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Is Motherhood Regret The Most Taboo Subject... Ever?

It was one of the most talked-about scenes in the Netflix series, House of Cards.

Robin Wright, who plays US First Lady Claire Underwood is asked by a congressman’s wife if she regretted not having children. After a tense pause, she coolly replies: “Do you ever regret having them?”

Recently, topic again hit the headlines… mainly in anticipation of the new book, Regretting Motherhood, by sociologist Dr Orna Donath, which is set for a July 11 release.  

In it, Donath says such regret is likely to be far more common that we realise.

"Often [the regret] boils down to two main reasons; the experience of responsibility that never ends – even as grandmothers – and the knowing feeling that motherhood doesn't suit them.”

"Motherhood might change women's lives in ways they could not have predicted up until one second before birth. If we don't treat motherhood as a mythical kingdom, and if we treat mothers as human beings, then we should be able to comprehend that flesh-and-blood women might think and feel that they have made a mistake."

Amy Gray echoed this in her Fairfax-published article, Anyone Shocked By Women Who Regret Motherhood Isn't Listening.

“Invariably, these women are painted as mentally ill, because people can think of no other reason they would find fault with motherhood,” she wrote.

Gray says that not only are women expected to do this job – “you won't be paid for it, you won't be respected for it and it won't pay into your super” - they're expected to love it.

That if some women they had known motherhood was going to be so hard, they would not have become mothers at all.

Many childless (or ‘childfree’, depending on your viewpoint) women are often, and very openly, told that they will regret not having children later in life, yet, as Wright’s character perfectly demonstrates in House of Cards, if the question is turned on its head – that women who have children might regret it – isn’t treated with the same respect.  

One thing is true: we’re looking forward to reading Donath’s study.

At least to open up some kind of conversation.

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