Is it normal to regret children?

Psychologist explains | THEREFORE repent
Parents their children

Having children is not easy, everyone knows that. Nevertheless, the results of a recent YouGov study are staggering. According to this, a fifth (20 percent) of German parents would not decide to have children again.

At the same time, for half (52 percent) of parents, parenting is at least sometimes accompanied by a restriction in personal development. Two out of five (44 percent) agree with the statement that they have already sacrificed themselves for the children and the family; 55 percent understand that there are mothers who regret their motherhood.

► Nevertheless, the feeling that you have given up something for your children does not have a negative impact on the love for your offspring. The clear majority of respondents (95 percent) say they love their children, 77 percent say that being a parent gives them satisfaction.

These are the results of the “Regretting Parenthood” study by the international market research and advisory institute YouGov, for which 2045 people, including 1228 parents, aged 18 and over were interviewed from June 15 to 17.

Further study results

  • Children as career killers

    A third (33 percent) of the parents surveyed say that parenting has negative effects on their own professional career.

    ► However, there is a striking gender difference: 44 percent of mothers, but only 20 percent of fathers, share this view.

    ► There is a clearer consensus on whether there is a social expectation of mothers to forego their own careers for their children. 46 percent of fathers and 54 percent of mothers see this as a given.

    ► The parents also see a need to catch up in the care infrastructure. Almost two thirds (64 percent) state that there are too few childcare options.

  • Idealized parent image

    “Parenthood is still idealized. Our study shows that for at least 20 percent of parents the balance of being a parent is negative, ”says Holger Geißler, spokesman for YouGov and himself the father of four children.

    “The reasons for regrets lie, for example, in the difficult professional advancement or in the limited personal development opportunities that being a parent often brings with it. It turns out that the political discussions around the issues of parental leave, daycare places and quotas for women are of high relevance for parents. At the same time, we are all asked to make social conditions more family-friendly, ”says Geißler.

The phenomenon of "regretted parenting"

But what do these study results mean? What do parents have to do when parenting gets over their heads? And how does parent frustration affect the children? BILD asked the psychologist Anke Precht from Offenburg.

BILD: Why do some parents regret having children?

Dipl.-Psych. Anke Precht: “The majority of all parents experience a decline in their quality of life when they have turned from a couple into a family. Even with mothers, there is often not the flash of happiness that is expected (from the mothers themselves and from society), but a neutral feeling, or even the blues.

► But even if parents do not feel as comfortable with their children overall as childless couples of the same age (with the exception of those who suffer because they want children and cannot have them), this does not automatically mean that they regret parenting.

► It is more likely that you are overwhelmed by everyday life, which is so completely different from what you had imagined. Sleepless nights, illnesses, a lot of things that don't work as expected, severe restrictions on personal freedom. "

Are there different reasons for mothers and fathers?

Precht: "Yes and no. Mothers repent differently than fathers:

► Fathers often regret not having used contraception if they did not explicitly want to be a father. Fathers often find themselves in the role of childless fathers after broken relationships: they have children but do not see them and may be at odds with the mother , see themselves as 'number fathers' and therefore quarrel with their fate.

► In the case of mothers, it is generally assumed that they consciously chose motherhood. So they 'have' to be happy to have children, they are expected to be much more socially expected. But if they are not happy with it, even if it is only in phases, they usually hide what can subsequently lead to psychological problems. "

Do parents feel guilty about feeling like this?

Precht: “It would be much healthier if women could say out loud that they sometimes wish to give away the children - without being mistaken for wicked mothers. Usually that's not true either, the mothers wouldn't do that. But being able to let out the frustration is good; Understanding this helps to get through the difficult phase with the children more easily.

In my work I repeatedly experience parents (and especially women here) who struggle with their motherhood, but have a completely guilty conscience because of it. That is the mixture that is really harmful, the women sweep their feelings under the rug and subsequently do not seek support, for example from their partner, or through the possibilities of external care. "

Do children suffer from such feelings from their parents?

Precht: “Children notice the parental conflict and they sense that something is wrong. The children suffer, just as they always suffer when their parents are not doing well. So if parents have the feeling that they have given up their own lives for the children, then the children suffer too.

► As a result, many of them develop an unconscious desire to give their parents back the happiness they have given up for them. These children take responsibility for their parents, either do really well at school to bring joy to the parents, or they don't really break away from their parents later. That is unhealthy.

► If you want to save your own children from having to do this, if you are unhappy with being a parent, you shouldn't try to hide it, but first of all confide in an appreciative and understanding friend or partner. And then look for solutions that will help you lead a happy life despite having a child.

► This can lead to the partner assuming more responsibility. Perhaps also that the unhappy parent entrusts him with the children more. It is not easy for everyone to give up. "

How can parents help each other?

Precht: “It is often good to have the children looked after externally earlier. If you are one year old, you will benefit immensely from having a group of children of a similar age. Childcare is therefore not something that parents should take advantage of when they cannot be there for their children because they have to work. Childcare in groups with children of the same age is good for the children because there they receive development impulses that adults cannot give them at all. Children benefit from it. That is the consensus in most countries.

In Germany, on the other hand, many parents are still looked at incorrectly when they bring their children to daycare at an early age. Many have to listen to caustic or even hateful comments, and this leads parents to wonder whether they might be better off looking after their children at home. This harms the children, and also the parents, who put their lives at the service of the children where it is not necessary or helpful and where other areas of life are extremely neglected. "

Why is it so important that parents do not overwhelm themselves?

Precht: “As role models, children need parents who shape their lives well so that they are happy. After all, parents want their children to learn and do just that. So what better way to do that than by example?

Parents love their children. If they regret being a parent, they usually don't do it because they don't really want these children - but because they have given up parts of their lives that are fundamentally important to them. Parents should avoid that and society should support them in getting both things under one roof: being a parent, but also having their own personality, with their own friends, a partnership that differs from parenting and here and there one Having the moment all to yourself. "

What can parents do when they notice they are overwhelmed by the situation?

Precht: “The first point of contact should be your life partner, if available. This is often the easiest way to lose weight or help the frustrated other person not to fall asleep in front of the television in the evening, but to meet up with old friends. Sometimes you need a boost, and why shouldn't you use it?

Friends can help too, and of course, if that isn't enough, the psychologists. First of all, I think it's important that parents really make themselves aware that they are harming their children if they are not living their own lives. They help children when they actively shape their lives in such a way that they feel good, because they clearly signal to their children: 'You can do that too, make sure that you are happy.' Even if they are not are there for the youngsters around the clock. "

When do parents need professional help? And where are these available?

Precht: “Professionals are in demand when parents feel that they have become really depressed, that they no longer want to leave the house, that they no longer feel joy for a long time, or that they are completely exhausted or that they are increasingly resorting to addictive substances in order to cope with or endure their everyday lives . A parent-child cure is often a good thing, because parents learn to come into contact with themselves again and at the same time can relax a little. "