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Regretting Motherhood. A study

by Orna Donath

Pagina xiii - August 2017
being nobody's mom

Pagina xiv - August 2017
motherhood might reduce the range of women's movement and degree of independence.

Pagina xiv - August 2017
mothers are human beings

Pagina xv - August 2017
they are not expected nor allowed to feel and think that the transition to motherhood was an unfortunate move.

Pagina xvi - August 2017
mothers who regret are branded as selfish, insane, damages women and immoral human beings

Pagina xvi - August 2017
we are facing a wide range of emotions about motherhood that are begging to be dealt with

Pagina xvii - August 2017
to adapt to motherhood

Pagina xvii - August 2017
As regret marks the "road not taken", regretting motherhood indicates that there are other roads that society forbids women from taking, by a priori erasing alternative paths, such as nonmotherhood.

Pagina xviii - August 2017
capable of evaluating whether all of this was worthwhile or not.

Pagina xix - August 2017
we need to rethink the axiom by all mother everywhere.

Pagina xxi - August 2017
When a sociological study begins, a researcher might find that she has no one to talk to if the topic of her study is stigmatized or if it appears infrequently in the population.

Pagina 2 - August 2017
rethink the common assumption that if a woman is a mother, she must have wanted to become one

Pagina 3 - August 2017
the essence of our lives and the justification of our existence.

Pagina 3 - August 2017
biological tyranny.

Pagina 7 - August 2017
It seems that as long as women make decisions according to the will of society and the priorities and roles it assign us - such as being well-kept, devoted mothers in an ongoing heterosexual romantic relationship - we gain social status as free, independent, autonomous individuals with an untethered ability to fulfil our desires.

Pagina 10 - August 2017
as the colonization of our imagination

Pagina 10 - August 2017
"rhetoric of choice"

Pagina 12 - August 2017
it wasn't just sacred, it was hyper-sacred

Pagina 14 - August 2017
of other options that will not be followed by sanctions and punishments.

Pagina 15 - August 2017
it is not necessarily motherhood that is perceived as natural, but rather moving forward along life's course.

Pagina 17 - August 2017
For many of us the transition to motherhood is like crossing a bridge

Pagina 18 - August 2017
a society that limits women's options, both imagined and concrete.

Pagina 19 - August 2017
something that would give me meaning

Pagina 20 - August 2017
I thought, that's it, okay, I'll have a child, and I'll obtain my peace of mind

Pagina 22 - August 2017
severely punished

Pagina 25 - August 2017
My job was the please the master

Pagina 32 - August 2017
The mother is portrayed as naturally self-sacrificing, endlessly patient, and devoted to the care of others in ways that almost demand that she forgets she has her own personality and needs.

Pagina 35 - August 2017
mothers are not only being told how they should feel but what they should remember and what they should forget.

Pagina 35 - August 2017
emotional regulations regarding motherhood are not simply cast upon women from outside forces. The strength of these rules lies in the way they are internalized and negotiated by mothers themselves.

Pagina 36 - August 2017
When will all this be over so I can go back to bed and read a book, watch a good movie, listen to a program on the radio? These things are more interesting to me, better suit me, are more like me. To work in the garden, rake the leaves in the yard... that's more like me. To this day.

Pagina 38 - August 2017
those who do not abide by the rules risk shattering the image for everyone else.

Pagina 40 - August 2017
even though ambivalence is a feeling that may accompany each and every one of our human relationship, there is only one answer society tolerates from mothers to the question of motherhood.

Pagina 48 - August 2017
In modern Western cultures founded on capitalist and industrial ideologies, we imagine time as being linear, standard, and absolute - like an indestructible arrow traveling along an irreversible course - as well as progressive, moving away from an immutable past and history and toward a wide-open, continuous future. In this manner, many of us tend to see ourselves as waking up each morning and entering the next stage toward a final goal, whether it's getting promotion at work, making more money, or improving ourselves in some way. The roots of this notion of time are found in the Judeo-Christian tradition, wherein genesis and the end of the world mark the beginning and ending of a linear progression; it also provides a story of salvation and redemption over the course of one's life, in which profound meaning will be revealed will be revealed at the end of one's journey.

Pagina 49 - August 2017
Like the distinction between a map and a sense of territory, a differentiation can also be made between a clock and temporal experience.

Pagina 49 - August 2017
like the American writer William Faulkner put it, "The past is not dead. It is not even past."

Pagina 53 - August 2017
Expressing sincere regret, in a legal context, is seen as taking responsibility for one's actions

Pagina 53 - August 2017
The three monotheistic religions see regret as a moral stance of taking personal responsibility, and therefore provides absolution for wrongdoing.

Pagina 57 - August 2017
Regretting having behaved otherwise than socially expected wins respect, and this regret can be utilized to maintain a society's values.

Pagina 57 - August 2017
for the possibility that we might feel pain but not regret.

Pagina 58 - August 2017
regret toward abortion is an unavoidable, guaranteed emotional response. In light of this prophecy of doom, future regret is depicted as the worst imaginable scenario - worse than an unwanted birth.

Pagina 59 - August 2017
Women, especially those over the age of 30, are caught within a mind-game of threats and warnings

Pagina 60 - August 2017
regretting motherhood is considered a particularly unthinkable emotional stance

Pagina 64 - August 2017
I wouldn't take of this project all over again. Especially knowing that I'd be divorced afterwards, and everything would be on my shoulders.

Pagina 65 - August 2017
For what? It is a real waste of time.

Pagina 67 - August 2017
It's very difficult to know until you're in that position, very difficult to know how I would react - and you can't try it out.

Pagina 68 - August 2017
after I had a breakdown I realized I made a big mistake by having children.

Pagina 69 - August 2017
Yet in the end, for her, motherhood is an unnecessary experience

Pagina 71 - December 2017
Children are unnecessary.

Pagina 71 - December 2017
Regretting motherhood, but not the children

Pagina 72 - December 2017
I regret having had children and becoming a mother, but I love the children that I've got.

Pagina 73 - December 2017
it seems to me today that because of all the challenges of parenthood, you should [become a parent] only if you feel inside that you want to - that seems to me like a better place to come from.

Pagina 74 - December 2017
For me being a parent is not a rational, appropriate, suitable option. Not because I can't be a mother, but because it doesn't suit me.

Pagina 75 - December 2017
Freud's studies not only assert that the mother is not a person in her own right, but also explicitly contend that there is nothing she can do about it.

Pagina 76 - December 2017
in the first days after giving birth, I realized that, from then on, it was expected that I, a person with pains, feelings, desires, and aspirations, would set myself aside for an unlimited period of time, diminishing myself, disappearing, becoming obliterated.

Pagina 77 - December 2017
Whereas some women reached this moment years after their children were born, others came to realize it during pregnancy or immediately following birth.

Pagina 77 - December 2017
I am simply giving up my life. It is giving up too much, as far as I'm concerned.

Pagina 81 - January 2018
What do you think you realized in that moment?
That it is irreversible [long minutes of silence]. Listen, it's enslavement. It's enslavement. It's drudgery.

Pagina 81 - January 2018
The body knows.

Pagina 84 - January 2018
Although many mothers feel relief once they have gotten past the challenges of the immediate post-birth period, regret describes an emptional stance toward motherhood that does not change or improve as time goes by.

Pagina 84 - January 2018
Once realizing that they did want to be mothers, many women in my study tried to make sense of these feelings - in some cases doubting their own sanity or postulating that parents collectively form a conspiracy of silence

Pagina 84 - January 2018
I thought to myself: wither something is not normal about me, [because] my thoughts were not even close to these descriptions of delight, or everyone else has an extremely advanced denial mechanism and is in the same situation, but wouldn't dare say a word.

Pagina 85 - January 2018
I understood that... that it had been a tragic mistake on my part.

Pagina 97 - January 2018
avoiding the unsettling questions of "What if?" and "If only."

Pagina 102 - January 2018
I had a sort of feminist epiphany.

Pagina 108 - January 2018
It's a tragedy and everyone acts as though we are experiencing some fun challenge. Terrible.

Pagina 108 - January 2018
It is already known that motherhood can threaten women's physical and mental health

Pagina 108 - January 2018
the collective wishful thinking

Pagina 109 - January 2018
motherhood is not only cast outside of the human experience of regret, it is also cast far away from the human experience of trauma.

Pagina 111 - January 2018
There was a time that I felt as though I were in a National Geographic movie. Because... in the first years it's like animal instincts. Especially breastfeeding.

Pagina 112 - January 2018
According to one school of thought, this love is far from being universal or ahistorical; this position argues that motherly love, as we understand it, is a modern invention that emerged alongside the nuclear family and the creation of separate "private" and "public" spheres, as well as the result of demographic changes and a decline in infant mortality rates.

Pagina 113 - January 2018
it dictates specific requirements that engineer women's emotional worlds and mothers' relationships with their children

Pagina 116 - January 2018
loving a person and taking care of that person are not necessarily the same thing

Pagina 116 - January 2018
with mothers "naturally" feeling great devotion to their children - even to the degree of erasing their own needs and feelings.

Pagina 117 - January 2018
I brought him into this world - it's my responsibility to take care of him.

Pagina 125 - January 2018
as if the metaphorical umbilical cord binding them to their children were in fact wrapped around their neck.

Pagina 125 - January 2018
Most of the women in my study referred to the fathers of their children during their interviews, but in many case it was a story of absence.

Pagina 126 - January 2018
He went and got a paycheck, and that's it. He didn't do anything. I wish it had been different. And then maybe you and I would not be talking today.

Pagina 127 - January 2018
Fathers are allowed to "disappear" at night, to continue sleeping while the mother breastfeeds the baby.

Pagina 128 - January 2018
"Studies prove that after the birth of a child, fathers put in noticeably more overtime at their places of work and look for new hobbies"

Pagina 128 - December 2018
many of them [fathers] feel how exhausting it is with a baby around, and then try to remove themselves from the situation.

Pagina 131 - December 2018
many mothers in my study reported turning to imagination and fantasy to cope: the fantasy of removing either the children or themselves from the equation.

Pagina 134 - December 2018
I brought them into the world - and now I have to face it, even if it means that my life is gone.

Pagina 135 - December 2018
There is always life's mathematics.

Pagina 135 - December 2018
I tell myself - I am a grown woman, I made a choice, I will bear the responsibility.

Pagina 144 - December 2018
I would give them away and not think twice about it. I would give them away.

Pagina 147 - December 2018
society's decisive ruling that a mother must stay put; she must remain under the same roof as her children and never move away, no matter what the circumstances are, despite hardship and distress, and even if she admits that she cannot take care of her children.

Pagina 154 - December 2018
Regret is like a ferry that moves those it carries back and forth through time - from what was to what could have been, but also from what has already happened to what could happen.

Pagina 158 - December 2018
the limits of what is considered speakable or unspeakable

Pagina 159 - December 2018
How will that feel, to read that you are the greatest disaster in your mother's life?

Pagina 160 - December 2018
What's behind this material pathology?

Pagina 160 - December 2018
we are expected to keep our subjective experience silent or rearrange it according to social expectations.

Pagina 160 - December 2018
it is unbearable to listen to what mothers say without branding them as spoiled, insane, and weak, or claiming that they must be exaggerating.

Pagina 160 - December 2018
the collective wishful thinking is that regret is due to a mother's personal failure and has nothing to do with anyone else

Pagina 161 - December 2018
the romanticization of parenthood

Pagina 162 - December 2018
Be quiet, so they won't hospitalize you. Accept it and continue to live this fictitious happiness.

Pagina 172 - December 2018
it scares me that they would find out I didn't want them. Of course they know; children know everything. They read my mind; everything I go through they go through together with me. They have sensors for these things. But I wouldn't want them to actually read it.

Pagina 173 - December 2018
Alongside the question of who is protected by secrets and silence, there's the question of what they are protected from.

Pagina 174 - December 2018
There is a fear that when a mother might say to her child, "Motherhood might not be as worthwhile as we are told," the child will hear, "I regret you."

Pagina 174 - December 2018
The bond between mothers and children is often constituted through an unequal knowing of each other: whereas mothers are expected to know everything about their daughters and sons, knowing our mothers - their emotional world and insights as persons - tends to be treated as irrelevant, a burden, a load that should be avoided.

Pagina 174 - December 2018
mothers simply do not exist as human beings separate from and outside of the relationship with their children, as human being with their own needs and wishes.

Pagina 175 - December 2018
Tirtza is torn between the thought that talking with the children about regret is unnecessary and the thought that it might be of value, in that it would allow them to know her better.

Pagina 177 - December 2018
What if daughters tell you, when they are older, that they don't want children?
I'll tell them that having children isn't necessary.

Pagina 183 - December 2018
it is important and necessary to slaughter all holy caws, all of the "values," ideologies, and self-justifications we were raised on. To check ourselves when we fall into the webs of stereotypes and conformity; when we lie to ourselves and keep the truth from our children and grandchildren.

Pagina 184 - December 2018
It is not a crime to express remorse for having had children. [...] It is a crime not to tell the truth to ourselves and to those we gave birth to. It is a crime to die with a dark secret that cannot be told, written or revealed.

Pagina 185 - December 2018
So even if, as Sofa claimed, "Children know everything," or a Tirtza said, "I haven't talked about it with my children, but I'm sure they feel it," it seems that the children are being left alone to interpret the "thing" that hovers above their heads at home, without a chance to hear their mothers clarifying what they regret.

Pagina 186 - December 2018
if mothers are coerced into telling theur stories only while contained within the frames, or hidden behind masks, none of us will ever know a more complete story of motherhood.

Pagina 186 - December 2018
the question whether to discuss their experience of regret with her children or not, whether to speak our or humbly silence herself while being a caring bystander to her children's lives.

Pagina 187 - December 2018
a variety of answers offered by mothers - that are far more diverse than the sole script that society has in mind

Pagina 190 - December 2018
the social theorist Avery Gordon writes, "We need to know where we live in order to imagine living elsewhere. We need to imagine living elsewhere before we can live there."

Pagina 199 - December 2018
According to this model [neoliberal and capitalist], there are "normal circumstances" under which "normal motherhood" can take place, and therefore one should constantly strive to attain them.

Pagina 199 - December 2018
Ideas about normalcy, abnormality, and deviance entered European thought in the mid-nineteenth century as part of the newly established science of statistics, leading to the idea of "average" people against which others should be compared. Prior to this, another standard had been used: the "ideal". The ideal represented a mythological entity that was related to the bodies of gods, in contrast to the grotesque bodies of human beings. Thus, the ideal body was perceived as one that was both intangible and unattainable by humans. Following the shift towards the "average" representing the correct way, the average has paradoxically become an attainable ideal; the ideal is the norm.

Pagina 200 - December 2018
To say the least, having a child is a gamble in an imperfect world

Pagina 200 - December 2018
it is the creation of a new person whose nature and needs are unknown.

Pagina 205 - December 2018
I find it irritating that everyone presumes that a demanding career or uninhibited hedonism, are at the center of nonparents' lives. [Reading] this forum, it is obvious that these perceptions are inaccurate. Music, philosophy, and volunteering, for instance, are the dominants topics here.

Pagina 207 - December 2018
If I lived in a place where children might be raised communally, with many loving parents instead of just one or two, I would consider child care an honor and a pleasure. If child care were treated as a form of labor, and not some sort of after-work hobby involving "quality time", I would also find parenting more attractive. Parenting as I have known it, however, is unacceptable., a burden which is all too often thrust upon women as a chore they were supposed to "naturally" love and for which they rarely receive any significant social esteem or reward. When men and women of every sexual orientation are raising their children respectfully and communally, I will shed my riot grrl rage, throw away the true-crime books, and help the men change diapers. Until then, I do not want to be a mother. [Annalee Newitz]

Pagina 209 - December 2018
variety is the point: women's lives would indeed improve if we were provided appropriate support and conditions to nurture children, unshackled from poverty, racism, homophobia and transphobia, loneliness, strict social rules, and competitiveness. But although some women would feel relieved by such conditions and thus encouraged to have children, there are also women for whom it would be irrelevant, as they fundamentally do not want to be mothers - whether they currently are or not.

Pagina 210 - December 2018
According to the American sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild, during the last several decades, workplaces have become more like families and families have become more like workplaces - in particular when it comes to creating balances of efficiency

Pagina 210 - December 2018
mothers have long conducted emotional and practical evaluations of their situations, perhaps since antiquity, although the nature and outcome of these evaluations changes according to social and historical contexts.

Pagina 212 - December 2018
Those who praise motherhood as a worthwhile experience and suggest that women benefit from their motherhood lean upon utilitarian logic in their attempt to persuade women to become mothers.

Pagina 213 - December 2018
perceive mothers as human beings: subjects who think, feel, examine, imagine, value, and decide.

Pagina 213 - December 2018
Acknowledging mothers as subjects is not obvious in a society in which motherhood has been established as a role, one that is played within the child's drama.

Pagina 214 - December 2018
we might better understand motherhood as part of a spectrum of human experiences and relationships, rather than a unilateral bond in which mothers influence their children's lives without being affected by their own motherhood.

Pagina 217 - December 2018
When people don't believe that regretting motherhood exists, or when they feel rage toward it, what they're actually saying is that it is dangerous for society when women look back and evaluate the transition to motherhood as not worthwhile.

Pagina 218 - December 2018
mothers are trapped by gender stereotypes: either they are seen as embodying a hyperfeminine lack of control over emotions, or they are seen as cold-blooded figures who lack a proper femininity of care and warmth.

Pagina 220 - December 2018
When I think about coming to talk with you, to me it's fun, because I am talking about a topic that is totally taboo and I can talk about it freely and openly and as much as I like. It's like I'm going to therapy or something.

Pagina 220 - December 2018
This is the way we saw people who were infertile and did not want to adopt children: wasted and redundant lives.

Pagina 222 - December 2018
whereas in legal arenas expressing regret is perceived as assuming responsibility for one's actions, when it comes to child-rearing and motherhood, regret is perceived as mothers' renunciation of responsibility.