Karabo Mokoena
Content producer
2 minute read
16 Jul 2021
8:38 am

Parent regret is a real thing – here’s what you need to know about it

Karabo Mokoena

Pregnancy and childbirth are meant to be joyous times, but in 2020 and 2021, parents are regretting bringing babies into the world.

Covid-19 has heightened anxiety amongst parents, but newer parents are experiencing parenting regret. Picture: iStock

Pandemic parenting has heightened anxiety for everyone. For newer parents who had to navigate pregnancy and childbirth during a global pandemic, their anxiety is not only valid but might outweigh most.

For some parents, however, that anxiety is manifesting itself into parenting regret.

‘Why did I have to bring a child into such a cruel world?’

This past week has definitely been a challenging one for our country, and the subsequent fear, panic buying and readjusting has taken its toll on parents.

The regret of having children is more widespread than is known. Motherhood resentment is slowly being normalised, and mothers are being told that it is okay to wish they never had children. This could be connected to a number of things.

Women either feel like they miss who they were before motherhood, don’t know who they are after motherhood,or have no clue what they are doing during the journey.

ALSO READ: Motherhood resentment is a thing – here’s what you should know

When the resentment is tied to guilt, however, the journey becomes darker than most.

A medical system that is not fully equipped to handle the needs of all its citizens, with a failing economy, a raging virus and a country on fire not an ideal world for human life.

This dark time is leading to dark thoughts in new parents, wishing they never became pregnant during this time in the first place.

According to Harvard T.H Chan, “pregnant and postpartum women reported high levels of depression, anxiety, loneliness, and post-traumatic stress during the Covid-19 pandemic”. Add to that, the civil unrest that requires citizens to stay home due to violence simply exacerbates the issues.

Postpartum depression brings with it a multitude of symptoms; regret and recurring negative thoughts being one of them.

According to Psychology Today, parental regret is linked to what parents wish they could redo or undo. The top contributor to this is “regretting circumstances associated with having children”.

This means there are no negative feelings towards the child, but rather about the world they live in.

For South African parents, these feelings are justifiable, as the country’s current circumstances do not inspire any confidence or hope. These feelings are “socially acceptable expressions” and usually parents would be able to express these feelings to others.

These public expressions can help parents overcome this fear, talking to others who might help them manage their feelings or feel less lonely in their anxiety.

What is important to note is the normalcy of this regret, especially in consideration of what is happening around the world and country. A parent’s first instinct is the protection of their child and when external circumstances threaten that instinct, fear and anxiety can loom.

Parents should remember to reach out to others and talk through their feelings, remembering that things are gloomy now, but will not always be so.