Regretting Motherhood: A Study

Written by:
Orna Donath
Narrated by:
Mandy Kaplan

Unabridged Audiobook

Release Date
February 2018
6 hours 22 minutes
A provocative and deeply important study of women’s lives, women’s choices—and an ‘unspoken taboo’—that questions the societal pressures forcing women into motherhood
Women who opt not to be mothers are frequently warned that they will regret their decision later in life, yet we rarely talk about the possibility that the opposite might also be true—that women who have children might regret it. Drawing on years of research interviewing women from a variety of socioeconomic, educational, and professional backgrounds, sociologist Orna Donath treats regret as a feminist issue: as regret marks the road not taken, we need to consider whether alternative paths for women currently are blocked off. She asks that we pay attention to what is forbidden by rules governing motherhood, time, and emotion, including the cultural assumption that motherhood is a “natural” role for women—for the sake of all women, not just those who regret becoming mothers.

If we are disturbed by the idea that a woman might regret becoming a mother, Donath says, our response should not be to silence and shame these women; rather, we need to ask honest and difficult questions about how society pushes women into motherhood and why those who reconsider it are still seen as a danger to the status quo. Groundbreaking, thoughtful, and provocative, this is an especially needed book in our current political climate, as women's reproductive rights continue to be at the forefront of national debates.
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It made me affirm my decision to be childfree. I know, I feel it, what my mother always say to me, my sister who has a child now, and also other mothers, regarding motherhood, is actually a lie. They always tell me how fulfilling it was, but their actions and complaints tell me otherwise. I can feel deep inside them the regret, and wish to undo things. But I know saying these things are considered taboo so they locked it deep inside. But not so deep that I can still feel it. I find this book helpful to validate my decisions. If you want to be or contemplating to be or in the fence of whether you want to be a mother or not, please read this first.

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This book is incredible, but you need to be in the correct headspace to listen to it. It’s not something you want to listen to on the way to work if you’re the type to mull over sensitive topics for long periods; save it for weekends or time where you have space to absorb everything. Do prepare yourself to go back and relisten to many passages, because they will strike you with such honesty that you crave to hear it once more. This book touches on things that mothers have been told to lock away deep within themselves, tarred and feathered should their human emotion and experience dare reach the surface. You will find yourself thinking of your mother and the mothers you’ve known in your life. You will start to understand some of the unexplainable feelings communicated between a mother and child that are nearly impossible to verbalize anywhere other than an anonymous, safe place. This study helped me grow a new appreciation, respect and understanding for my mother that was always under the surface but could not be identified. Some element of regret, whether large or small, is omnipresent and universal to motherhood. This is a simple fact, not a sin, not a crime and not a mark against a mother’s character. It is the result of thousands of years of social subjugation, suppression and oppression. Mothers are the sole reason the world turns. We must allow them space to regret.

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Alexander Z.

"Regretting Motherhood" by Orna Donath offers an eye-opening exploration of a topic rarely discussed openly: the regret some women feel after becoming mothers. As a man reading this book, I found it to be an enlightening and thought-provoking experience that profoundly reshaped my understanding of the societal pressures and expectations placed on women regarding motherhood. In modern media, from YouTube commentators to outlets like Fox News, and among self-proclaimed "manly men," there is a disturbing trend of bashing and belittling women who decide against motherhood. Donath’s work illustrates how this societal attitude not only marginalizes these women but also reinforces the myth that motherhood is the only fulfilling role for a woman.

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