Women Regret Relationships, Men Regret Career Moves, Study Says

By Michelle Gerdes for The Wall Street Journal

Many of us have made a juggling choice that, in retrospect, we regret. In my bid to banish mommy guilt, I try to take those cringe-worthy decisions in stride and chalk them up to a learning experience. But there is one regret I can’t shake, one that predates mommyhood: skipping grad school.

Why didn’t I go back to school in the B.C. (before children) era? For one, I always felt there could be a better time: I’d go back part time after the move, after I settled into the new job, once I had a shorter commute. In hindsight, all of these reasons seem trite and pale in comparison to my current situation: two kids under three, a crazy commute, a new job, and a beloved husband who deserves some of my attention, too! I had always intended on going back to school and regret not taking the time to do so when I had so much less to juggle.

Most people, however, cite a misstep in the love department as their biggest regret, according to a recent study from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The study, published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, called 370 adult Americans at random and asked them to report one salient regret in life. Men were more likely to mention a work regret, whereas women were more likely to mention a regret related to love. Nevertheless, when all were combined, regrets involving romance were the most common (18 percent), followed by family (16 percent), education (1 percent), career (12 percent), finance (10 percent) and parenting (9 percent).

People who regretted events or decisions that they didn’t act on tended to hold onto the regret longer than individuals who acted on their choices (which they regretted), but went on to regret the outcomes, too.

It’s also interesting to note that women had more family regrets than men while men had more education regrets than women. Does this sound like a typical situation among your friends and family?

Readers, what is your biggest regret? Do you think your gender plays into what regrets you have, or what regrets you are willing to admit to?