The author of "No Kid..." is French, and moved to Brussels because of what she calls the "baby mania" that has overtaken France. Apparently, French women are encouraged to crank out as many children as possible (France has the highest fertility rate in all of Europe) and are given generous perks from the government, including 16 weeks of fully paid work leave, monthly cash payments for having more than two children, and a 50% tax break on nannies.
But the author views these perks as subversive practices that hurt instead of help women by keeping them out of the work force, damaging their financial futures, and trapping them within their homes.
Okay, I'm actually with her so far. It's a fact that women who take years off from employment to stay home raising their children do pay the so-called "mommy tax" of 1 million dollars of lost lifetime income. And if French women are actually encouraged by the government to bear more and more children, the likelihood of them returning to the workforce and resurrecting the career they left years ago before they reach retirement age is probably pretty small.
In addition to the financial blows motherhood often throws, she also seems to agree with the writer of the "motherhood is boring" article in that the drudgery of caring for children destroys a woman's body, her relationship with her partner, and her sense of self.
In many ways, I think she's right. Having multiple children does take its toll on women's bodies, kids certainly have the potential to damage a relationship that's not on solid ground to begin with, and if you don't have a firm sense of who you are as a person and what you stand for and believe in before having kids, the "mommy" role can swallow you, and any semblance of the person you were before disappears.
But here's where my understanding of her argument ends.The author says that keeping your child amused and happy will "fast become one of your most hated jobs," that raising children "is war" and that mothers "are on the losing side."
She says, "Children are born to disappoint you...because we dream about wonderful children, but there are no wonderful children... they dream of things you don't even imagine, things that are pointless for you but not for them. So of course they have to disappoint you. Most children are difficult."
She says that she had children to end her feelings of loneliness, but realized too late that her kids only created a new form of loneliness, that motherhood made her feel "trapped in something that you are unable to end...that it will last you 15 or 20 years and you cannot escape. It is not like a job, which you can change. Or a country."
And of her own children, she says, "They live in their own world and I live in mine" (huh? They're 13 and 10), and that if she does have grandchildren she doesn't want to look after them too often.
For the record, I don't think this women is the devil incarnate. I get many parts of her argument. I can relate to her missing her former life. I miss mine all the time. I understand why she calls mommy talk "mind-numbingly boring" because as much as I enjoy talking about Isabella and what she's up to, I relish the political arguments I have with my very Republican relatives over the Sunday dinner table. And I sympathize with her struggles as a working mom who every day has to come home from work and start her second shift. I'm still searching for the right balance between my career and raising my daughter.
But seriously? My. God. Does this woman receive no joy at all from her children? From the unconditional love they give her? From watching them grow into independent and intelligent little people? From the affection she presumably gets each night when she tucks them in? From reliving her childhood memories through their eyes?
Motherhood is undeniably hard. It requires self-sacrifice. It requires patience. It requires an enormous amount of time and energy. And it often requires a strong stomach because children, and especially small babies, are often awash in bodily fluids, especially when they're ill. It is life-changing, and those changes aren't always for the better.
But amidst the exhaustion, the craziness, and the daily muck, there are wonderful, incredible and fulfilling moments that you experience each and every day.
So is "No Kid..." a satirical tongue-in-cheek jab at the glorification of motherhood so prevalent in most Western societies? Maybe. But this woman is a mother with children. Children to whom she has actually given a copy of a book that does little to hide the fact that she thinks they were "big mistakes," (her words), that she regrets having them, and that she seems to not even like them, let alone love them, very much at all.
If ever there was an argument to stop the vilification of those who choose not to have children, this woman is it.