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What happens when you don’t like being a parent?

Frustrated mother is not really enjoying parenthoodParents come in many shapes and sizes.

There are those for which being a parent is the most natural thing in the world.

Always knowing they would have a family, they live, sleep and breathe parenting; thriving on the milestones, the naughty steps and the healthy lunchboxes.

Others land unsure, but once their brood appear they grit their teeth through the hard times and appreciate the good.

But is it possible that a small portion, often quite reluctant to admit the truth, arrive in the parenting world to discover that it simply isn’t for them?

I’m the first to admit that parenting is hard … damn hard. The monotony of baby care, the toddler tantrums and the unrelenting demands of the parenting world can test the most saintly of people.

And though I love my children more than anything, on those days when my biggest achievement is simply surviving a trip to the shops and I see my former calm and collected self reflected back as a short-tempered and weary shadow, I can certainly relate to those honest few.

And on investigation, it seems I’m not alone. When posed the question, I gradually came across several mothers who admitted the same inner conflict:

  • A guilt-ridden new mum who wonders why every other mother is basking in the glow of baby-land while she is lonely, miserable and exhausted.
  • A working mum who finds juggling career and kids brings out the worst in both worlds.
  • A mum of two who openly reminisces of a happier life before kids.

But if you find yourself in this group, remember that you’re not alone and there are things you can do to turn things around.

3 ways you can learn to like being a parent

Minimise the stuff you don’t like, maximise the stuff you do

Admitting you are not enjoying it does not make you a failure. Some people love salsa dancing, some people collect spiders, some spend their weekends reenacting the civil war. Try to find things you do enjoy doing with baby and avoid those that push your stress-buttons; if that means having groceries delivered whilst you take bub to the park, rather than tackling the trolley dash alone, it is a well-deserved trade.

Remember things will change and so will you

Different stages appeal to different people. Even if you feel this way now, be open to feeling differently at a future stage. I personally don’t get gooey over babies, and even now, if someone offers me a cuddle of a newborn I run for the hills. But stepping into the early years of school has brought some unbelievable moments of pride and achievement … for us all.

Don’t do it alone

Baby-wrangling by yourself is a challenging and very lonely task. Find support in like-minded mums, share the challenges and pitfalls, and be honest with how you feel.

If any niggling feelings of helplessness and a lack of connection to the baby persist, talk to your GP as they can be indicators of postnatal depression or anxiety. Even just talking to someone and explaining how you feel could make things a whole world better. Your GP can refer you to a counsellor to help you work through your feelings.

FORUM: Chat to other parents anonymously on the Bub Hub Forum

Have your say:
Have you always enjoyed parenting, or have you ever felt like it isn’t the job for you?
What do YOU think? Let us know.

AJ Sutherland

About AJ Sutherland

Author, copywriter and regular procrastinator, Angela’s latest book London with Kids is jam-packed with real-life tips on travelling with young children. When she’s ...

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10 comments so far -

  1. I love being a Mum, and we have a few kids whom we live with every once of our beings. But truth be told I am not cut out to be a full time Mum. When this current (and final) lot of maternity leave finishes I will be happy to return to my life as a working Mum. My comfort zone includes time at work where there are no poops to clean up. It is how I find my balance.

  2. Glad i have seen that i am not the only one who thinks like this. I love my kids and never want to lose them in any way. But lately i have been thinking how different life could be if i jadnt had them. I have always wanted kids but never grasped the fact that it cam be difficult until after i have had them. I have been off work for five years now and i think this is partly why i am feeling like i dont want to be a parent. I want them to be able to do more for themselves yet i dont want them to not be my little girls anymore. I find my feelings confusing and guilty. And it is so taboo to admit it

    • Hi unsure – thanks for commenting. It can be a confusing and isolating time. Are you a member of our forum? Maybe it would help to chat to some of the women in there – you’ll find that no matter what, there will always be people who feel the same way you do. The url is Also at least you know that your kids are growing up and soon they will be more independent. You might, like the author of this post, really enjoy being a parent of school-aged kids.

      All the best xx

  3. I ALWAYS wanted to be a mum I worked with Children for 10 years and was still silly enough to yearn for one lol I LOVE my daughter with every part of me! but its bloody hard! Because i wanted one so much i feel i have to be super mum so when i lose my patience and yell or just literally want to walk out the door i feel like such a failure and I feel i have to put on this fake persona to friends and family and hold it all in!

    • Hi Starli5 – thanks for commenting. It is SO hard – you’re not alone there. But don’t be so hard on yourself. You don’t have to be perfect – your family and friends don’t expect you to be and they’re not perfect either. Everyone has their own struggles. If you’re not already a forum member maybe you’d be interested in joining so you can chat to other mums who are feeling the same way – plus others who might help you see things differently.

      All the best xx

  4. I didn’t think that parenting was right for me. I spent my whole pregnancy in a state of anxiety because I really didn’t think I was doing the right thing.

    My husband has always wanted children very much. But for me, I was fairly apathetic about the whole thing – I hadn’t given it much thought and I didn’t really care much one way or the other. But I did very much enjoy my life without kids and would have felt quite content to continue on this way. Because my husband had strong feelings on the subject and I didn’t really, I eventually went along with him.

    I adore our son, he is a beautiful little boy now 14 months old. He has been a super easy baby (thank the gods!) and my husband is a very hands-on dad. I still have very mixed feelings about being a parent though – specifically being a mother. I really wish I was a father! No matter how involved and helpful my husband is, I find that I still take on the lion’s share of the parenting.

    And to be honest I really, really resent that. I resent that my husband – much like a child begging his parents for a puppy – was the one who really, really wanted a baby, yet he is the one who doesn’t have to put in the hard yards. He wasn’t the one who went through a difficult pregnancy with life-threatening complications, he wasn’t the one who had his belly cut open and a baby taken out, he wasn’t the one who had to learn how to breastfeed and he wasn’t and isn’t the one who is still on-call 24//7 for a toddler who still breastfeeds throughout the night.

    But on a more positive note – I think that because I had such low expectations on being a parent I have now found it is less difficult and more enjoyable than I had previously thought it would be. My son and I have a very, very strong bond which began right from the moment he was born and that was and is a really lovely surprise. I love him very much and I find that I have an endless (so far!) amount of patience for him. Even when he keeps me up half the night (mostly) I don’t resent him for it. Even when he is naughty, he keeps me endlessly amused – and endlessly exhausted!

    So it is a mixed bag of feelings for me and it probably is for most parents too. I would say that while I love my son, I don’t really love being his primary care-giver – the responsibilities weigh very heavily upon me, and sometimes I don’t feel physically or mentally or emotionally up to the whole parenting thing. I am finding it easier as he gets older. I’ve never really been into babies at all (in fact my son was the first baby I have ever held, and I was 37 years old at the time! That is a lot of years avoiding babies!) But the older he gets, the more I enjoy parenting him. My hubby gets all misty-eyed over our little baby growing up, while I am secretly chanting ‘grow, grow, grow!’. I am looking forward to the day when he can feed himself, take himself the toilet, and put himself to bed!

    And we are planning a second baby soon (god help me!), so it can’t be too bad. I am just hoping the second one is as good as the first and that he or she grows up super fast!

    • Hi – thanks for your comment. I’m positive you’re not alone in feeling this way. It is such a demanding and often thankless job. Imagine if that your toddler was your boss. If your boss threw food at you during your lunch hour you’d probably quit your job!! All the best with the second. I found it much more relaxed second time round – plus your little boy will have a playmate. It is a gorgeous moment when you see that they’ve become friends! Thanks!! – Rebecca

  5. Good on you for bringing it up! Different ages and different stages is excellent point. I think society needs to move away from the promise that parenthood will complete people. I enjoy parenting but I also really love reading, keeping fit, sports, travel, doing my job well. Having kids makes all of those things harder.



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