sharing what must be deeply painful. I so appreciate the good it may do for someone else. Whatever happened in your past, I’m glad you’ve found some peace with it–you have quite a family there to show for it!

  20. I feel sorry for those women – but not because they’re mentally ill, or young, or undersupported. It’s because you all assume that in order to regret having children, a woman must be mentally ill. Way to call them liars to their (anonymous) faces, and then wonder why they feel the need to be anonymous.

    You are STILL doing it – not able to accept someone else’s different experience!

    I don’t regret having children. Like you, I find joy in them every day. But to call the women who made those comments mentally ill and then admonish them to get help for the children’s sake, because kids can tell you are faking it and you might damage them – WTF is that? That is the whole point of their anger, the whole source of their pain, that they are not really human any more, just slaves of what society values more than women, their children. Denying their lived experiences by telling them they’re sick makes me feel sick.

    1. Regret can lead to depression, depression can lead to regret. It’s a chicken and egg situation, and I think you might want to reread the post if your primary takeaway is some kind of patriarchal enslavement of women.

      I am trying to be respectful, but I admit I am having a hard time with the fact that you are painting every commenter here with a “you all assume…” brush; and then, ironically, deny the experiences of a person here who shared a very personal, difficult memory. If you have another opinion to offer, even a passionate one, feel free–but please do so with the same respect that the commenters here show one another, even when they disagree with one another. They have earned that.

    2. You say “mentally ill” as though it’s offensive. You can ignore the facts if you’d like, but if a woman feels on a daily basis that she is miserable, doesn’t want to be a mother and regrets the fact that she has to be a mother, that is a serious problem. She is living in misery (and she doesn’t have to) and her children likely are too (and they don’t have to). I don’t think that suggesting seeking support from a therapist, for instance, to talk about why she has these feelings and what tools she might employ to live a life that she can find more joy in is a bad thing. A mom who spends every day feeling inhuman and like a slave to her children needs and deserves help. That’s no way to live.

    3. I’ve been thinking about your comment since I read it. Truth is, I do know people who just never should have had kids. They aren’t cut out for it, they don’t like it, and no amount of therapy will change that fact. It sucks for them, and it REALLY sucks for their kids, who didn’t ask to be born but who now have to live with this crap situation. But if someone is miserable and unhappy in their lives, doesn’t it stand to reason that looking for ways to NOT be miserable and unhappy would be a good idea? Hating your life sucks. If you hate your life, you should try to change it if you can. Talking about it and therapy and support groups are ways to help people do that. Nobody’s saying that anyone is not human for not being happy with their situation. What they’re saying is, there are ways to maybe not be not happy. Maybe, you know, check them out.

      1. Also (and then I swear I’ll shut up … I promise), suggesting someone is struggling emotionally and should seek help doesn’t mean we’re saying they have a clinical mental illness. You don’t have to have depression or anxiety or bipolar disorder or any other type of mental illness to seek help, and if you seek emotional support it doesn’t mean you’ll be diagnosed with one necessarily (unless, of course, you have one). It means you recognize that everyone needs help sometimes, and seeing an objective third party you can talk to who is an expert on emotional health is a great way to get that help. Therapists work with plenty of people who just need a little help and support.

        1. I love you Katherine. You are one of my favorite voices of reason, always.

          Zchamu – you’re not so bad yourself.

  21. I think a holiday such as Mother’s Day can bring out negative feelings for people. As a single mom I am usually pretty good at keeping my expectations in line. I know I am not going to be showered with gifts and breakfast in bed. He is only 7 for crying out loud! But as the day went by and seeing all the great mom’s day posts, I let myself start to feel sorry for myself. It took a few hours (ummmm half day) to pull myself out of my funk.
    I am lucky. I have a great family and support group. Without it I can see how it can pull you down. Can’t let the hallmark-y expectations knock you down.

  22. You almost lost me just with the mention of Jezebel.

    Whew, those are hard to read. There was a point last year when I felt like some bloggers who also happened to be moms were expressing ,”I don’t like being a mother” sentiments to be edgy. But then there were others that I absolutely heard the “help me” through it. Then others just reminded me of my mom. I had a horrible relationship/ experience with my mom. She is not maternal in any way. She never acted like she wanted me. I felt that deeply. I owe a lot to the person (and mother) I am because of all of that. And I still have to try hard to respect that motherhood isn’t for everyone,I guess. It’s hard for some people to think of motherhood as anything other than this idealized social construct that’s been created. My MIL made a huge point at Christmas luncheon this past year to proclaim that “some women don’t have that mothering instinct. Science says so!” and making it clear that she doesn’t feel a bit bad to count herself as one of those women. I don’t quite know how I feel about the non-anonymous confessions like that (yeah,feelings were hurt) but it’s worse that women who feel a certain way about their motherhood would have to keep it anon :-/

  23. This is a really interesting discussion. The images you listed do sound like depression to me. I do think, though, it’s possible for people to regret having kids without being depressed. It’s not possible for ME, but I live near two different families visibly strained by the presence of their children. I know they love those children, but it’s also clear they are unhappy a lot and the cause of that unhappiness is the children, the children’s activities, the children’s arguing, the costs of raising the children, etc. If the children hadn’t been born, they might be going about very different lives that might be more fulfilling for them. I’ve watched them before and felt profoundly blessed that I don’t feel that way about my lot in life.

  24. You know, I struggled A LOT when I first became a mother. I was not at all prepared for how much my life would change, and yes I mourned some of what I quickly realized I would have to set aside for awhile. I had a baby who was a difficult sleeper and also demanded a lot of attention when she was awake, so I struggled with intense sleep deprivation, and all I will say about that is that there is a reason sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture.

    And I struggled with realizing that for probably the first time in my life, there was truly no way to be seen as “doing it right.” I couldn’t be the “good girl” in this situation, because there was no real agreement on what that meant. Unless you cut yourself off from the rest of the world, you cannot escape the slew of strident and often contradictory messages about what it means to be a “good mother.” In retrospect, that was really hard for me, particularly since my older daughter in particular just doesn’t follow the standard path people know and that you find in the parenting books. She is wonderful and amazing- and I have slowly realized that the advice that works on “most kids” (including my younger daughter!) just does not work for her. But of course, the rest of the world doesn’t know that (and why should they?) so it is quite easy for someone to look at us from a place of limited knowledge and wonder why don’t we do things differently. I still have to work on just smiling and ignoring the judgmental comments masquerading as concern about various parenting issues, and I am much, much more confident in my mothering now than I was at the start. This learning to ignore what the rest of the world thinks of my decisions may be the biggest gift motherhood has given me in terms of personal growth, but it was a hard won gift.

    I’m not sure where I’m going with this comment. Maybe I just want to say: I found the first year or so of parenthood unbelievably hard, and I found the larger culture to be pretty crappy to me about how I was mothering AND the fact that I found it hard. I was fortunate to have many things to help mitigate that: a very involved partner, a wonderfully supporting wider family, no clinical depression, and plenty of money to buy solutions where I could and to make it so no one ever judged me for having a baby I couldn’t afford or nonsense like that.

    If I hadn’t had all of those positive mitigating factors, I might feel very differently about motherhood than I do now. (Which, for the record is: I love being a mother and feel so lucky to get to watch my amazing children grow and develop.)

    Even with all the personal growth and greater mothering confidence I have now…. I can’t bear to go read the original posts or the Jezebel story. I think I’ll donate some money to my favorite local charity that works with struggling families instead.

    Thanks for this post.

  25. I don’t usually comment (I don’t know that I ever have) but this particular post spoke to me. I thought the same thing when I read those — these women are depressed. As a post-partum depression survivor and a mother who is still dealing with depression every day, I think when you feel this way towards your children, you really are redirecting your hatred of yourself. My depression often manifests itself in irritability or anger but when I step back and evaluate, it’s always ME that’s making me angry! Why can’t I be more patient? Why can’t I be more laid back? Why can’t I be more fun? Why can’t I be more on top of things? My kids are always just being…kids. Their behavior is perfectly appropriate and expected — it’s my reaction (sometimes) that I hate. I love my kids so much that reading those words from other mothers made me sick to my stomach out of pity for them. How sad that they can’t see that the real issue is their feelings, not their kids, and seek help.

  26. Loved this! I have regrets but I do not regret my children. I do regret not getting genetic testing before but I had no solid reason to do so (or so I thought). I’m a mom who landed in Holland and not Italy, it’s effin hard some days but I have never said I hate my kids, or regret them, or wish they were not here… We really need to de-stigmatize mental health so that these women (and the silent others) can be comfortable seeking help.

  27. I appreciate this post so much, Liz. I have friends who aren’t cut out to make crafts and have a Pinterest-worthy experience with their kids (me neither), but they love their kids unconditionally.

    This was probably my favorite part:

    “Parents who share their joys all over social media aren’t “secretly miserable,” any more than that newly engaged friend who posts 274 photos of her ring is secretly miserable.”

    I love my kids. I love being a Mom. I thank God EVERY DAY that I get to (Get to!) be a Mom to these three amazing children. I’m not secretly miserable. I am just so happy that despite my shitty parents, I came out on the other side, able to spend my days with some pretty amazing little people. And a pretty amazing big guy.


    1. Oh God, if crafting is now the evidence of our success as parents I’ll be first in line to raise my hand and say, I’m screwed!

  28. I think there are multiple layers here. To say that either “these women hate their children” or “these women must be depressed” is much too limited. Either of those scenarios may be true in some cases….and neither of those statements may be true in others. I think in this age of Pinterest and Facebook–where it’s easy to post pretty pictures or wax poetic about motherhood–women are treated reproachfully if they voice negative thoughts about motherhood. And aren’t there negatives to motherhood? To any job? Isn’t that okay to say? One can love her children immensely, love being a mother and still somewhat mourn who she was *before* she had children. There are days in the midst of temper tantrums, endless demands and never-ending chores when my pre-kid life looks pretty tempting. That life may not have been as full, but it was a lot easier. Women who outright say they hate their children may feel that way…or they may just be having a bad moment and are purging a thought. I think there is a lot of gray area here.

    1. I think we’re saying the same thing Deirdre. There are lots of reasons mothers may be unhappy in their situation (I listed a few of them) and indeed, there’s a difference between venting–even with hyperbole–and feeling that each day your existence is miserable.

      If you’re in the former camp, and writing a post about a bad day helps, I think that’s absolutely wonderful. One of the best things about blogging and social media. But if you’re in the latter camp, that’s when you need more than an anonymous forum. Feeling misery and regret every day is an awful way to live, whatever the reason. That’s why I think we need to look beyond the venting sometimes and ask ourselves whether there’s something more going on here, and whether we as a community can help do something to offer support.

      Thanks for commenting and reminding us that the world is never black and white.

  29. I think that with social/sensational media, it gives people a space (good or bad) to say what they feel at that moment. But that moment cannot be taken back–it is there forever.

    I also think what we should glean from this as well is that parenting is hard. Parenting today is different on many levels than when our parents did it. I am with my kids more than my parents were with me. Not because I am a better parent, but because when I was growing up, I would leave my house after school to ride my bike or play in the neighborhood and wait for my mom to yell for us or to call around to the different neighbor houses to find us.

    I couldn’t imagine not knowing where my kid was. I get nervous (and I know I shouldn’t) when my kids walk next door.

    The economic situation of many families also compounds the problem–2 parents working families creates a lot of stress. Whose work is more important–who gets to work the extra hours and who leaves to get the kids and make dinner?

    I certainly love my kids. I love being their mom and they bring so much more joy to my life than anything else. But there are fleeting moments (not when I hate them–never that) when I think back to a simpler time when I only had to worry about me and I dream.

    But then I wake from that dream and look in their faces and can’t think of anything better. But as you said, I have a great spouse, family that helps, friends that understand, and that really makes all the difference.

  30. Yes, these mothers need help. I think it’s one thing to say that most, if not absolutely all, mothers/parents feel the drudgery of motherhood at some point. That’s not the same as hating being a mom. If you truly hate your life, and the feeling is relentless, please, please ask for help.

  31. This is why I love reading your blog, Liz. Honestly. Your ability to see beyond face value on a “hot topic” is fantastic. And it’s very clear from the stories about your children that they are growing up to look at “big” pictures.

    1. That’s a huge compliment Craig, thank you. My favorite part is discussions like these. I’m learning so much from all of you.

  32. I’m a bit late to the discussion, but wanted to chime in. I delayed having children for many years because I was afraid I would be one of those moms who regretted having kids. My mom was a lonely, depressed and overburdened single mom and though I know she and my middle brother were planned and wanted, I also know the accidental twins that rounded out our family were nearly aborted (my dad wouldn’t let her). I don’t remember her ever enjoying us, it was always a case of her wanting things to be different and better than they were. “All I want for Mother’s Day/Christmas/my birthday is four good kids who don’t fight” was her standard reply to inquiries about what she wanted for presents. Talk about pressure!

    But, I love my kids more than anything (don’t tell my husband). They are the best thing I ever did, and I wholeheartedly tell people that. They drive me bat-shit crazy half the time, but I don’t regret a single moment I’ve spent with them.

    The most unexpected thing I found about parenthood, besides how much I loved my kids, is how hard it is. The moment they were born a clock started ticking down the time I will share with them on earth. And that’s hard, especially as someone who had kids at 40. I think that burden of a constant reminder of our mortality can be too much for some people. It forced me to live in the moment in ways I had not previously been comfortable with, and I am so grateful for that. Having kids cracked my heart open way beyond my expectations, and all those emotions were hard to take. I imagine they could overwhem some people who weren’t prepared for it, and didn’t have the skills to adapt, and that could lead to depression.

    Getting back to my mom, I know now that all she ever wanted was a June Cleaver happy family. She didn’t find it in her family of origin, and she didn’t get it in her marriage to my alcoholic father. She was not, and still is not, someone who can face the hard feelings, who can allow herself to hope, the prospect of disappointment is too crushing to her. Submitting to motherhood makes one incredibly vulnerable, and there are a lot of people who want to numb those feelings (cue Brene Brown).

    Just my two cents.

  33. Amazing, Honest & Well-written. I’ll be back to your blog. Often.

  34. This reminds me of a book I recently read called “All Joy and No Fun.” The author talks about the things that make motherhood miserable, such as: sleep deprivation, motherhood being such a drastic change, hardly any time to oneself or autonomy, etc.

    But she also points out just how much joy motherhood brings. It’s hard work, but you don’t get the same joy from motherhood as you would from eating at a five-star restaurant. It’s a different kind of high that you don’t really get elsewhere.

    Like most moms I assume, first-time motherhood was a big slap in the face for me. It was hard, man. Yes, I reminisced about my previous life, one where I smack myself silly for not taking advantage of all the time I had to myself, one where I could sleep in til who knows when. I think those first few months are the toughest.

    But then you get through it, and like you said, I think if you harbor such strong feelings, you might want to reconsider your life arrangement. I have insanely good support from my family and friends, I have a co-parent who equally parents (and doesn’t just ‘babysit’) and I’m in a stable financial stage. I imagine moms who don’t have those things would have a really difficult time seeing the joy in motherhood.

    It breaks my heart to think of kids in more dire circumstances, and I hope that the anti-June Cleaver thoughts don’t always mean anti-motherhood thoughts.

  35. Wow. Your response to this topic is so NOT what I thought I’d be reading. I was surprised. And taken aback. Mostly because I get it.  Thank you. I didn’t even know I felt the same way, until you said it. My first reaction to those pictures was outrage. Disgust. I was horrified that a mother could say those things. As I read your thoughts however, it took me back to my own post-partum hell- and I remember. I remember thinking (and saying through tears, screaming through rage) I Love My Child But WHAT HAVE I DONE??!! Those days were terrifying. The darkest of my life. I wanted to disappear- to cease existing- to leave my child without his mother- but he happened to be my only reason for not dying,  because I just couldn’t leave him alone to face the situation I couldn’t handle myself. 

    No one wants to believe that a mother can regret or hate their children. But I also dont want to think any of these women are really going through what I went through either.  Either way, the whole situation is terrible. I hope these women are nothing more than sad internet trolls- the alternative hurts too much to think about.

    If they are real, and they are sick, hopefully having the option to vent the shameful (in our own mind anyway) feelings we have in our darkest moments, will be cathartic, in a way only venting those feelings can.  Perhaps it will lead them onto a brighter path. Maybe to seek help. 

  36. I suspect for many, most, of these women, you’re right on target. There are, however, women out there who simply should not have had children, and regret it. My cousin is one of them, and I honestly do not believe that she is depressed or not supported. She isn’t rich by any stretch of the imagination, but she has money to take herself to the spa, but not enough to buy her kids fresh fruits and vegetables. Because if she does, they’ll eat them too fast, and then where will she be? She’s an asshole, and there’s no denying that there are, indeed, assholes out there, who should not have had children. Who find little satisfaction in it, regret it, and look forward to the day that these same kids fly the coop. It’s beyond sad, truly.

  37. I don’t relate to this as a mother at all. I find being a mother stressful but it feels RIGHT. I feel fulfilled, just like they say–there was a hole in my heart and now there isn’t.

    But–I guess I like this because it explains why some women are such terrible mothers. However, I don’t see them being as honest with themselves as this. I wonder about my mother. But she’d say she loves being a mother even though she clearly hated all the things that she had to DO as a mother. I’m sure she must have felt like this. It was a different time then and I think the attitude was: you are lucky to have been born! Your mother gave you life. Anything else is icing on the cake. People don’t feel that way anymore. Obviously, it’s good they don’t but you wonder what changed. Birth control?

  38. DING DING DING!! I think you’re spot on, here.

    I am working on an sociological/psychological-angled article about the rarely-explored minority of parents who are shamelessly disinterested in their own kids — perhaps even resentful. The “Hands-Off-I’ve-Got-Better-Things-to-Do” parents we all see pawned off on nannies/nanas… (often heavy stuff is going on inside). If anyone knows one of these parents who might be willing to vent (anonymously), I would sure appreciate a ping, thanks.

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