‘Regretting motherhood’ debate rages in Germany

June 27, 2016 10:52 am
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The notion that children's well-being depends on their mothers and not on the society around them or their fathers, is deeply entrenched in Germany and creates real obstacles to women's careers/AFP
The notion that children’s well-being depends on their mothers and not on the society around them or their fathers, is deeply entrenched in Germany and creates real obstacles to women’s careers/AFP

, BERLIN, Germany, Jun 27 – Is it possible to regret becoming a mother? The question first posed by an Israeli researcher has stirred a debate in Germany like in no other country, shattering a long-held taboo.

“In Israel, it was settled in a week. In Germany, it has lasted for months,” said sociologist Orna Donath, whose study “Regretting Motherhood” was published in 2015.

Overview
  • "In Israel, it was settled in a week. In Germany, it has lasted for months," said sociologist Orna Donath, whose study "Regretting Motherhood" was published in 2015.
  • Tired of hearing that she "would regret" not having a child, the researcher collected testimonies from 23 women who, on the contrary, love their own kids but would, truth be told, prefer not to have had them.
  • The book taps into a usually-unspoken maternal ambivalence that may be far more common than previously acknowledged in many places, including Germany, whose fertility rate is less than half that of Israel's.

Tired of hearing that she “would regret” not having a child, the researcher collected testimonies from 23 women who, on the contrary, love their own kids but would, truth be told, prefer not to have had them.

The book taps into a usually-unspoken maternal ambivalence that may be far more common than previously acknowledged in many places, including Germany, whose fertility rate is less than half that of Israel’s.

Several German books have since been published on the subject, including “The Lie of Maternal Happiness” by Sarah Fischer, along with almost-weekly newspaper columns, television chat shows and Twitter debates with the hashtag #RegrettingMotherhood.

“More than a third of women with a university education remain childless here, a situation that is unique in Europe,” said scholar Barbara Vinken, who published an analysis on the “myth of the German mother” in 2001.

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