Child-free woman inspires parents to admit they 'regret' having kids (2024)

A woman who is child-free by choice has become an internet sensation with her series revealing people's regrets about parenthood, anonymously sharing what many mothers miss about their lives before having children.

Kelley Daring, 45, began reading out posts from the subreddit r/regretfulparents, and it wasn't long until her TikTok inbox was flooded with messages from moms admitting how they feel. Now, she regularly goes viral sharing mostly women's experiences as parents, facing backlash as well as support from mothers who find solace in knowing they are not alone in their struggles.

Daring told Newsweek: "This is a controversial topic and I expected to ruffle some feathers, but I hoped that women would set aside any discomfort in favor of seeing the value in the stories and engaging in meaningful dialogue on the topic.

Child-free woman inspires parents to admit they 'regret' having kids (1)

"I have received hundreds of messages from women (and a few men) telling me their stories, and thanking me for making them feel seen, heard, and validated."

Years ago, Daring stumbled upon the forum but it wasn't until the start of April that she decided to start a conversation about it on her TikTok account @kelleydaring.

"I created the Regretful Parents series specifically for three reasons," she said. "The first is I believe we do women a disservice by not telling them the whole truth about motherhood. So often it is romanticized by the media, by society, and even by mothers, and it leads to some women going blindly into motherhood not realizing that there are hardships, challenges, and negative experiences that they may never have considered."

Her second reason is to normalize sharing the negative thoughts and feelings common in motherhood, aiming to end the fear of criticism and judgment that prevents many from being honest.

Her third reason is to provide support and solidarity for mothers who are experiencing feelings of regret. "Many describe feelings of isolation and loneliness, partially because of their inability to share their true feelings for fear of judgment. I have received countless messages from mothers saying that my videos provide comfort because they now know there are other women out there who feel as they do," Daring added.

Child-free woman inspires parents to admit they 'regret' having kids (2)

What Regrets Do Mothers Have?

Parenting is widely recognized as the hardest job in the world, a sentiment echoed by 62 percent of parents surveyed by Pew Research Center who found it more challenging than expected, with 26 percent stating it's been significantly harder. This struggle is especially pronounced among mothers, 30 percent of whom say parenting has been much harder than anticipated, compared to 20 percent of fathers.

In December 2023, a study by researchers at SWPS University's Faculty of Psychology and Law and the University of Louvain developed and validated the Parenthood Regret Scale, finding that 5-14 percent of 2,994 parents in developed countries regret having children, linked to lower life satisfaction, increased depressive symptoms, and greater parental burnout.

Newsweek discussed the study with Ana Aznar, a Madrid-born child psychologist and founder of REC Parenting, an online platform supporting parents and caregivers.

"Unsurprisingly, it's not easy to find reliable data on the number of parents who regret having children," she said. "This doesn't mean that they don't love their children. You can fiercely love your children and wish to [have] never had them. Having ambivalent emotions is part of being a parent.

"Parents can adore their children and at the same time experience intense anger, resentment, boredom, stress, and even regret. However, it is important to bear in mind that parents who regret having kids report being less satisfied with their life, and are more likely to experience depression and parental burnout. If this is your case, I would advise you to talk to a friend or to reach out to a therapist."

Daring connected Newsweek with three mothers who have shared their experiences of parenting.

'Be an Aunt, Not a Mother'

Karen, 58, from Maryland, estimates to have spent around $700,000 on raising two children. This includes private schools, college, and extra curriculum activities.

She told Newsweek: "My advice is, life is shorter than you think. If you want to experience life to the fullest, explore different types of work; if you are an artist or writer, if you want to travel, be an aunt, not a mother. Kids are cool, but they will consume your entire existence for decades."

Karen added: "I am not the mom who will be asking about grandchildren constantly. I am totally comfortable with them having no children, but I would also endorse having only one child."

'I Don't Have Any Balance Whatsoever'

Ella, a 37-year-old, had expectations of motherhood shaped by idealized 1990s and 2000s sitcoms, which portrayed perfect families and easy resolutions to problems. In reality, the mom of five, from Massachusetts, found motherhood to be far more challenging, isolating, and without the magical support these shows depicted. She laments the silent grief women experience when their real-life struggles don't match their expectations.

"The reality of motherhood is love that, despite having nothing left to give, is enough for a reserve in the event that your child needs or wants for anything. It is so tragic, yet so very beautiful," she told Newsweek.

"I don't have any balance whatsoever. I traded girls' nights wearing stilettos for diaper changes in my leggings roughly 10 years ago. It may sound trite but my children come before all else, including myself."

'It's Hard Not To Want My Old Life'

Newsweek asked a mom of two children aged under 5 if she had any regrets. The 35-year-old, who would like to remain anonymous, said: "On one hand, I would go back and not have kids. On the other hand, I am truly and honestly a better person—and I think my kids are a huge reason for that. I am far more patient, compassionate, and I try to understand, as opposed to knee-jerk judgment.

"It's possible I could've evolved in this way without my children, maybe it's just aging. But I do believe my children have streamlined that personal growth. It's important for me to hone in self-awareness and compassion because they deserve to be around someone that is actively trying to be a better person. They deserve a good mother. I might not want the job, but that is my consequence, and shouldn't be theirs," the mom, from Alberta, Canada, said.

"I want to believe that there will be a time in my parenthood journey that I will not feel the way I do right now. My children are young, and this phase is a window of time. But in this moment, it really is so overwhelming that it's hard not to want my old life."

TikTok Reacts

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Daring caused a stir online at the start of April when she launched the series, which is currently on part 22. People accused her of monetizing "parents' hardships." However, she has confirmed that she doesn't make money from her TikTok videos. Now, Daring regularly gains a lot of attention her videos and often racks up over 100,000 views.

However TikTok is still divided, with some users praising her for shedding light on a taboo topic, while others criticize her for potentially profiting from the pain of others.

On one video, a commenter said: "No sane woman that doesn't want children pushes her choice on others. And this is what you're doing. you need validation that you made the right decision, but this is not the way to do it."

Though another TikTok user replied to the same clip: "As a child of regretful parents, thank you for making this a series!"

Daring remains committed to her mission. She said: " It is my hope that my videos will inform young women like my stepdaughters, so that they can make intentional choices about motherhood, rather than passive decision-making that so often leads to regret."

One of her most recent videos featured the first entry from a man, who shared that 12 months after losing their baby early in the pregnancy, and after grieving and going to therapy, both he and his partner felt "relieved" and realized they didn't want to be parents.

"It's likely that we all dodged massive bullets," he wrote, adding that he had a vasectomy and she had her tubes tied.

"Better to be regretful to not have kids than to be regretful of the kids," said one user on the video that has over 126,000 views.

If you have a family dilemma, let us know via We can ask experts for advice, and your story could be featured on Newsweek.

Uncommon Knowledge

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

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Child-free woman inspires parents to admit they 'regret' having kids (2024)


Is it wrong to regret having children? ›

“They just are.” It's what people make of their feelings that might be “ugly or not.” Some people don't find joy in parenting, let alone pure joy, “and that's also fine.” Regret is not itself a threat to a parent's love for a child, and it can help to admit, even to oneself, that which might feel unspeakable.

Do childfree people regret not having kids? ›

Perhaps to the surprise of some, many of these adults do no regret the decision to not have kids. “We found no evidence that older child-free adults experience any more life regret than older parents,” she said. “In fact, older parents were slightly more likely to want to change something about their life.”

Is it normal to have feelings of regret after having a baby? ›

A person who regrets having kids is not a bad person. While it can be helpful to talk about these feelings to a close friend or family member, if the feelings of regret are overwhelming or affecting one's mental health, making an appointment with a therapist or counselor is recommended.

What if I regret not having a baby? ›

If you do think you might regret it, taking steps to freeze your eggs or considering adoption are a few alternatives you might take. In either case, it's important to do what is right for you and make peace with your decision. If you're struggling with regret, talking to a therapist can be a helpful step.

What do parents regret about having children? ›

Some parents have reported that they regret having children. The reasons can be due to loss of independence, high childcare costs, or postpartum depression. Talking to parents and knowing your values are important steps before starting a family.

What is depleted mother syndrome? ›

Mom burnout sometimes called depleted mother syndrome, is the feeling of mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion, depersonalization, and lack of fulfillment caused by intense child care demands. Burnout is the result of too much stress and a lack of resources for coping with it.

What are childless couples called? ›

"DINK" is an acronym that stands for "double income, no kids" or "dual income, no kids", referring to couples who are voluntarily childless.

What are the psychological effects of not having a child? ›

The most frequently mentioned effects are distress, raised depression and anxiety levels, lowered self-esteem, feelings of blame and guilt, somatic complaints, and reduced sexual interest.

Which gender is more childfree? ›

For example, panel A shows that 23.82% of men report being childfree, while only 18.2% of women report being childfree.

What happens to a woman emotionally after having a baby? ›

You might find yourself feeling angry, sad, irritable, or discouraged. Feeling this way doesn't mean that you're a "bad" parent or that you don't love your baby. These mood swings are believed to be caused by hormone changes that happen in a woman's body after she gives birth.

Why am I so mad after having a baby? ›

In fact, new moms commonly describe an increase in anger and irritability after childbirth. This anger, termed “postpartum rage,” is becoming both a recognized symptom of postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, as well as an indication that a mom is undersupported.

Are people happier after having a baby? ›

Key points. A new study investigated how having a baby affects life satisfaction, happiness, anger, anxiety, and sadness. Happiness and life satisfaction increased after the baby was born but decreased five years later.

How common is it to regret having children? ›

The team of researchers who conducted the study highlighted past research showing that regret over having children isn't rare or unheard of, as 5-14% of parents have this feeling.

Do childfree people regret? ›

Few childfree people feel a kind of cold regret. They might sometimes fantasise about how their life would have turned out if they'd had children - while still knowing they made the right choice for themselves and their life.”

What happens if a woman never had a baby? ›

Research shows that not having kids can raise the risk of certain health issues, like breast cancer. However, having kids can also raise the risk of cardiovascular disease for some women, and in others it can lead to chronic pain.

What percentage of adults regret having children? ›

Beyond the group that feels having children is not part of their future is a select few who will utter a few taboo words aloud: "I regret having children." According to a 2021 study published in PLOS ONE covering the United States and Europe, somewhere between 8 percent and 17 percent of parents regret having children.

Am I wrong for not wanting a baby? ›

There is no right or wrong decision

When it comes to choosing whether or not to have children, one common concern Davidman encounters is fear of 'wrong' decision. But she says it's important to first understand that there is no right or wrong choice.

What percent of parents wish they didn't have kids? ›

But do I miss my life without children? Every single day." The 2021 U.S. Adult Sexual Behaviors and Attitudes Study surveyed 1,518 adults aged 18-74 about parenthood. It found that 29 percent of U.S. adults said that they either do not want to have children or wish they had fewer children.

What is parental burnout? ›

Parental burnout leads to overwhelming exhaustion, emotional distancing from your children, and a sense of being a poor or ineffective parent. These effects can take a severe toll on your mental health. Depending upon your level of parental burnout, the impact on your mental health may include: Brain fog.

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