Many women have been told they might regret not having a child, but, in Germany, debate is raging over a subset of women who feel the exact opposite. “Regretting Motherhood,” a study published by sociologist Orna Donath in 2015, collected testimonies from 23 women who love their children but say that truthfully they would rather not have had them. Donath’s study hit home particularly hard in Germany, according to Barbara Vinken, a scholar who published an analysis of the “myth of the German mother” in 2001, because it “radically questions the joy of having children in a society that expects everything from mothers, and where mothers demand everything of themselves.”
Vinken has argued that German culture puts undue responsibility on mothers for determining their child’s well-being. As recently as last summer, the top-selling Bild Daily condemned women who “pursue careers, wear trouser suits, drink smoothies and work out … They look like men. They are not mothers.” Die Zeit, a more liberal and centrist publication, has argued that motherhood has been devalued by the push to include women in the workforce. And women who return to work without taking maternity leave for at least a year, according to Vinken, put themselves at risk of being branded as a “Rabenmutter” (raven mother) — a woman who cares more about her personal goals than her children.
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