One of the things they don’t prepare new parents for is how you will second-guess absolutely everything. Are you making the right choices, how will things affect your babies down the road, could you be very earnestly going down the wrong path…the questions go on and on.
If you’re wondering what parents end up regretting (but are too shy to ask your own), these 16 parents of adult children are willing to share.
16. It’s nature vs. nurture.
We have an amazing young adult daughter but we’re slobs and so is she.
My parents aren’t like that and my in-laws aren’t either so I don’t know why we’re the way we are, but I know we’d all be happier if we just kept clean and tidy homes.
15. Cat’s in the cradle.
My ex’s dad once told me he regretted moving overseas during his son’s childhood in order to “provide” for the family (I put that in quotes because we live in Australia – he wanted to make $500k/year instead of the $100k he could make here). Sure, they owned their house, but my ex never saw his dad regularly. His parents divorced when he was in high school, so his dad never came back to the family home (he did move back to Australia) and my ex never felt like he knew him very well, although he looked up to him and loved him so much.
2 years before his dad died, my ex himself moved overseas in pursuit of a “better life” (read: a higher paying job), so in the last couple of years they saw each other maybe once or twice. His dad said that was his influence – that he had basically taught his son that making money was more of a priority than spending time with your loved ones.
I don’t think my ex will ever get over losing his dad multiple times in his life – or getting to know him better while he was alive.
14. Mother knows best.
I wished I pushed harder for him to go to community college and not University.
The university ended up nearly breaking him mentally and he is still working on getting back to where he was mental health wise.
He dropped out early so luckily he only has 1 year of loan debt.
He’s now loves community college but lost a lot of time. He’s a really smart person who lost a lot of self confidence due to a sh**ty UC system.
13. Kids are more important than folded laundry.
Before she died, my grandmother on my dad’s side admitted to my mum that she wished she’d spent more of my dad’s youth as a mother rather than trying to be the ‘picture perfect housewife’.
Dad was born and raised in the 60s and 70s (he wouldn’t clean his room once, so they bagged up all his clothes and belongings then threw them outside in the rain for him to collect) and when he was high school aged they shipped him off to boarding school where he lived everyday except for end of term holidays.
12. Just listen.
When my kid was in high school, and said they hated it, I should have been more proactive, and listened to them.
11. Why would he laugh, though?
My dad could be really cruel when my sister and I were kids. He did that putting all my stuff in garbage bags – because I wouldn’t clean my room thing to me. Except he emptied the trash bags onto the back lawn, and called all my neighbors so they could watch me drag it all back in “to put it up, where it goes”.
I came home from school to this, I was 9 and cried my eyes out the entire time, he was laughing. The neighbors were horrified and my Mom was pissed when she got home and she found out about it…
Between that, and quite a few other shitty parenting choices made by my Dad for my sister and myself, my Mom ended up taking a hammer to his classic car, in front of all the same neighbors. I love classic cars so I still feel bad about that car, but not who it happened to, he deserved it.
10. There will always be guilt.
I don’t have much in the way of regrets apart from missing big chunks of time with them due to my work. At 22 and 20 they are great young adults and I am proud of them and what they do.
They have character flaws and have made mistakes like anyone else and when they do I think what I may have done in raising them that could have caused it.
But I think that’s just parental guilt, they are their own people and can make their own wrong calls from time to time.
9. It’s still hard.
I regret reprimanding my kids because of embarrassment I felt, rather than their behavior being cause for reprimanding. There not only would have been less unnecessary reprimanding and punishment, but I would have been a better parent for worrying about what actually needed to be worried about. Parents shouldn’t make it about themselves, and I did for a long time…
8. Don’t let those hours build up for “someday.”
I wish I had left work earlier more often. They all turned out fine, and we have good relationships. But they grow up fast, and you miss a lot of good times if you’re too focused on being the provider.
7. Learn to talk about your feelings.
My grandparents never had heart to heart talks with their children so my mom had to learn a lot of things from her sisters and learn how to manage her feelings, studies and generally emotions by herself. When she became a teacher, she realized how important these conversations are.
So, my mom sits down with my bro and me to talk about our lives at least 4 times a week. It has let me let out a lot of my feelings so i don’t feel so overwhelmed and she has guided me through bullies and stress. Her style of raising me up is that if you’ve got a problem, i will guide i won’t fix it for you. Basically, you lead your life, i’ll guide you and when you fall, i’ll be the trampoline to support you. It’s sad to know that she didn’t have this kind of support system when she was younger.
6. It definitely has to be taught.
I wish I would have done more volunteering and selfless giving back with my kids. I guess it wasn’t part of my DNA and now it’s not part of theirs either.
5. Patience is hard.
I wish I had been more patient, communicated more openly and often.
4. Lesson learned.
Not teaching them finance and budgeting as well as we should have.
My wife and I were fortunate to go to a fiscally conservative investment firm right out of college which filled this gap for both of us.
The first week for everyone was principles of personal financial management. It was great for us right out of college to maximize our 401(k)s etc.
We quickly amassed what a lot of people would consider being “rich.” Once you hit a certain threshold, it’s just math. 15% returns on $1m is 150k per year. It grows pretty quickly once a good foundation is established.
Which is to say that we’re in a very comfortable position financially, but we never acted like it. I am an avid coupon shopper. I buy used cars, I’m an avid do it yourself-er, etc.
One day I was checking my investments at the dining room table and left my computer unlocked. My 14/15 year old son had a complete look of both amazement and betrayal because we always acted and lived significantly below our means. I have lost track of all the things we didn’t do because “we can’t afford that.” I was actually ashamed of myself; I didn’t get mad at him for looking, I kept my cool and asked if he had any questions. He simply said, “that’s a lot of money, Dad.” I could tell he was having trouble processing what was going on.
I then came clean, told him what it took to get there, the sacrifices we had to make to save, and why those who act like they have money probably don’t. I then followed it up with a conversation asking him not to discuss this with his friends at school. Our money is our business, nobody else’s. I then showed him the college savings account that we had been putting money in since he was born and let him know that when he turned 18, that money was his.
In the end, I wish I would have shown the kids all along that we were making trade-offs, and what those trade-offs meant. Instead I lied because “we don’t talk about money.” He’s 18 now and in university. I hope I didn’t mess him up too bad and we course corrected before it’s too late.
3. They’ll thank you for it one day.
Not enough responsibility or chores or enforcing them. 20 20 hindsight.
I wish my parents had given us chores as children. Mom said that she wanted us to enjoy our childhood while it lasted, but raising kids isn’t about them having a fun easy time for 18 years! It’s about creating healthy, self-sustaining new humans.
I imagine they were also too tired to manage a chore roster and also felt bad that they couldn’t guarantee an allowance, but honestly I would have thrived on having a schedule, I would have enjoyed living in a house that was actually clean, and it would have been nice to know how to cook/keep house prior to moving out.
2. The worst feeling.
I raised my little sister while I, myself, was struggling with undiagnosed bipolar disorder and alcoholism. She’s told me that the hardest part of being around me was that she always felt like she was walking on eggshells.
Now, I see her with her boyfriend and it’s the same people pleasing nonsense I know encouraged.
Both of our parents were s**t, neither cared about any of us. I tried to love her and raise her but I was a f**ked up 13 year old.
Anyway, I try to be there for her and be consistent now, as an adult. I just wish I had been more solid then. So that she could learn that love didn’t have to be earned like that. But at the same time, I recognize it’s not all my fault. My parents should have f**king parented.
1. The balance can be tough.
I regret wasting so much fleeting time working.
I find all of this oddly reassuring; it’s hard to say in the moment what’s best in the long run, but you have to trust your kids will know you’ve given it the old college try in the end.
If you have grown kids and have something to add to this list, please do in the comments!