Fathom Mag

Regretting and Remembering in Motherhood

When I read these stories of regretful moms, I feel a sense of dread. Will this be me?

Published on:
September 11, 2018
Read time:
3 min.
Share this article:

Every couple months an article circulates on my feed with some variation of a title like, “The Women Who Regret Motherhood.” The articles are all similar—with the same photos of weary women in playrooms surrounded by unkempt toys. It’s the confessions of women who admit they love their kids, but if they could do it differently, they would.

Healthy, married, Christian women don’t regret motherhood, right?

Motherhood is challenging for any woman, sure. But for these women motherhood never got better. The goodness of the outcome never amounted to more than the price they paid. 

I read these pieces as if I’m peeking into an illicit backroom—forbidden and dangerous. As if I can’t let anyone, much less myself, believe I’m susceptible to similar feelings. Healthy, married, Christian women don’t regret motherhood, right?

I never thought I’d be a mother. I didn’t dream about whether my future offspring would have my eyes or his dimples, or plan for how I’d wear my child like a mama kangaroo to the farmer’s market. I’ve watched my friends and family yearn for children that sometimes come and sometimes don’t. I’ve cheered with them and cried with them. And I’ve begged God for their clarity.

For many reasons—perhaps both from being content with my life and from my own dispassionate feelings towards children—motherhood just wasn’t something I saw in my future. If I did think about it, it was a bitter pill, swallowed only because I knew it’d serve a greater purpose, but not something I’d be happy about. 

And yet now, I am part of that costly club of motherhood. I have a Nellie who actually does have my eyes and her father’s dimples. My good days have been good—ebullient and surreal as I watch a little human who is wholly like me and unlike me discover the gifts of this life. I love her with both a pureness and a potency that surprise me daily. 

On my worst days though, which there are a lot of, it’s felt like standing alone at the starting gate, while everyone else is crossing the finish line. But instead of standing, I’m getting busy with a breast pump, changing diapers, and frantically researching the symptoms of hand, foot, and mouth disease at 5:00 a.m.

Just over a year in, and being a mom has cost me time at work, time with community, easy freedom, and any facade of control I thought I had over my emotions. I spend my long hours and short days making decisions that wring the selfishness from my tired bones. And at the day’s end, when I wash off the dust that comes from sowing my self-interest into the ground, I know I’m a little less focused on me. But I’m a sore loser of the easy comforts of life, and none of this happens easily or happily.

So when I read these stories of regretful moms, I feel a sense of dread. Will this be me? Does all this add up to me being a part of the next generation of interviewed women, saying: I too regret ever becoming a mother.

Regret isn’t talked about much in the Bible. It almost feels as if there’s not much room for regret when you believe in a God who works all things together for his good. And even when you screw it up, there’s grace to mop up the mess. And though there’s not a lot of regret in the Bible, there is a lot of forgetfulness. Forgetting how God delivered his people out of Egypt, forgetting to put God above all other gods, forgetting that there will be again, yes again, manna in the morning, forgetting that Peter would indeed deny Jesus three times. Forgetting, forgetting, forgetting.

So here I sit, consumed by the idea of my future regret, when perhaps the real demon is forgetting. Maybe the antidote to regret is remembering. Because if regret is looking back on your life and wishing differently, remembering is looking back on your life and seeing faithfulness, seeing provision—which I’m certain have been daily given to me.  

I know enough about the Christian life through the life of Christ to know that happiness is not guaranteed. Climbing the hill to Calvary to die on a cross is hardly the picture of the American dream. I also know that at any point I could turn a corner and begin finding easy joy in mothering. I am hopeful that that will happen, especially when my progeny can form sentences and make a sandwich. But regardless of whether I’m enjoying it—because our enjoyment isn’t exactly promised—I want to remember the good moments rather than regret the bad—because God help me if I can’t remember.

Rebecca Payne
Rebecca Parker Payne is a writer, church worker, and friend of corgis. She lives in Virginia with her husband, daughter, and a dog named Wendell Berry. She occasionally writes on her blog, and regularly tweets and posts pictures of cute things on instagram.

Next story