Below is the full text of an interesting article I came across on thebritgirl.com in my silly attempt to pass time during the dreaded 2ww. This article talks about how the majority of parents do not really enjoy being a parent and would not do it again if given the choice. Now I know some might find this article annoying because those surveyed have a choice and we don’t. But for some reason it made me think about this IF journey in a little bit different ( maybe healthier??) way. Below is the article:
“If You Had It To Do Over Again – Would You Have Children?”
This was the question Ann Landers asked in her famous survey. With shocking results.
In one of my recent articles I quoted the Ann Landers survey. You may or may not be aware that Ann Landers (you can do a search on her) was a popular advice columnist who wrote a regular column in the 1970’s. She wrote it for over 20 years, however one of her most famous articles was the one where she published the results of the question above. At the time I searched for the survey in its entirety but could only find references to it. When one of my commentators asked me if I knew where she could lay hands on the survey I started searching again, without much success. And then I stumbled across a link to Happily Childfree and amazingly, there was the Ann Landers survey!
It makes such interesting reading that I thought I would reference it again and share it with you here.
As has been noted – YES, it was done in the 70’s. BUT, many of the observations made by parents who wrote to Ann are, in my opinion, just as relevant today. In fact, today it seems even more difficult than ever to be a parent. And, as HCF points out, this was not a scientific survey. It didn’t need to be.
The point it makes is very simple.
Many people do not enjoy parenthood but they will only admit it under the cover of anonymity.
The fact that such a huge number felt they would not have children if they had to do it again (a shocking 70%) may boggle the mind at first, but when I think of it, I (and I would guess many childfree people) probably shouldn’t be that surprised. Or should we? Some of the reasons the respondents gave were the very reasons that I decided I didn’t want to have children. Still, 70%!! Ann admitted that the number shocked even her. And she thought she’d seen and heard everything.
No, what is more shocking (even today) is the fact that the dirty little secret is covered up, complete with a conspiracy of silence by parents, while women are continually advised that they need to have children in order to be “real women” derided if they decide not to, and badgered into believing that parenthood is, or should be, their ultimate wonderful goal and that without children they aren’t really a “family”. For some, I don’t doubt parenthood is wonderful. But for everyone? Clearly it is not.
As Ann mentioned in her article and I quote:
“If it is true that a large percentage of the parents in this country are sorry they had children, why don’t we hear more from them? Because such an admission goes against the grain of what we have been taught is human nature. Parents are supposed to love their children no matter what. To speak disparagingly of one’s offspring is socially hazardous.
Trouble with a husband, on the other hand, is a common topic over teacups, luncheon tables, bridge hands and telephones. By the same token, a battle with the little woman is discussed candidly at bars and clubs—wherever men meet. Plain talk about marital problems is a national sport, because everyone knows no marriage is perfect. But parents who have trouble with their children are inclined to keep their mouths shut—unless their troubles have been in the newspapers, or the parents happen to be in the company of other parents who they know are having trouble with their children”.
I can’t quite explain why it helped to read this. I already have my miracle IVF son and most certainly would not choose to not have him like so many women in this survey say. In fact- if I knew he was at the end of the road I would have done 20+ rounds of IVF to get him. Writing that made me a little queasy but you get my point.
I think the reason why it helps is, for one, it provides a little perspective. Us IFers and RPLers want nothing, absolutely nothing more than a baby in our arms, a child to raise, the hardships and triumphs of motherhood. But this article is a reminder that in the scheme of life it is not all there is. It is so hard to believe that and remember that when we are in this hell. When the desire is all consuming nothing else seems to matter. But life is so much more. It is the person you are, the man or woman you love, the friends you have, the adventures you go on, the passions you discover.
Even when you are lucky enough to have a baby and become a Mom, it isn’t like life all of a sudden becomes 100 percent happy. Sure, the hell is over and the joy is abundant but you are also faced with the reality that since you finally have all you dreamed of- you better be happy and completely fulfilled. I know a number of women who actually become depressed after becoming a Mom because they realize that although it is so much of what they dreamed of- it cannot completely fulfill who you are.
I am not minimizing the intense need to be a Mom, or the pain and agony of the wait. It is truly hell and once it is over, life feels like it can actually begin. But this article reminds me that we must continue to foster and nurture all aspects of ourselves while we wait for our miracles to come. We must remember we are wives, daughters, friends, coworkers, runners, wine drinkers, chefs, photographers and ultimately unique and strong women. I think if we can hold into this and remember it- once our miracles happen we will be the complete and strong women who happen to make amazing Moms.
Secondly, I really feel like this struggle for the simple opportunity to parent has given us a unique sense of gratitude for the tough role. I think we have the perspective to appreciate it so much more and enjoy it more than we might if we didn’t have to work so hard to get there.