I Wish We Had Never Had Children

'I Wish We Had Never Had Children'


by Contributor |
Published on

Women aren’t the only ones who struggle to adjust to parenthood. Robert, 42, explains the difficult feelings he’s experienced since becoming a father...*

One night last month, trying to soothe my 10-month-old son Joshua* as he screamed blue murder in my arms, I came close to crying tears of frustration of my own. It was 3am and Joshua refused to settle. Delirious with tiredness, my mind flitted back and forth between the row I’d had with my wife that evening, the meeting I’d be expected to shine at in just a few hours’ time and the fervent wish that I’d never had children at all.

Because much as I love my four sons, they have ruined my social life, sabotaged my marriage and stalled my career as a PR manager. Think men don’t find adjusting to parenthood tough? I’m proof they do.

I was too busy having fun in my twenties to contemplate having kids until I fell in love with Sally* 13 years ago, after meeting through friends. The first pregnancy was an accident, two years after we got together. But we were both broody by this stage and I naively envisaged a baby giggling blissfully between us in bed; a little person who would share the best traits of both of us.

We married shortly after James* was born in 2003 – and the reality of fatherhood set in. It wasn’t so much the sleepless nights as the loss of my identity that sapped my soul. The domesticated dad image – endless nappy changing – just didn’t suit me, and stuck at home without my social life my sense of self foundered.

In a desperate bid to cling on to my independence I’d sneak out to the pub on a Saturday night without telling Sally where I was going. I know it sounds awful, but I’d ignore her calls, slipping into bed to find her, understandably, furious. ‘You have responsibilities now, I need you here,’ she’d seethe as forcefully as she could without waking the baby, her anger slowly forcing me to my senses. I hoped that with time I would become as natural a parent as she was – I adored James, I just missed the man I used to be.

Instead of throwing dinner parties, we spent weekends sitting in soft play centres. The living room we once danced around before a night out was filled with baby gyms and piles of washing. Lads’ weekends abroad gave way to trips to wildlife centres so dull I struggled to stay awake. But when, four years later, Sally said she wanted another baby, I found myself agreeing as I didn’t want James to be an only child.

After our second son, Toby*, was born in 2008, life grew so hectic that Sally and I became more like business partners than husband and wife. Holding hands was out when there were little fingers grasping for their place. Sex became a rarity, whereas once we’d made love whenever and wherever we wanted. Even trying to get intimate on the sofa when they’d gone to bed was fraught with stress as the boys grew out of their cots and began pattering downstairs when they couldn’t sleep.

It slowly dawned on me that parenthood wasn’t a fleeting phase – it was something I’d signed up to until the kids left home, by which time I’d be pushing 60. I began to panic that life was passing me by.

Sally and I would average one date night every couple of months, and even then we’d be too exhausted to stay out past 10.30pm. We began to row constantly, over everything from the boys’ bedtimes to nappy duties, so it probably sounds strange that I agreed to have a third baby, but Sally was desperate for a girl. When Barney* arrived in 2011, we agreed that would be it – our fourth son, 10-month-old Joshua, was an accident.

I love him as much as the others – and believe me, I really do love them all – but as I held him in the hospital all I could think of was even more years of nappies before I got my own life back. When my childless friends tell me they’ve spent their Saturdays drinking beer and watching Soccer-AM I want to weep with envy. Being a dad doesn’t make men any less selfish– we just don’t get to act on our desires. My career has suffered too. Before Christmas, I missed a career-defining meeting because Barney was ill – although I suppose there’s no point in getting promoted because I wouldn’t have time to commit to a more demanding role. Sally, 36, gave up her full-time job as a recruitment consultant after Toby was born but still works part-time. It’s a myth that mums do all the childcare; modern men feel just as obliged to help out. But when you’re running on four hours’ sleep a night and feel guilty if you sneak off for so much as half an hour on your own, it’s easy to become short-tempered.

I enjoy getting our oldest son to football practice but our other children are so young it’s natural they want their mum more than me. Sometimes, when I come home from work to find Sally engrossed in bedtime stories, I really believe that she loves our children more than she loves me. I try not to be too negative in front of Sally, but she has begrudgingly accepted I’ll always be a reluctant dad. We’re still in love but I miss the carefree woman I was married to before we ended up under virtual house arrest. Our relationship just isn’t fun any more – how can it be?

All I can see ahead of us is 18 more years of catering to our children’s every whim. I feel resentful, but resigned to it. Ultimately, I know I wouldn’t want to be a sad old man sipping beer on my own with no offspring to carry on my legacy. But just because I love my children doesn’t mean I don’t yearn for the life I loved before they arrived.

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us