Regrettably a Mother

I recently stumbled across an article in which the author of a new book entitled "No Kid: 40 Reasons Not to Have Children" states her case on why women shouldn't have kids. When I first found the article, I wondered if the woman who wrote the piece I reviewed here last year turned her article into a book deal. But no, this is an entirely different woman altogether. While the author of last year's article states that her kids bore her to death, the author of the book goes a step further and calls children "annoying" and "pointless" and says she "really regrets" having had her two children.

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.

10 Responses to “Regrettably a Mother”

  1. # Blogger kenju

    I will never understand women like that. I know one thing, I am so glad I am not her child. I am sure feeling sorry for them now.  

  2. # Blogger Christine

    I can understand her points, but for the love of Pete, why in the world would she have children to begin with? I love, love, love my cousins' kids, but at the same time, I can see the numerous negatives from a personal standpoint and the impact on the earth...but holy shit, to admit regret? I'd be damned if the 13 year old me would have let my mother live that statement down.  

  3. # Blogger Tracey

    Her article is so wrong on so many levels... if she had just worded things a little differently. Instead of saying that her kids were big mistakes, she could have said that she wished she'd known what motherhood was going to be before she had children, so that she could have been better prepared.

    Her children. Sigh... if they truly are "ok" with her book and articles, then I feel for them and their lack of emotion. Of course, they can only learn what they're shown and taught, and clearly, they're being taught that you have to look out for Number One and screw anybody else. Keep yourself happy, and don't make sacrifices for anyone else. Lovely lesson...

    She sounds like a selfish 13 year old.  

  4. # Anonymous Melissa Garrett

    I actually had to call Poinson Control this morning because my 2 year old pushed a chair to the counter and opened a child-proof container of fluoride. In addition to her own .5 ml dose, she ate 1-3 tablets before I could snatch the bottle away. What's worse, I was standing 5 feet away cleaning out the junk drawer and, I kid you not, browsing the the FREAKIN' Poinson Contol pamphlet!!

    So yes, it's days like these, when all kids are home for a holiday, when my house is a disaster, when I have writing to do and no time to do it, when my husband is away for yet ANOTHER week for business, when I have a literal pain in the neck . . . I kinda wish I didn't have children.

    But tomorrow I will wake up, begin again, and kiss each of them and tell them ALL how much I love them and are devoted to them. They are the reason I was put on this earth. Of that, I am convinced. I feel sorry that she discovered otherwise. And I feel sorry for her children, especially.  

  5. # Anonymous Melissa Garrett

    I'm in such a huffy state today - I can't even bother to proofread my comment before I hit submit. Sorry for all the typos and grammatically incorrect statements!  

  6. # Blogger Damselfly

    It's too bad that just because her experience being a mother has soured her, she feels it's universal for all mothers and tries to make her opinions into facts. What about all those people who have 6, 8, 10 kids? The people who adopt many times over, even adopting children with special needs? Those people obviously enjoy parenting and get something out of it.

    Thanks for making me think today.  

  7. # Blogger Binulatti

    To be fair, Kristi, consider that your source here is the "FeMail" section of a British tabloid using translated sound bites from a French-speaking psychologist who describes her book as follows: “I’d say it’s 50% provocation and 50% a serious book about legitimate questions people ask themselves". To read it as "kids are evil and you are a simple fool for having them" is quite overwrought. From what I can gather in this, more even-handed interview with the author, her concerns take aim at the global/economic impact of baby-mania in that parents feed into the national French pension system and create a massive, greedy, wasteful consumer socitey. This this "top 40" tactic is just meant to stir emotions and sell books. And it works. But her with her thesis in the book, she is trying to connect with the world on a macro level - the bigger impact for all of us world citizens as opposed to the all too common micro-view "I see the entire world thrugh the lens of how it affects me and my baby". And for the record: 'So would Maier tell a “childfree” friend who was contemplating motherhood to resist? “No, I wouldn’t as it’s not my place to interfere in other people’s business,” she says.'  

  8. # Blogger My Wombinations

    Hmmm... Somehow I think this article is about 90% provocation and 10% reality. Either that, or she is one seriously sad human being. Seriously, I feel sorry for a woman who has so much trouble enjoying the good parts of being a mother--and they are plentiful. But I don't need to write articles justifying my choices because they are justified by my happiness.

    But I am happy to provocate a little on my own... and so I ask, why is this woman so concerned with appearance AFTER children? I can't imagine that it was pregnancy and motherhood that created that face. My guess? Bad genes.  

  9. # Blogger My Wombinations

    p.s. My sex life post-birth is 100 times better than my sex life pre-birth... I know I am just one in a billion moms, but I cannot possibly be alone in this. It is less plentiful, but far more fulfilling. This alone is reason to have children.  

  10. # Blogger Kristi

    Karrie, I think you're correct, to a point. As I wrote in my post, I agree with several of her points, and yes, she's clearly trying to sell her book, but check out this interview with her http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20070929.wdoug0929/BNStory/lifeFamily/home/?pageRequested=1

    You may be giving her a bit more credit for her argument than she deserves.  

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