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In defense of Isabella Dutton, the mom who regrets her kids.

19 April 2013
A few weeks ago, the Daily Mail posted an article about a mother who says having children is her biggest regret. Holy pants, the uproar that this caused. So many people saying that Ms. Dutton is the worst woman in the world, that she's a selfish, useless woman who should be shot for feeling this way. (I'm paraphrasing here. It's not like I read all 18K comments.)

I'm here to defend Ms. Dutton.

I understand exactly how she feels.

This is one of those things that it's so hard to talk about, because I'm sure I'll get trolled and people coming out of the woodwork to tell me I'm the second most horrible person in the world. For years, Sparrow was my biggest regret. Up until he was 3.5, I hated being a parent. I do not have the mothering gene. I just don't. I've never been interested in kids. I don't like them. I spent my whole life just knowing that I would never be married and I would never have kids, and I was okay with that. I like to say that Hawk ruined my life in the best way possible - he totally turned my Life Plan upside down and I love him for it. I love being married, and the older Sparrow gets, the more I enjoy parenting.

But those first 3 years were Hell. I hated every minute of my life. I didn't want anything to do with my son. I didn't like him. I wasn't a good Mom. I'm still not a great one. I'm doing better, but it's taken a lot of work and prayer to get here. And a lot of Sparrow growing up. And a lot of medication.

The thing is, this isn't something you can talk about freely. If you don't like your kid, you are Satan incarnate. How dare you dislike being a parent when there are so many people out there who can't have children. How dare you dislike this "little blessing." God forbid you try to get help - you'll be looked at like you're a monster. And then your therapist will report you to Child Protective Services. I know this, because it happened to me. I tried so hard to get help for my feelings and I was reported to the authorities because of it. Way to teach a person that they should keep their feelings locked up inside and never, ever try to get help.

Hawk knows I have felt this way. I've told him about it before. But he doesn't know what to do about it, and neither did I. We've just kept plugging along. Ironically, even though I hated being a parent, I didn't want to farm Sparrow out to preschool while I worked. It takes a LOT of guts to keep your child, to stay home with him even though you're miserable every minute of every day. It's hard. It would have been easier for everyone had I given him up, whether for adoption or for preschool. But I didn't. Mostly because my family would have disowned me, but also because I wanted to prove to myself that I could do this thing. I do want to be a good mom. I want to, but that doesn't mean I am. So I stayed home with him to try to fix myself, I guess.

For the people who say "you focus too much on yourself," I work my pants off with this kid. I think about him all the time, trying to figure out what I should do with him today, what we should work on this week, whether he should stay on medication, what school I should send him to, how I can help him to gain weight, how I can keep him happy, how I can teach him what he needs to know in the next 13 years I have with him, what activities to enroll him in, whether he needs X, Y or Z, what he will enjoy doing next...etc etc etc. It's not about not focusing on yourself, because I don't. My biggest focus is him and how I can be good for him.

In the article, Ms. Dutton says that her adult daughter has multiple sclerosis and now lives with her parents, requiring full time care. Does a horrible, selfish woman allow her daughter to do that? How much easier would it be to send the daughter to a full time care facility? To me, this shows that Ms. Dutton isn't the worst person in the world, despite her shortcomings.

Kids are hard. They are kind of little parasites. It's so much easier to just give up and send your child to the state or to daycare and ignore them all the time. A person who fights to raise their child anyway, despite their own shortcomings, is a brave person. A good person.

I am glad Ms. Dutton published her article. Because if nothing else, now I know I am not alone. I am not the only one who feels like parenting is kind of the worst job ever. Thank goodness. I wish that this could be more of an open thing for people to talk about. But I doubt that admitting that you don't like your kid is ever going to be socially acceptable. And that's okay - but there should be better support systems and help in place than just getting sold out to DCFS.

I'm also really glad that Ms. Dutton mentioned that she breastfed her kids. I tried so hard to breastfeed Sparrow and I thought for sure that the reason I sucked as a parent was because I missed out on that crucial bonding. Now I know that even if I had been able to breastfeed, I might have still felt this way (and probably felt even more guilty about it in the meantime.)

I do love my kid. Now that I have worked my pants off to be a better mom, I am doing better at it. I like parenting a lot more than I did 4 years ago. The older Sparrow gets, the more I like this job and the more I love him. But it's still hard, and there are still days when I wish I had never procreated. At least now it's only about once a month rather than once every hour.

So thank you, Isabella Dutton, for having the guts to say something about your feelings. Thank you for letting me know I am not alone. Thank you for making me feel like a better person (because while she admits that she never liked her kids, at least I'm at the point where I love mine!)

I love my life. It took me a long time to get to this point. It took me a lot of struggling and massive amounts of prayer. And also medication (God bless modern medicine.) I would not trade Sparrow for anything. I would not trade where I am now for anything, not even my pre-marriage dreams of living alone in a cabin in the woods with a horse and a wolf-dog. But getting to this point where I am happy every day took a hell of a lot of work, tears, praying, counseling, talking, venting, more tears and more praying. I wish I had been born with the Mothering Gene and I wish I could have enjoyed and loved Sparrow from the first moment on. I hope I can make up for my shortcomings, though, by continuing to work at it and by being the best Mom that I know how to be. And I hope that Sparrow will forgive me for any mistakes I make along the way.

3 comments to In defense of Isabella Dutton, the mom who regrets her kids. :

Bethany said...

Hear hear! (My comma key is broken fyi.) I need to go read her article. Sometimes you just don't like your kid. And you hope that it will change as they grow older and change. But sometimes personalities just clash and it can happen to any parent with or without the mothering gene. I have a little "blessing" who this applies to. Ugh. I am really glad you wrote this post and you're not alone. :)

Deb said...

We are all imperfect mothers with imperfect children, all unique and challenging in their own way. Only God truly knows each of us and can help with these parenting challenges.

God Bless.

Danielle Braff said...

I'm writing an article about regretting children for the Chicago Tribune, and I'd love to speak with you about this! Can you please email me ASAP at daniellebraff@gmail.com? Thanks so much, Danielle Braff