15 Biggest Regrets Parents Will Have In Their Lifetime

Life is full of responsibilities - and being a parent is up there with the best of them. If you don't have children, it's hard for anyone to describe accurately the highs and lows of parenthood. It's one of the best things you can do, but one of the hardest too.

Like most of the worthwhile things in life, there's much debate over how a parent should be and what the best practices are. It's not a one size fits all situation and it's far from black and white. As children grow up to fully fledged adults, we're often left thinking what we could have (or should have) done better, or what we would do differently if we got a chance to do it all over again. For some, it can be as simple as saying 'I love you' at the end of a phone call, for others it can go deeper.

Let's face it, no matter what hand you're dealt, if you're a single parent navigating these tricky waters alone or happily married, there's always something you wish you hadn't done, or something you wish you had done more often. We're gluttons for punishment, and since hindsight is 20/20, it's easy to get caught up. Let's take a look at the most common things parents will regret in their lifetimes. You may even learn something.

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15 They Worked Too Much

One of the most common regrets of any parent is the amount of time they spend at work while their children were growing up. Whether you’re in a couple or single, working is one of the things that we just can’t escape. We would all love to be millionaires, doing what we want when we want (although let’s face it, even millionaires have to work to get there). Unfortunately, it’s just not realistic. Having a great career is a great life goal. It’s important to show your children that no matter what they do in life, working hard is a key element – but, there’s a fine line. Before you know it, you’ll raise your head from your emails and they’ll be packing the car for college. It’s all about a healthy balance.

14 They Didn't Have Enough Patience

Having kids is hard – they’re demanding little darlings that are relentless. You’ll make one breakfast and they’ll swiftly throw it in your face. You’ll make another and they’ll sneakily feed it to the dogs. This is where practicing your breathing comes in very handy. Parents are pro at the ol’ counting to ten. However, even the most yogariffic parents have their breaking point (it’s usually somewhere between Frozen and Moana). Losing your temper every now and then is to be expected – but that doesn’t mean that you won’t feel like the worst person in the world when it happens, and you’ll never forget.

13 Mothers Regret Criticizing Their Bodies

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This has been brought to light over the last few decades with the shift in body positivity. Women especially, are often unhappy with their appearance, and vocal about it. Can you remember how many times you heard your mother say ‘I can’t eat that, I’m on a diet’ or complain that her butt was getting bigger? Children are so impressionable, it’s easy to forget that they pick up everything that they hear on a deep level. Normality is what we’re raised around – and if you think that is how things are supposed to be, it’s likely that you will grow up with the same thought patterns. It’s not easy, but keeping in the negative thoughts about your body will make the world of difference to your child.

12 Staying Together For The Kids

Even in this day and age where divorce is more common than the changing of the seasons, there are couples that think staying together is better than being apart, even if there isn’t any love there anymore. We’ll let you in on a secret – kids know when their parents are happy. It doesn’t take a child genius to realize that mommy and daddy sleep in different rooms and don’t kiss each other goodbye anymore. You may think that you’re putting on an excellent show of it, but believe us – they know. Staying with someone you don’t love makes no-one happy. Having two houses, two happy parents and possibly two Playstations has a better chance of raising a smile.

11 Not Going On Vacation

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Listen, vacations are expensive. You have to take time off work and there’s no one there to pick up the slack, meaning that you’re going to have a terrible time when you get back. The kids will need new clothes, swimsuits, sunglasses – and you don’t have a suitcase. There’s a plethora of reasons why going away is a pain that would be easier avoided, but you’ll regret it in years to come. Even if you take a short drive to a forest and pitch a tent for the weekend, this is precious family time that your children (and you) will never forget. When they’re grown with their own families, you’ll want them to carry that tradition forward.

10 Saying No (Or Yes) Too Much

Mother scolding her daughter

‘No’ gets used a lot in households with children. ‘NO! DON’T EAT THAT! NO! DON’T PUT THAT UP YOUR NOSE!’ By the time your kids have reached toddler age, you’ll have said it more times than you’ve said your own name. It’s an important word, of course. But, it becomes very easy to use when it isn’t always needed. Broaden your horizons and start saying ‘yes’ a little bit more, otherwise you may live to regret it. On the flip side, don’t say ‘yes’ to every whim your child has. Freely giving them a never-ending allowance because you had nothing growing up may seem like a good idea, but boundaries are important if you want them to succeed in life. When they reach 21 and you’re still bankrolling them, you’ll know.

9 Watching Too Much TV

In the morning before school, at lunchtime, in the evening, on weekends – the TV is almost always on, right? There’s nothing wrong with entertainment. We all love hunkering down with a blanket and watching a movie or five, but plonking your kids in front of the set so you don’t have to do anything won’t make anyone’s life better. Yes, it gives you the time you need to cook dinner or do the laundry, but be careful. It’s a slippery slope. Take some time out to draw, talk or read with your family. They might yell at you when you turn off Sesame Street but it’s pretty vital. Do you want to realize in 20 years’ time that you’ve raised a coach potato?

8 Not Taking Enough Photographs

In case you hadn’t noticed, kids grow really quickly. One minute, they’re sucking on their pacifier wanting you to cut up their meat, the next they’re calling you from a different state to let you know they’re bringing the kids to visit next Saturday. We’re not saying that you have to follow your tots around like you’re Mario Testino shooting the cover of Vogue, but taking the time to shoot a few candids captures these years that you’ll never get back – and they’ll love looking at them too. Make sure that you get them printed, too. It’s easy to just take a few pics on your cell and forget about them, but that’s the problem – you’ll forget.

7 Being Over-Protective

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Having children lets you experience a type of love that is unlike anything you have ever experienced. It’s beautiful, exciting, unconditional – and also gut-wrenching and stressful as hell. Having sole responsibility over another human’s life is terrifying and not to be underestimated. So, it’s no wonder that parents tend to take it a little too far when trying to look after their kids. Like most things in parenting, there’s a fine line here. You can keep your child at home and stop them from going to sleepovers and parties because you’re too worried about what ‘might’ happen – but think about the impact that will have on your precious Tammy. If you shelter your kids from the world, they’ll grow up not knowing how to handle it. When they get to adulthood, there’s a good chance they’ll be afraid of everything. Is that what you want?

6 Spending Too Much Time At Home Because It’s ‘Easier’

Taking kids out of the house can be a nightmare. For a start, young children need everything, like a mobile drug store. First aid, nappies, formula, spare clothes, snacks – you name it, it needs to be there. You can guarantee, if you leave it behind, it’ll be the one thing that you actually end up needing. That’s only the first part, too. When you’re out and they’re in a bad mood, they won’t do as they’re told and embarrass you in front of all the other parents. They’re wired that way. A lot of new parents find it especially daunting to go out, instead opting to stay at home for the day. Don’t do it – when you get older, you’ll wonder why you spent the best summer on record watching Disney films on repeat (and so will they).

5 Listening To The Teacher

There's an old saying: 'It takes an army to raise a child.' While parents have the final say when it comes to important decisions, other adults in positions of authority have an important part to play, whether you like it or not. Teachers are charged with the task of shaping young minds, building a relationship with them that enables them to grow and flourish in their educational environment...right? Depending on the type of the teacher, they can be a huge asset to you and your kids - but, if you get the wrong one and pay too much heed to what they say and how they feel your child should behave, you might lose sight of your own views. Weigh it all up - how well does the teacher know your child? Do you really want to take everything they say as gospel?

4 Having Their Children Too Young/Too Old

It's true what they say, there's never a 'right' time to have kids. You can be financially prepared, in a 4-bedroom house with a great insurance package, a happy marriage, and still be knocked to the nines when it happens. Nothing can ever prepare you for the whirlwind that ensues. Some wish they had kids a few years later so they could have taken more vacations alone, partied more or simply saved more. Others wish they had them earlier to have made the most of the early years. This is a case of the grass is always greener - no matter what you do, you may always feel like you just missed the mark by an inch or two.

3 Not Having More Kids

Growing up, you might have a certain idea of how many children you want to have. When you find the partner you want to have kids with or if it happens by sheer happenstance, your 'number' might start to seem unrealistic. Just like how there's no perfect time to have children, there's never a perfect time to have more children either. Some couples don't have more children because they're too worried about the financial impact - then come to regret it years down the line. One Reddit user wrote, 'My wife and I always wanted 3 children but were so worried about how having more might put too much of a strain on us financially that we only had one. We're both in our late 40's now and wish we had just got on with it. It's much easier to see looking back.'

2 Not Saying 'I Love You'

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Being a parent doesn't automatically mean that you'll become extremely vocal about your emotions if you've never been that way. It might go against your grain to tell those you love how you feel, but many parents get to an old age before realizing that they should have told their kids more often just how much they meant to them. Taking the few moments every now and then to tell your kids you love them and you're proud of them no matter what does wonders for their confidence, and your connection. Ask any person who had an emotionally constipated parent how it affected them. It won't be good. Trust us when we say, saying 'I love you' matters.

1 Not Being Encouraging Enough

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If we haven't already mentioned it, parenting is exhausting. There are so many things to remember that it's almost impossible to remember everything. Encouraging your kids may seem like a given, but it's one of the most important things. If they're 3 and want to become a superhero, tell them they can be whatever they want to be. If they're 5 and want to become a pro figure skater, buy them the skates. If they're 18 and decide to change majors at the last minute to something obscure, help them carry the books. Your child will always have the limits you've laid out lurking in the back of their mind - if you teach them that life is limitless, they'll go after their dreams with the kind of passion that can't be taught.

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