Regretting your decision to have children is something we should “expect people to feel”, according to a psychology lecturer.
Recent figures released from a study in Poland found that as many as one in 10 parents expressed regret about their decision to have children.
Similar studies in Germany in the United States have reported similar figures.
Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast, Dr Ann-Marie Creaven at the University of Limerick’s (UL) Department of Psychology said there “isn't a reason to think that it would be that much different” amongst Irish parents.
“Regret is really a universal experience,” she said.
Dr Creaven said regret is a natural part of adult life following big decisions.
“We all make decisions that we might regret – be that buying a house or moving job,” she said.
“When you think about parenthood, that's not any different.
“Really, we should expect some people to feel regret there too.”
‘Premium on parenthood’
Dr Creaven said the “special status” ascribed to being a parent makes expressing regret a difficult thing to say.
“My colleague Dr Carmel Hannan would have generated some data indicating that in Ireland we place quite a premium on parenthood,” she said.
“Most married couples would like to have children and might like to have relatively more children than many other European countries.”
Dr Creaven said because parenthood is so culturally important in Ireland, people might be less likely to put their hand up and say they have regrets.
“I don't think many of us think about much about [having children], because it's such a culturally common thing to do.”
Dr Creaven said the studies have included people beyond their 30s, to understand the scope of the regret.
“These are people who are more established in parenthood … they might still express regret," she said.
Dr Creaven said feelings of regret are mostly only experienced on a “temporal” basis.
“There might be a particular time in life where you experience regret and are quite clear about that,” she said.
“That might change later, so people may not feel the need to say it to somebody.
“Conceptually, regret can change no more than sadness can change, no more than loneliness [and] levels of happiness.”
Dr Creaven said it is important to note that there is a distinction between love and regret.
“They might love the child – they might adore the child,” she said.
“But they're thinking about their own role and thinking ‘Actually parenthood is not the role for me.’
“Maybe people are starting to think about it more because of the cost-of-living crisis, the accommodation, the climate catastrophe.
“There are more resources out there now to help people think about it … I think is really helpful, because it's such a big life decision and we should give it more thought than we do.”