We recently wrote a post where parents from the BuzzFeed Community shared their biggest parenting regrets. In the comments, readers deeply related to their stories and opened up about their own parenting regrets and mistakes. Here are some of the most thought-provoking ones:
1. "I adopted my child from foster care when she was 16. I spent the first four to five months being an absolute helicopter parent. Blocking social media, not allowing unsupervised time, searching her room for drugs; I did it because she had been mostly living in institutions for the last four or so years, and this is what the social worker told me I had to do. I was so stressed, I had a borderline mental breakdown."
"Then, I changed my attitude and accepted that she is her own person, and I cannot control her. She will make her mistakes — it's not my job to prevent them or shield her from consequences. My job is to love her and provide a safe space for her to heal and grow. I'm much more relaxed now."
2. "I would have to say my regret is not fully being financially stable/financially ready when having my first. My fiancé and I had been in a good place financially for a while, and that’s why we had made that decision. After finding out I was pregnant, things started going downhill; he lost his job, struggled to find another adequate one, my nanny gig came to an end because the family relocated, and since I was pregnant, going with them was a no-go. Since having my son, it just has been a nightmare financially that I never thought we would be enduring."
"But we love our kids, and we are doing everything in our power to be better and show them better."
3. "My biggest regret was not realizing how I was making my oldest feel when she was 9. She said she felt shunned and like a mistake. While we talked it out, I still felt horrible. But I found a way to make things better."
"I asked her about it a while back, and she now tells me she doesn't remember any of it. But I will always regret I made her feel that way."
4. "A friend of mine regretted throwing away/destroying his ex-wife’s things (including pictures and videos) right after his divorce. The ex-wife initiated the divorce, and it was not amicable — she left without taking a lot of stuff with her, so he got rid of everything that was hers and photos she was in. A few years later, his ex-wife passed away unexpectedly. They had one child together (a daughter), and she was pretty young when her mother passed. Now, their daughter is older and desperately wants to connect with her mother. She doesn’t have many pictures and just the few stories she has heard from other family members."
"The daughter never had the chance to connect with her mother as an adult; she doesn’t know what parts of her personality she got from her mom. My friend has said how much he regrets getting rid of everything. He says it felt therapeutic at the time, but he got rid of clothes, jewelry, pictures, even journals — all things that his daughter needs now."
5. "I wish I'd been more present with my kids and put my phone down. During the pandemic, I wasn’t able to work or get unemployment, so I was on my phone the whole time. I missed out on being present with my daughter who was 2 at the time. I was also pregnant with my son. It got to the point where my toddler daughter said, 'NO!' and tried to take my phone out of my hand while I reached for it. I remember my phone stats saying I was on it for 18 hours one day. I live close to Seattle, so everything and everyone was so intense at that time. I was very depressed, and my phone was my go-to. It screwed with my head and my emotions. I was in a dark place that took a couple of years to get out of."
"I’m still on my phone way too much. Today, it says eight hours. I do own a business that requires me to be on my phone, so that doesn’t help. It’s hard to make an effort and not be on my stupid phone. I’ve gotten way better, but there’s much more room for improvement. I missed out on a lot and still do sometimes. Put the phone down — you’re missing so much."
6. "My mom has told me that she regretted falling into what she calls the 'down the line trap' with us kids. Basically, the first is made of glass and all kinds of expectations and restrictions are placed on that kid. The second? Less pressure, less restrictions because you learn that constantly coddling and controlling the first didn't work, but now you can't undo that, but *can* a little with the second one. The last one? Spoiled rotten, zero restrictions, and treated like royalty because the second one (me) gets ignored and becomes an absolute butthole of a human being. LOL."
"So, down the line, you lose more and more control all for the sake of making it easier on YOURSELF, not the kids. All the kids should be treated the same with the same expectations, period."
7. "I wish I could stop pausing on providing a better future to my son and focus on the present. I'm a first-generation immigrant, so I'm focusing on working and going to school to provide what I only wish I could have — but I often forget to enjoy the present."
—26, New Mexico
8. "I had my oldest son at age 20. When he was young, I left him with my parents to go out a lot. I regret the nights I was out on the town instead of home with him. I eventually matured, but not right away."
9. "I regret allowing my daughter to always bamboozle me into letting her have her phone from 10 p.m.-6 a.m. She cried, saying she was isolated from friends and depressed, so I always relented. I found out when she was 15, she was sneaking out of the house, drinking, and got involved with boys. She spiraled out of control for years and still hasn't come to terms with her choices."
"I just wish I'd put my foot down and took that damn phone so she couldn't have contact to make plans. And now, she blames me for not saving her from her own mistakes. Yep, I should have kept the phone out of her hands during sleeping hours."
10. "The biggest mistake I made at first was treating my son, who's autistic and has ADHD, the way my parents treated me — angry, stern, neglectful, and with unquestioning obedience prized above all. It's like I was on autopilot, repeating the same stupid mistakes. My child is now 11, and he has emotional issues. I feel that if I had been to him the parent I needed when I was growing up, he would be a happier, better-adjusted kid than he is today."
"Luckily, after he had a serious mental health crisis, I took a hard look at how I was parenting, and became more available, patient, and interested. Now, we talk daily about everything in his life and are affectionate with each other. I am so grateful he is part of my life, and I cherish every minute — even the hard ones."
11. "Drinking alcohol. I spent my entire adult life and my first 12 years as a mom drinking. Beer, wine, seltzers, vodka — I traded my family fun time for a beer buzz. I always believed alcohol would help me feel calmer or happier, or make my situation easier, because that’s what I was always taught. I believed it would help me de-stress and cope with negative feelings and events in my life. But it doesn’t help; it gave me a quick buzz, then made everything worse. It wasn’t until my kids were ages 12, 9, and 5 that I finally realized it’s all a lie! Alcohol was never my friend and never helped me — all those times I turned to it, it made me short-tempered, tired every day, cranky, sick, and just overwhelmingly unhappy. It turned me into the mother I NEVER wanted to be."
"It hurt my relationship with my kids and husband. When I should have been reaching out for them, I was reaching out for the booze instead. There’s so much I missed because I was drunk. The things I can’t remember hurt just as bad as some of the things I DO remember. All the missed opportunities, the little things I should remember but don’t, how annoyed and irritated I always was with my beautiful babies just trying to connect with me, every special holiday being hungover, how many times I screamed at my kids and made them cry alone because I was drunk, and they were bugging me… All that I wish I could do over. There’s so much regret around alcohol in my life. I’ve been sober for four months, and I’m so glad to be making new memories now to crowd out the old, painful ones. Alcohol stole my parents from me as a child, and then stole me away from my own children, as long as I allowed it to. It’s not worth it for the quick buzz you get off that first few sips. Moms, PLEASE choose your kids over your bottle — they grow so fast, they’ll be gone before you know it. The bottle will NEVER bring you peace, joy, or happiness like being sober and present with your family can."
12. "I am now raising my twin grandsons who are 13. I've had them since they were 2. Their father, my son, was going through such a horrific time with mental health and addiction that he was unable to care for them. Because of that, I really wanted to be there for my son, but I couldn't fully be there for him because I needed to be here for his kids. Therefore, I was never really there for either of them. Plus, I thought doing this a second time around would be a piece of cake."
"Raising kids in the world of the internet, there's a whole different ball game than raising kids when I raised them back in the '80s and '90s. I feel guilty about everything I did with my own two sons and everything that I'm doing that is wrong with these little guys that I have now."
13. "I should have a long-term perspective — building my kids for their future. I was too preoccupied with how they behave now, whether they meet others' expectations. I should have focused more on what matters in their future: their resilience, values, faith, and good friendships. I should have a long-term perspective when they struggle, make mistakes, fail, or didn't do well."
"All these are actually helping them learn, grow in resilience and in their relationship with God. I shouldn't feel bad and try to give them everything but allow them to just have enough, learn on their own, and help them to be able to last this marathon of life."
14. "So, I was young when I had my daughter, 22 when I had my son; they're two and a half years apart. It was hard, but I am happy they saved my life — my kids are my everything. But I wish I would have known how hard it would be. I was way too wild before I had kids."
15. "I regret getting a parent PLUS loan so our son could go to college. Now, when those payments start up, we will be going into debt and can't afford to pay the loans back. I don't know what I am going to do!"
16. "I wish I had made time for self-care. I did not have my annual gynecologist appointment when my son was 18 months old during COVID. There is an unspoken statistic about an increased chance of breast cancer after childbirth. Six months later, I was diagnosed with aggressive stage four bone metastatic breast cancer through a broken hip."
"I got news today that my treatment is working. This means that I get to have hope that I will get to see my son’s first day of kindergarten in two years. Have gratitude for the moments you get the joy of loving your child. Every hug, laugh, kiss, and smile is precious."
17. "I regret having my daughter at 24 when I hadn’t even discovered who I was yet. I then realized what a horrible narcissist I married and had to raise her alone. I wasn’t able to give her the kind of childhood she deserved on my own. Plus, the bouncing around between her parents and her grandmother taught her how to manipulate people at a very young age! It gave her no sense of security and therefore no attachment to anyone or anything. I spent as much time as I could with her but was often unavailable because of having to work so much to support us, which at the time, seemed like the 'right thing to do' — at least, that's what everybody told me! We enjoyed what I believed was a close bond because of having to grow up together and survive until she became a mother herself at 28!"
"It was then that she decided that I was a horrible mother and that she had a horrible childhood that was my fault alone. She blames me for everything and has shut me out of her life completely, while still allowing her father and grandmother in her life. She won’t allow me to know my grandchildren at all and assured me she never will. I’ve tried apologizing and expressing how sorry I am for anything I may have done, but she has no empathy at all. I miss my baby and regret not spending more time with her to instill values that may have prevented such a hash, unfair reaction, but there’s little I can do about it now. I’m hopeful that as my grandchildren grow up, they might seek me out to be part of my life, but only time will tell."
18. "I just regret not taking the time to enjoy things more. Worrying about the house being tidy, wanting to get to the next 'stage,' doing the things that others thought I 'should' do with my kids, choosing a better father for them, etc. Luckily, my kids turned out pretty darn good (if I do say so myself), but there are still days I look back on their childhood and wish I would have known better and/or done better in some situations. I’m not sure, though, if ANYONE truly feels 100% confident in every choice they make as a parent or don’t look back with some form of regret later on."
"My advice to parents out there is give yourself some credit, always try to do the best you can, and remember to slow down and enjoy the time you have with your little ones. (Though, some days, if all you did was keep them alive, that’s still a win!)"
19. "My biggest regret is that I got married to a man who I didn’t love and got pregnant right away. I was 16; I didn’t know how to be a mother. My son had autism, which I was not even aware of in those days. He was misdiagnosed over the years continuously. We have always had a very difficult relationship, and I really wish I could go back and be a little wiser and spend more time with my son and really get to know him."
20. "My biggest parenting regret is blindly trusting everything our pediatrician said, because he was a doctor and theoretically knew better than me. Turns out, my mom instincts counted for a lot when our pediatrician dismissed my concerns with my youngest son, even when I correctly diagnosed him with an autoimmune disorder. I can’t even imagine where my poor son would be now if I had just blindly listened to this doctor."
"Thankfully, because of my own research and advocating, he’s doing incredibly well."
21. "I regret not switching to formula sooner. I fell for the 'breast is best,' even though I was not making enough, and my daughter couldn't get a good latch due to an issue with her jaw. The peer pressure from family was awful! My daughter was hungry all the time, and I regret doing that to her. Once I switched to formula, she positively thrived, and it was a joy to see."
"She grew chubby and content instead of constantly fussing and being pitiful. If I could change any one thing, I would have started formula on day one, for her sake. Fed is best."
—41, South Carolina
22. "I regret having a child at a young age. While it did help me prioritize my life, I also was, to a certain extent, focused more on myself rather than my child."
—45, New York
23. "With my first, I was SO focused on what I was supposed to do, and I stressed a lot if he didn't hit milestones exactly on time. I'd work myself up trying to do everything perfectly by the book, and it was so unnecessary. He hit milestones when he was ready."
"I was much more chill with the second. The third and forth were adopted, and I think being more chill really helped me support them while not putting too much pressure on them, my husband, or me to do everything perfectly. I was much more comfortable with the idea of 'every kid is different' by the time we adopted, and I think it was a huge benefit to us and then to the kids."
24. "I had my first child at 20. She was my 'surprise.' It was from a rebound hookup from my high school sweetheart. I decided to try a relationship with him. I ended up working full-time and going to school full-time to pay the bills and hopefully have a future, while he slept or complained that I wasn’t cooking or cleaning. I missed out on a lot of important moments in her life: first steps, first words, and holidays."
"Nineteen years later at 39, I had my second child. It has been totally different. I had maternity leave, time off when he was sick, and a good source of income. I don’t regret having my daughter at 19 because I couldn’t imagine my life without her, but I do regret not giving her the life I wanted to give her that I am now having with my second child."
Parents, do you have any parenting regrets you think more people should know? Feel free to let us know in the comments below, or if you prefer to remain anonymous, you can share your story using this Google form.
Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.