Content warning: This post contains mentions of suicidal ideation and pregnancy loss.
Recently, we asked members of the BuzzFeed Community who didn't want kids but ended up being parents anyway to share how life had turned out for them. The responses varied widely, proving just how different parenting can be depending on a person's circumstances. Here are some of their stories:
"I will admit that I sometimes feel resentment. Not to my kids (they're my favorite people), but to my husband. He’s the one that desperately wanted kids while I was more ambivalent. I made the mistake of thinking that since he wanted kids so badly, he’d be super dad. He’s a good dad! But I’m still mom, so I’m the one taking care of the kids 90% of the time, and I’m the one responsible for 100% of the mental load. I’m not a stay-at-home mom (no judgment to those that are!), and I’m exhausted all the time. I do my best not to take it out on my kids, but sometimes I can’t help taking it out on my husband."
"I always said I didn’t want kids but MAYBE I'd change my mind one day. My son is now 2.5 years old, and while there are definitely a lot of hard days, I don’t regret a thing. Before I had him, I focused so much on the negatives — the changes my body would go through, the loss of sleep/independence, the expenses, etc. — that I didn’t even think about the positives. He’s so much fun! I genuinely like spending time with him. One of my favorite parts of the day is when he gets home and tells me how much fun he had at daycare. I love seeing my husband be a dad and my parents be grandparents. I’m so much closer with my friends who had kids than I was before my son was born. At the end of the day, my life changed forever the day my son was born, just not in all the ways I thought it would."
"At 17, whether to have children and when was a fight with my high school sweetheart, then age 20. I didn’t want kids, or maybe I would someday, but not anytime soon. Maybe sometime after age 21 or something. It didn’t end up mattering what I wanted, because I wasn’t careful with my birth control pill and got pregnant at 18. That relationship didn’t last, but I was against abortion for myself, so I became a parent at 19. It was hard, but I loved him and grew to love parenting.
Over the next few years, I really embraced it as I read and learned more, and wanted a second kid (in hindsight, for “do-over” reasons mostly). I remained single as I had my second when my firstborn was age 7. I discovered I wasn’t such a good parent, but there’s nothing to do about it once you’re actually a parent. I try my best, but my shortcomings torture me daily. I encourage everyone to just not have kids if you have any doubts about it. Just get fixed (like I am now) and help support other parents!
"I never wanted to go to college, be married, or have children. I got a doctorate degree/career, a husband, and three children. I'm so glad it worked out that way, as I can stand on my own two feet and my family is so loved and stable. However, I do often wish I left out the children in my equation like I'd intended. They are a lot, and it's a thankless, never-ending job. I'm the happiest when they're all at school and it's quiet. I'm often jealous of my childless friends who can go where they want, have uninterrupted conversations, and their homes STAY clean for more than an hour. But I often sense they're jealous of me. Ultimately, I know I'm blessed, but grass is always greener on the other side..."
"My son is now 5 months old — when I found out I was pregnant, I was DEVASTATED! My now-husband and I had just reunited after a brief breakup, and we were having so much fun together just doing our thing and being in love. At that time, I was super focused on building my career and was also doing a training program on the weekends to become certified to teach yoga. I was finally feeling confident in my professional life and didn't want to have children for at least another several years, so when I saw that positive pregnancy test, I just cried. My husband was thrilled — which I think helped slightly — but it took me a good while to really come to terms with it.
As it turns out, thanks to the adjustments I had to make in my career to accommodate being a mom, I landed upon my dream job and have never felt happier. After my son was born, it took awhile for 'mom mode' to sink in, but I am now absolutely obsessed with my beautiful baby and so in love with him and with the family my husband and I have created together. This whole experience really highlighted my privilege for me though — I'm lucky to have a strong support system and also lucky to live in a state where I have the freedom to choose what happens to my body. I chose to become a mom, but I had the freedom to choose otherwise — the fact that this is not the norm for women in other states is unconscionable and contemptible."
"I was always on the fence about having kids. I've had anxiety since childhood, and I really worried how I would cope with anxiety with a kid. My husband has always wanted kids, so we decided to go for it. I'm pretty sure I had undiagnosed PPA and started to lose it when she was 18 months old, and then a few months before she was 2 the pandemic hit, and let's just say that my anxiety did not get any better. I finally hit a point where something had to give, so I started regularly exercising, seeing a therapist, and got on anxiety meds. Things are much better now, and I've probably always needed exercise, meds, and therapy but pushed myself along as I always had. It's tough, and my daughter makes my anxiety spike almost every day if not every day. BUT she's the best decision I ever made and no regrets. I'm learning to control my anxiety for her and for me and not let my anxiety control me."
"I didn’t plan on having kids, but my partner did. Had two children (now adult). I did the dutiful mom thing: played with them, watched kid shows, made home-cooked meals and baked cookies, drove them to and from school, decorated for the holidays, went on vacations, read stories every night, listened to their teenaged troubles, saved for college, lent them money for their first apartment. I love them because they’re family, but I’ve always been ambivalent about them. I was 'mom' because I had to be, but I can’t say I really enjoyed it."
"I didn't realize I didn't want kids until I had one. All I ever wanted in life was to get married, and when I had no prospects at age 30, I was mostly convinced I never would. When I met the woman I'm now married to, I was 31, she was 30, and a month before my 33rd birthday we got married. Nine months later she got pregnant and, when she showed me the pregnancy test, I almost did the worst thing possible and said, 'Are you going to keep it?' The look in her eyes told me she wanted me to be as excited as she was about having a baby.
Instead, my already high anxiety became stratospheric. The baby screamed a lot at night, and we barely slept. I turned into a zombie by week 4, couldn't think straight, couldn't remember simple tasks. I realized quickly that the second-best thing about holding a baby is giving it back to the parents. When it's your own, there's no giving it back. Cut to three years later and we're having a second one, because my wife was an only child and things are generally easier all around when a child has a sibling than being an only child. I'll repeat what I said earlier. All I ever wanted was to get married. I love my kids, but I don't always like them, and I clearly don't love them unconditionally the way my wife does.
I often think about how different — and probably better — our life would be if we didn't have kids. We'd probably be out of debt (currently about $30,000 on credit cards), we'd get to travel more, which she loves, and probably be in a house that isn't slowly falling apart. For context, we live in the Bay Area just east of San Francisco, our combined income is about $200,000 per year, and we have barely enough to pay the bills. The kids are 12 and 9 now, and I have no idea how we'll help them pay for college."
"I never wanted to have kids, but I got pregnant at 28. I struggled with having an abortion. I realized that I wasn't getting any younger and this may be my only real chance to have a child. My daughter is now 9 and I love her dearly. However, motherhood is very hard for me because I don't have that maternal feeling inside me, and I long for the day I get my life back. I wouldn't change a thing though. My daughter is a wonderful child, and I'm lucky to have her."
"Growing up, I never really felt the need to be a mother, and that feeling continued into my early 30s. When I met my now fiancé, he was so great with his little nieces, and he always talked about wanting children of his own. We ended up getting pregnant, and we were both nervous about it as we only started dating a few months before, but he was also really excited and that made me excited, too. A month after we found out, I had a miscarriage, and we were both devastated. He helped me through a really dark few weeks where I kept thinking my body had failed us and I would never be able to give him the children he wanted. I told him about my fears, and he wanted to be with me even if I couldn't have children. He picked me up and pulled me through that grieving period, and six months later we found out I was pregnant again. We had a boy this past May, and not only am I so in love with him, but my fiancé has been a rock for our little family. He is such a great father, and our little guy is doing so well. I can't picture my life without them."
"My husband wanted kids and I didn't. I went ahead and had two. We had a boy and a girl, and things were fine. At first. Then both of them were diagnosed with autism and severe developmental delays. They are nonverbal. That kind of stuff isn't really noticeable as a baby or toddler, but now that they're adults... That's a different story. I can't get any help for them, and I've had to quit my job just to stay home with them. I don't have friends, I wasn't able to have or complete any of my goals, and due to the constant stress, I suffer with major depressive disorder, PTSD, and OCD. My body became lactose and wheat intolerant. I can't eat ketchup or garlic. It makes me sick. I know I'm supposed to love my kids more than anything, but we're supposed to love ourselves, too, and I don't even know who I am anymore. I want my life back."
"My dad didn't want to have kids, but he knew he'd lose her if he wouldn't. They first had my brother, then me. He was always kinda annoyed with us when we were little. But when I was 15 and my brother was 17, my mom died, and he became a single father. My dad changed so quickly, and he and I became super close. He may not have wanted kids, but I'm 100% sure he wouldn't change it if he could."
"My husband thought he never wanted kids. When we started dating, I was a single mom of one, and my husband fell in love with being a dad. He became dad to my kid, we now have another one, and we are going to try for a third soon. He recently told me he would have massively regretted not having kids if that’s the path he would have stayed on."
"I never wanted kids; even as a young girl of 7 or 8 I was adamant. I didn't want kids, didn't really like kids, etc. I didn't even really babysit much because I just didn't vibe with kids. Got unexpectedly pregnant about five years into our marriage. Found out I love being a mom and having kids. I mean, LOVE being a parent. Love it. My kids are the best thing to ever happen to me in so many ways. They caused me to grow and become a better person in ways I did not even realize were possible, and I try my best every day to help them to grow into joyful, responsible, helpful people. I had amazing parents, and I try every day to be even just a fraction of how awesome they were."
"I love my daughter fiercely but was a reluctant parent. All my life I said I didn't want children, but was convinced by my husband that it would be great! It was...okay. I don't like being the 'bad guy,' and I was forced to be the bad guy. I didn't like having to set rules, enforce said rules, and dole out punishment. Hated every second of that. I struggled with play time. Grubby hands and snotty faces terrify me. The whole thing was just a level of responsibility that I was not cut out for. It's why my advice is always to never have children unless you long for them. I love the relationship we have now that she's an adult. And I was ALWAYS ride or die, but it still haunts me to think that I failed her by not wanting her the way I should have."
"I found out I was pregnant, like past the first trimester pregnant, in the midst of a months-long argument with my husband about having kids. He wanted them and I did not. I was fresh out of grad school, and my career was starting to pick up. Finding out that I was about six months away from becoming a parent, when I didn’t even want to be one, was traumatic, and I still haven’t recovered. It’s been 6.5 years, and I still resent my husband for wanting this life. I love my son with all of my heart, and we have a fantastic relationship. But I wasn’t meant to be a mom."
"Both of my kids — 3 and 5 years old — were unplanned. My husband and I found out I was pregnant a month after he finished school to be an eye doctor and had just moved to the same place after doing long distance. The past five years have been so, so hard for me. I had to give up a lot of goals I was working on to focus on my two small children, and I struggle with losing myself in their care every day. I love them more than anyone in this world, and it isn’t their fault, and they don’t deserve those feelings. I would never show them anything but love, and I do my best every day to make my love clear to them. Inwardly I struggle with the fact my life hasn’t gone as I planned even after finishing school the past two years while having both kids.
Being a parent is hard because you are still you but now whether you like it or not these little people need you and honestly are more important than you for a while. My feelings have become, 'If I take care of them now and show my love even on the bad days, it will make me feel better to know I gave them the best childhood they could have in this crazy world.' I tell my kids, 'Mommy has to work on her emotions too; it’s teamwork, and we’re in it together.' This has helped my mentality staying home with toddlers a lot. Oh and last thing, my husband is the best and most supportive partner ever. Never have kids or risk having kids unless you have a great partner because having kids is stressful enough. You both need each other endlessly to get through it!"
"My husband and I were on the fence about this but leaning more toward not having kids. We accidentally got pregnant and just went for it. My son is now 3 years old, and it has been the best decision ever. It has been hard — don't get me wrong about that. But he helped us become the people we are today; we both have meaning. He gave my husband the push to start a career rather than just working jobs, and I now have a purpose in my life. It has been amazing."
"To be honest, I never, EVER, envisioned having children, and I would’ve gone to my grave telling everyone exactly that. For various reasons (lots of family dynamics mainly), I swore up and down I’d never have children. Then I got very unexpectedly pregnant in my early 40s. That ended in a miscarriage, and we were devastated. We did try for a few months after that, but it was way too stressful, so we kinda gave up thinking it was too late. Then I got pregnant with our son, and it’s truly been the best thing to ever happen to us. We feel so blessed to have this person in our lives. He has just enhanced our lives in so many ways, which is funny because I loved my childless life! It’s hard and sometimes I miss my old life, but I think everything happens as it’s supposed to. He was meant to come to us when he did, and I wouldn’t change anything."
"I never wanted kids. Told my parents at 21 to prepare — I was the one who was going to live life to the fullest doing whatever I wanted. I was never going to ruin my fit body for a child. I never connected with kids, couldn’t find that bond. Kids were annoying to me. I got pregnant at 23 by my boyfriend and didn’t know what to do. Once I felt the first movement, that felt like butterflies, and it changed my entire world. Once he was born, I had fallen in love with him at first sight. I couldn’t wait to hold him. It was an unexplainable feeling. All I could think about was protecting him. Now he’s 14 and has a brother who’s 10. If I could have another I would; their father and I have shared custody from the separation. And also, the fear of not getting my body back — it was selfish. I’m fitter than before for my health now, not for vanity."
"I did not and still do not want children. My husband and I decided that if we got pregnant, we would have the baby. It’s complete and utter BS that parenthood is rewarding. It’s stressful trying to keep another human alive and teach them how to deal with their emotions. Especially when they have no words. Then as they get older... My kid: 'I misbehave because behaving is boring.' Trying to get things done around the house. HA! That’s a complete joke. Especially when the other parent doesn’t help or uses weaponized ignorance not to help. It’s a fruitless effort to try and try and try but then they are coddled by the other parent. Doesn’t matter how hard you are trying not to raise an entitled brat; the kid still acts like an entitled brat because the other parent is messing it up. And no matter how many talks about the behavior and where it is rooted from: 'Well, I’m going to parent this way.' Can’t get on the same page. Plain and simple, if you don’t want kids and you know it, don’t have them. I hate my life every day and often think about just leaving it all behind. This isn’t the life I wanted. Selfish. Yes. But so is having a kid."
"I suffered a lot of trauma as a kid. I didn't want to bring kids into this bad-and-getting-worse world. It always felt like love for a kid was too big and it would hurt too much if they suffered. I have two kids now, and we have had our fair share of trauma already. But love makes it worth it. Love for them is stronger than the fear of what might happen to them. It taught me that love is greater than fear."
"I was forced to grow up at 8 years old when my mom had my brother. I ended up spending the next 10 years caring for my sister and brother. If I wanted to spend a weekend with friends, I had to make sure the house was sparkling before I left. If it wasn't, I couldn't go...or if I slipped past I got a wrath when I came home. I was always on the fence about having kids. However, around 20 years old I met someone who convinced me that I would be a great mother due to my history of caretaking. Three years into that relationship I had three boys. I loved it at first but then started regretting it. I never got to be a child. Now that my boys are almost grown I still want to be a child. I have battled with addiction and depression most of their lives, and it makes me feel bad for my boys. They didn't ask to be in this world and have to deal with my trauma regularly. I love them; I don't regret them. I just know now that I should never have had children of my own based on my own mental health issues. Even had therapists wonder why I would have children after giving up my own childhood."
"I am pregnant now with my first and have felt regretful from day one. It has already changed my relationship, and I have lost my autonomy. Not a great start."
"My wife and had always said we’d wait until we were both in our 30s before we had kids. I’d just left a career to go back to school to become a teacher. This was not the best timing. The day after Father’s Day we found out that she was pregnant. We were both shocked and scared and apprehensive. How in the world would we continue to live our lives the way we wanted, go where we wanted when we wanted, and how would I be able to keep up with school? How would our friends react?
When our daughter was born, we were instantly in love with her. She’s changed everything. The feeling I had about our baby girl that day was, 'I never knew I needed you until I met you.'
We’ve taken her on all of our trips and have loved seeing her wonder at the world around her. Our friends and family have all fallen in love with her. My coworkers have been the most supportive of me, and they love our daughter. She’s attended school with me virtually before, and I talk about her in every class when I get a chance.
We did not expect to have a child right now, but she is everything to us, and she’s the best thing that’s ever happened to us."
"I (F) did not want to have kids. My husband didn't care either way. When we were in our 30s we got a lot of pressure from family, friends, and doctors saying that I didn't know what I was talking about — not having kids would be the biggest mistake of my life, that I was depriving my husband of his children (?), that there wouldn't be anyone to take care of us when we were old. Essentially everyone that mattered to us in our lives told us we would be miserable if we didn't have kids. So we decided to try for six months. I got pregnant six days later. For a variety of reasons, I had a second child four years later.
I love my kids. But I hate Hate HATE parenting. I regret having kids every day. I am heartbroken that I listened to all the people who told me I didn't know my own mind. I should have trusted myself and listened to my intuition. I never should have had kids."
"Unexpected surprise here. We fell pregnant mid-30s. People say, 'I cannot imagine my life without my child now,' but actually I can; I imagine I would be doing what I was doing in my early 30s, spending all my money on clothes and restaurants and holidays. And doing that for the rest of my life was the original plan. But is that life more attractive than the one I have now? Absolutely not. I am so, so, so glad for this unexpected surprise, I feel so fulfilled and full of love every day, and I haven't ever thought twice about what I might have given up to have her. I also feel more freedom than before, which a lot of people warned me I would lose."
"I was 31 when I had my son four years ago. It was from a one night stand. I also took an early retirement from the Army, and planned on spending the next half of my life traveling. I secretly lived with regret up until his first birthday, when I emerged from my postpartum depression. I never wanted to be a mother, but now I have a traveling partner to share all of my journeys with."
"I grew up constantly surrounded by people older than me, so I was never really around kids, never babysat, and all around just preferred adults to kids anyway. Having kids was never something I really saw myself doing when I got older, until I met my now-husband. He grew up in a big family and always saw himself in the future with a large brood of children. I knew that he would be an awesome dad, and I wanted to be a part of supporting that desire of his.
We have two kids, and that's definitely enough! I absolutely adore my children and could never imagine life without them. Life is so much more fulfilling with them in it, and my husband is indeed an awesome dad. My kids are great, and I love spending time with them, but I still don't like *other* kids and feel like I don't know how to relate to them well. Often people, especially other parents, always seem so shocked when I honestly tell them I don't like kids, but I also hear a bunch of people agree with me — they're just too scared to tell their truth. While I enjoy being a mother, it doesn't fulfill a deep-seated desire of mine from my younger days that it seems like so many other parents have."
"Never wanted kids growing up. Met a guy, got married. Kids seemed like the logical next step. Between the guy and the kids, I disappeared. I was his wife or their mum. Don’t get me wrong. I love my kids and wouldn’t change them for the world. But I wish I had made different choices. I now have a grandchild, and as much as I love him, I struggle to feel any connection to him."
"I didn’t want kids and was upfront with that before getting married. I am an only child and never liked being around kids. When my dad was diagnosed with cancer, one night I was sitting at his bedside and realized that because my husband is no-contact with his family and my family is small, that this could be him in 30 years. Sitting alone watching me slip away.
It changed my views on kids. I didn’t think of them as germy reasons I couldn’t have a carefree life and nice things anymore. Suddenly creating a life with my soulmate seemed beautiful. Corny (and awful) I know.
We now have an 8-year-old, and nothing has changed my life more than becoming a mother. The only change I would make is not waiting so long."
"I had my oldest kid due to a birth control failure situation. I didn’t want kids. I was perfectly content with the idea of eventually being the cool aunt. I liked kids but didn’t want my own. I wanted to have a partner and some pets and spend all my money on pets and travel. But alas, my oldest decided to surprise me and throw off my plans. I have since willingly decided to have more kids. I don’t regret my kids. Occasionally, I do mourn the life I wanted. But I don’t regret them. I still do not recommend having children to anyone who is on the fence or younger and hasn’t thought about it. I firmly believe that not having children is the way to go, but it did end up working out for me. Still have pets and able to travel, so all of my life plans were not ruined. They just come with a side of either finding childcare or bringing your kid along for the ride (though it is fun teaching my kids to love animals)."
We had so many responses that we couldn't post them all... so if you want to submit your story for a Part 2, comment below or use this 100% anonymous form.
Note: Responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.