As BuzzFeed contemplates its future, the website should reconsider its approach to motherhood.
The media outlet is rethinking its news division because it loses money, offering voluntary buyouts. BuzzFeed would likely gain some mom consumers if it changed its tune on motherhood.
In April, BuzzFeed ran an article headlined, “Mothers Are Revealing How They Realized They Regret Having Children And How They’re Coping Now, And They’re Such Nuanced And Valid Feelings.” The first mom the article quotes said, “I regret having children because of what’s going on in the world. I feel a SEVERE feeling of doom and anxiety when I think about her future. She will probably never be able to afford a house and struggle with debt, climate change, scarce resources, and inequality. I am truly terrified, and I feel so guilty. If I was childless today, I would 100% not have any children.”
This is such a pessimistic view of motherhood and society. Yet it is a view that is getting more attention. Prince Harry made headlines when he said he would limit his family to two children because of environmental concerns. Prince Harry is not alone in his thinking.
Among Americans aged 18 to 49 who don’t have children yet, 44 percent in a Pew survey say they don’t think it’s likely they ever will. Of these, 5 percent attribute their reluctance to climate change or the environment, while 56 percent said they just don’t feel like it. Another 9 percent attribute their attitude to the “state of the world.”
In the article, another mom lamented that she did not have time for herself because of her kids: “I have a preschooler. Things I don’t like: I can’t go anywhere alone. I can’t have quiet time to myself unless they’re sleeping. I’m always being touched. I’m always being asked to do things that they can’t do on their own. I have to do daily care tasks for them like bathing and making meals.”
When I read this, my mind quickly turned to my children climbing on my lap asking for “one more bite, please, mama” of my oatmeal while I was trying to eat it that morning. This little routine is inconvenient but is such a happy memory for me.
Some responsibilities of parenthood are more challenging than others. I write this as a parent of small children who wakes up physically sore from holding and carrying my children. Yet very little of what we see elevated in popular culture focuses on the joy and satisfaction that nurturing children brings mothers also.
It seems like popular culture spends more time promoting the “wine mom” narrative that women need alcohol to get through mothering and less time honoring women for the work they put into mothering. Just because caregiving can be tough doesn’t mean it is not worth our time, shouldn’t be done, or is bad. While not the same, no one would say that about other pursuits, such as making a scientific discovery, accomplishing major health or fitness goals, or taking on a challenging career.
For our society to exist, children need caregivers willing to teach them everything from the ABCs to how to get dressed. What’s missing from the “regretful parenting” genre of articles is the joy of parenting—the first steps, the first hugs, and so much more.
This negative coverage of motherhood is not new to BuzzFeed. In February, BuzzFeed ran a story headlined, “Women Who Regret Giving Birth Are Sharing Why, And It’s Sparking A Much Needed Conversation.”
In 2021, BuzzFeed published articles including, “Parents Who Regret Having Children Are Making Anonymous Confessions Online, And It’s Taboo But Important”; “15 Parents Shared Why They Regret Having Kids, And Their Reasons Why Are 100% Valid”; and “19 Women Got Brutally Honest About Why They Don’t Want Kids.”
We get it, BuzzFeed wants its readers to know that not everyone is happy with her decision to have children. But BuzzFeed is doing more than this. It is promoting a narrative that conflicts with what Americans want.
A huge majority of Americans have or want children. Only 5 percent of American adults do not want children. Among Americans aged 45 and older, only 7 percent with children said if they could do it over again, they would not have children. And 50 percent of those who didn’t have kids said they would have had at least one.
Stories about parental regret might get clicks, but BuzzFeed acting as a PR machine against motherhood might also influence the decision some people make about parenthood. And BuzzFeed isn’t alone.
For more examples: The Atlantic ran an article headlined, “The Two Reasons Parents Regret Having Kids.” Women’s magazine Elle published a piece, “‘My Biggest Regret In Life Is Having My Daughter.’” Self magazine published, “10 Women Look Back on Living Childfree by Choice.”
Part of the coverage issue on motherhood might be that the women who opt-in to motherhood are opting out of working at popular publications to care for their children, so their voice is missing. What is left are more voices of regretful moms or women who have chosen to live childfree.
American moms should speak up to make sure that “regretful motherhood” doesn’t become the dominant narrative of our time. One of the most countercultural actions a mom can take, it seems, is to write about how she likes motherhood—and maybe tag BuzzFeed.