How to Stop Fearing Regret and Find Clarity

A few weeks ago, we delved into the topic of regret. It was once assumed that every parent loved being a parent, but we now know that’s not true. As a childfree person nearing closer and closer to thirty years old, I am often warned that I will eventually regret my decision to be childfree. While I know these people do not possess the ability to predict the future, the question tends to haunt me.

Back when I was on the fence about the decision to have children, I was most worried about regret. What if I have kids and it turns out terribly? What if I don’t have kids and start to regret it once its too late?

Just as the people questioning me cannot predict the future, neither can I. There’s really no sense trying, either. The only thing anyone can do when facing a major life decision is to consider matters carefully and choose accordingly. I’ve learned that regret itself isn’t all that bad. The fear of regret, however, can be paralyzing.

By nature, I am an indecisive person. A question like “What do you want for dinner?” can send me into a spiral in which I may never formulate an answer. However, when my husband returns from the local deli with an egg salad sandwich, I’ll quickly realize what I don’t want to eat. And that may just be the key.

Sometimes we have to figure out what we don’t want before we can figure out what we do. In my case, I had to realize that despite the fear of regret, I truly didn’t want to have children. Once I decided against parenthood, I could begin focusing on what I wanted my life to look like.

I spoke about regret and indecision with Ann Davidman, Motherhood Clarity Mentor, licensed marriage and family therapist, and co-author of Motherhood – Is It For Me? Your Step-by-Step Guide to Clarity. Ann holds comprehensive 14-week clarity courses that help women and men who are struggling with indecision about parenthood.

Here’s what Ann had to say:

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“I Would Give Anything to Not Be Their Mom”: An Interview About Parental Regret

“You’re going to regret not having children.”

Whether this statement is given as a warning or uttered out of ignorance, if you’re childfree, you’ve probably heard this before. In retaliation to parents’ bluntness, some childfree people have been know to reply, “Well, do you regret having children?” This question is, of course, meant to be a conversation stopper. Little did we know though, some actually do regret having children.

Recently, we are seeing more and more brave individuals stepping forward and admitting that having kids isn’t all they thought it would be. The Guardian published an article last month featuring parents who regret having children. One of whom is Victoria Elder. After giving birth to her baby girl, her immediate instinct came by way of this thought:

“‘Oh, no. What have I done? This was a huge mistake.’”

When Colin and I were trying to determine whether or not to have children, regret is a topic that came up often. Our society as a whole seems to be regret-centric.

“…regret in cultures such as the U.S., where individuals have more choice over their life’s course, versus in cultures with arranged marriages, where family have much more control over life choices…regret is much more commonly experienced and reported…”

-Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D of The Psychology of Regret

I suppose it is not unusual, then, that I can quickly call to mind several of my regrets. From eating something unhealthy for dinner last week, to snapping at my boss a year ago, to the purchase of our fixer upper home some eight years ago, I’ve certainly felt my fair share of discomfort from poor life choices- both big and small.

Even though I am no stranger to this feeling, when I think of Elder’s experience of looking into the small eyes of her brand new and totally dependent human and seeing a giant mistake staring back at her, I can’t help but think her feelings are stronger than regret. When reading her story, I myself was overcome with an overwhelming sense of sadness. A sadness that gives way to empathy and helplessness. A sadness that makes me want to travel back in time to wrap my arms around both mother and child and replace remorse with assurance instead.

Shortly after the article on the guardian.com was published, a woman came forward saying she would give anything to not be her children’s mother. She was kind enough to speak with me and gave me permission to publish her words anonymously. Here is our conversation:

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The Struggle to Sterilization: An Interview with Childfree Woman of 2016

 

Childfree Woman of 2016, Crystal Money

There has been a lot of buzz lately about women’s reproductive rights. After reading the many stories of women speaking out about their method of choice for birth control, I was even inspired to share mine. I also felt encouraged to get in touch Crystal Money, 2016 Childfree Woman of the Year. Although Crystal was not nominated for the way in which she remains childfree, her tubal ligation has certainly sparked interest. In fact, Crystal will be giving a TedX talk next month about her recent sterilization surgery. Prepare to be emboldened as we hear from Mrs. Money herself:

In your interview with Laura Carroll, you mentioned trying a variety of birth control methods at the insistence of your doctors but were unsatisfied with the side effects. Which contraceptives did you try before ultimately choosing a tubal ligation? Can you elaborate on the side effects?

I honestly don’t remember the names of all of the pills I tried, but I can say that I tried a variety of pills over the course of several years, and the worst side effects were frequent night terrors and night sweats. The shot option made me bleed non-stop for four months. Then the last option I tried at the insistence of doctors was an IUD. With the IUD I felt a constant depression and as if I was always being jabbed from the inside. While these side effects aren’t detrimental, I just didn’t see a reason to have any of them when I knew that I never wanted children. For the past 5 years I have known for certain that I wanted a tubal ligation, and the only thing standing in my way were all of these alternatives that the doctors were actually willy to prescribe.

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