One to One Coaching

I offer free 30 minute telephone/Skype consultations for people wanting to find out more about coaching on the 'baby decision'. Email me at and assistant Laura will respond and arrange an appointment with you. Visit for more information about my coaching services.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Regretting Motherhood

A few years ago, I took a short course with the a charity for parents in the UK called the NCT that supports new parents. The course was for people who wanted to be trained  to support women who were in the post-natal period.  There were a few reasons for this - as a coach coaching on the baby decision I thought I would be a good idea to have some further training and expertise in the challenges that new mothers face. I was also considering facilitating Post-Natal groups or courses that are offered by the NCT.  But my main reason was personal. As some of you know, after a couple of years of trying to decide whether to have children or not, I did decide to have my son Sam (I write about how this process led me to coach women on the this decision in this article on my website Why I Decided to Coach on the Baby Decision  

I was spectacularly unprepared for the mixture of emotions I had just have birth in those first few weeks.  I had expected this to be a glowing, wonderful period of calm and feeling happy.  Instead, I felt anxious, worried and very ambivalent about being a new mother.  In fact, on my third day of my son's life I wondered quietly to myself if I had indeed made a terrible mistake.   I thought I was very odd, maybe the only one who ever felt this way.

 But it turns out that I was not an unusual case.

Rachel Cusk was a trailblazer in talking openly about her experience of maternal ambivalence in the Book 'A Life's Work'   In this article I was only being honest written for the Guardian in 2008, she writes about her shock at the extreme negative comments she received.

I was accused of child-hating, of postnatal depression, of shameless greed, of irresponsibility, of pretentiousness, of selfishness, of doom-mongering and, most often, of being too intellectual. One curious article questioned the length of my sentences: how had I, a mother, been able to write such long and complicated sentences? Why was I not busier, more tired? Another reviewer - a writer! - commanded her readers not to let the book fall into the hands of pregnant women. The telephone rang and rang. I was invited on the Today programme to defend myself. I was invited on the Nicky Campbell programme to defend myself. I was cited everywhere as having said the unsayable: that it is possible for a woman to dislike her children, even to regret having brought them into the world.

Recently more media attention has been given to the issue of maternal ambivalence - shadow side of motherhood.  As the article in the Guardian Love and Regret points out, more research on women who do regret being mothers has been done in different countries around the world.  Interestingly, all the research shows that the women still report loving their children while regretting motherhood.

For my work, this issue has very particular resonance as the fear that they will regret their decision is one of the fears about deciding to have children that  I've heard from clients coming to see me.   I've written a number of times about regret here on the blog  (most recently on the topic Will I Regret Not Having Children  )

So what should you do if you are worried that you might regret having a child?

What I do with all my clients is ask them to get out all there fears and tell me what they think they might lose or regret by having children.  I do believe that we are much less likely to feel regret if we have given ourselves the opportunity to really explore and express our fears and worries before making a decision.  There is no point hiding or pretending that motherhood might not come with some loss.    I work with clients to look at that loss - for example, a loss of freedom (particularly in the early years although this gets less as your children get older).  Is it unbearable?   If you knew you would have aspects of your old life back when your children grew, would it be more bearable?  And, if you did have children, would you be embracing?

The more we can get away from the simplistic notion of motherhood as being this wonderful ideal and the more honest we can be about the shadow side of motherhood, the more we can make positive choices that are right for us.

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