“Having Children Was the Biggest Mistake of my Life”

Having children can bring up all kinds of emotions, but we were surprised by Isabella Dutton’s essay in the Daily Mail that said her main emotion was no emotion at all. Thirty-three years after giving birth to her first child, she can still recall quite clearly how indifferent she felt at the sight of her five-day-old son, Stuart, in his crib.

What did it, exactly? “Quite simply, I had always hated the idea of motherhood,” Dutton writes. “In that instant, any lingering hope that becoming a mum would cure me of my antipathy was dispelled.” Believing it selfish to have just one child, two years later she had a daughter—and the same feelings toward motherhood. Dutton married her husband at age 19, not wanting children though he said he wanted four. He thought she would eventually change her mind and she did at age 22, but only out of her love for him. Though she didn’t relish the job, she still got in with it. Dutton says she fed and clothed her children, took them to the park; she said no to nannies, feeling she would be the best for her kids. She didn’t want to do a “halfhearted” job, but Dutton still said her children “were like parasites [and]…would continue to take from me and give nothing meaningful back in return.”

The reluctant mother says she missed her old life, though with her day job as a typist at a telecommunications company, it’s not that she was doing anything terribly exciting. What she misses most is her time to herself and her uninterrupted time with her husband. Dutton is careful to point out her attitude toward having children isn’t a result of her own childhood. “Mum and I were close; even as an adult I could always confide in her. My childhood was very happy and conventional. Like most little girls I played with dolls. But I never recall a time when I wanted those make-believe games of motherhood to become a reality.”

But the childhood she gave her children did affect them. Her daughter once pointed out she never said told them, “I love you.” She admits to growing to love her children but maintains “I always wished I had never had [them].” And while her son has two beautiful children, her daughter chose not to have children. Her daughter also has multiple sclerosis, meaning she’s back home and Dutton has hunkered down to the duty of caring for an essentially helpless person again. Like any parent, she wishes she could face MS instead of her daughter; the best she can do is be a full-time caretaker.

Dutton knows she doesn’t feel the kind of thing she’s supposed to, but maybe it’s not as uncommon as we think. She writes, “I know there are millions who will consider me heinously cold-blooded and unnatural, but I believe there will also be those who secretly feel the same.”

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