Of the overall sample of women we polled, 44% indicated that they have children and that they are happy that they do, while a further 30% said they don’t have children but would like to have them one day. 

Only 5% said they don’t want kids and 2% said they can’t have them. 

In this article we take a closer look at how women who have children feel about motherhood, how the habits of those with kids differ from those who don’t, how the division of labour impacts on child rearing and how belief systems and life choices impact motherhood and vice versa. 

So what do the moms say? 

Of the women who indicated that they are parents an overwhelming majority (87%) said they are happy that they have kids. That percentage is highest in the oldest statistically significant age group, since 93% of women between the ages of 61 and 65 chose that option.

The age group in which the lowest percentage (74%) affiliates themselves with that positive statement is the youngest one – 18 -22. 

One can only imagine (and perhaps hope) that the 20% difference will be made up as the years go by. 

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Of the overall sample of women who have kids 11% said they wished they had them later in life. That number rises as the mothers’ ages decrease.

If you are 18 – 22 and a mom you are 3 times more likely to say you wish you had kids later in life while women aged 23 – 26 are twice as likely than their older counterparts to have wished they waited. 

But is there a ‘right age’ to have kids? Are there pros and cons for having them earlier or later? We spoke to Sophia Swanepoel, editor of Parent24:

“There’s no “right age” to have kids, it’s a very personal thing: every woman and her circumstances are different. I’m glad I had children in my 30s,” she says. 

“I might not have the energy I would’ve had were I in my 20s, I’ll be nearly 60 by the time our little one leaves school, my back can’t handle picking up preschoolers, and the grandparents are older, but I think I’m more patient, less selfish and hopefully a little wiser now. We’re a bit more comfortable financially and I had many years to travel and be silly, so a night on the couch is now highly satisfying to me. But that’s me, and it could look completely different for you.”

The unspoken taboo: What does the percentage look like of women who have children but wish they didn’t?

Only 5% of the women who indicated that they are mothers chose the option: I have children and sometimes wish I didn’t. This number is highest (9%) among women aged 51 – 55. 

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Is this an age in which women weigh up their lives and consider what might have been? The fact that the number drops down to 3% in the older age bracket and continues to fall may suggest some form of mid-life crisis? 

W24 spoke to Charmaine (52) who is a mother of three with one child at university and two in high school. 

“My kids are at an age now where they don’t really need me – unless it’s to pay for something. There are times when I look back at my life and think how different things would have been if I didn’t have children. I wouldn’t say that I am sorry that I had kids, but at this point in time I am very aware of the sacrifices I have made for them.”

Unsurprisingly a woman’s circumstances play a prominent role in how she feels about having kids, since women who indicated that they are the primary parent are more than twice as likely to say they wish they didn’t have children than those who share child rearing equally with a partner. 

How do belief systems influence a woman’s likelihood to want kids and vice versa? 

Millennial women who indicated that they believe in marriage are over 3 times more likely to say that they don’t have children but want them one day.

They are also 2.6 times more likely to want to adopt one day, as well as to say they have a child and are happy that they do. 

Although compared to those who did not indicate that they believe in marriage, those who do are 1.7 times more likely to say that they have children and wish they had them later in life. 

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Women who have children are also more likely to pray (+8%), and they are slightly more likely to say they have faith in the SAPS and the government.

And yet strangely, they are slightly less likely to say they believe in SA’s future and their future in it. 

While mothers are more likely to worry about money than their counterparts who don’t have children, they are twice less likely to save – one presumes after the costs associated with raising children there is no more money left to save? 

As for non-parents - women who don’t have children are 12% less likely to be happy with their sex lives and significantly more likely to be anxious (+16%) and depressed (+8%) than those with kids. 

How do mothers’ hobbies differ from women who aren’t mothers?

Unsurprisingly women with children ticked way fewer boxes than those without when asked to choose activities that help them relax.

While they still watch TV and spend time with friends and family to unwind, the percentages are lower than their counterparts who don’t have children. 

Female respondents who are parents are also significantly less (12% or more) likely to: sleep, eat, spend time on social media, read books or magazines, spend time in nature and shop online than their peers who don’t have kids.

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The activities women partake in to unwind that are largely unchanged by motherhood (3% or less) include cooking, gaming and checking their phones. 

And finally, where 1 in 4 18 – 22 year-olds indicated that they would like to adopt a child one day, only 1 in 10 in their late twenties shares this wish. 

Read more: She Says Female Nation Survey results