40 Good Reasons Not to Have Children
By Corinne Maier
Translated from the French by Patrick Watson
"If I had perceived I wouldn't have conceived" (pg 3).
How will this book help me in deciding...?
This book will help parents with feeling less shame over sometimes regretting their choice to have kids, while also giving 40 reason to those still deciding on why one shouldn't have children.
Corinne Maier is a psychoanalyst and author living with her husband, and has two children in Brussels. She originally wrote this book in French, then was able to translate it into English to continue to help the public in realizing the many valid reasons not to have children. It appears that she takes from her own experience as a mother and psychoanalyst to describe her 40 reasons.
Maier does a great job at being objective, realistic, and honest. She illustrates why the glorification of parenthood, especially motherhood, is often very false and very political. Reading through the 40 reasons, I think readers will increase their intellectual understanding of parenthood and the many ways that our society idealize the family and children themselves. She often focuses on our "child-centered society" to help readers grasp the influence of consumerism and the politicized family unit.
Her brutal honesty about regretting having kids is refreshing and bold. She normalizes the feeling of regret, while also acknowledging that she does undoubtedly loves her children. Still, the love for her children does not change the fact that, if she had more knowledge before having her children, she believes she would not have done it.
"Yes, some days, I'm sorry to say, I really regret it, and I'm not afraid to say it. When they were born, I was young and in love -- and, of course, ruled by hormones. If I had to do it all over again, to tell you the truth, I'm not sure that I would" (pg 4).
Maier also does a great job at putting pregnancy and parenthood in historical perspective. Yes, at the beginning of civilization, our species did a great job at populating the world and cementing our rule as the strongest and smartest animal. Fertility and child-birth was respected and promoted because it was seen as the right thing to do for our species. But then came modern medicine. Modern medicine provided women with choice and ability to plan when to have children. It decreased the risk of dying during childbirth, gave us the first oral contraption, and legalized abortions. Yet, as we all know, reproductive rights, our freedom and choice to have children or not, has continuously remained under attack.
Maier also criticizes people who view their children as their "missing link between the human and the infinite," and calls them"silly and naive" (pg 6). Though, I would not go as far as to judge those who do feel this way about having their own children, I understand that Maier's emphasis in this book is to encourage readers to inform themselves as much as people, and reflect upon their own reasons for wanting children, since one of her reasons NOT TO have children is specifically to "leave a legacy," which I have written about. I have also written about not judging those who do want to have children to "leave a legacy," or who have children for reasons that may seem "silly and naive," since no one should be made feel belittled or stupid for the reasons why they decide to have children or not.
She also brings up the anxiety that can be imagined for a nation with low birth rates, as if citizens are "carrying out some kind of national mission" when they become parents and solidify the nations growth and future. It is no wonder why governments have so many benefits for families more than two. Though, obviously the government subsidies come because children are expensive (another reason NOT TO have children)!
"The State has an interest in your having children: is that not a bit suspect? Is that not a good reason to question this 'civic duty' to contribute to the renewal of the generation?" (pg 9).
Simply put, Maier even offers an alternative to increasing citizens and guaranteeing a nations future generalizations. She explains that bringing in immigrants from other nations, and financing people's retirements would be one option.
Moreover, the capitalistic nature of having a child serves the market just well. There are so many products advertised to parents and children, it is no surprise that pregnancy, child-rearing, and children (along with their future college-education) are money-making businesses!
Maier also mentions the horrors that go along with the damage done to the environment, which I have described.
Below I will describe and discuss my favorite 4 reasons Maier gives to not have children (and I encourage all readers to do the same).
#4 "YOU GET TO KEEP HAVING FUN!"
Once you have children your freedom and time are constrained and focused on your child until they are able to move out and become a stable and responsible adult, which may be around age 40, at the rate that my generation is going.
As I have noted before, most women who decide to be child-free value their freedom and free time, which is one reason they decide not to have children.
While exploring this reason Maier lists the many personal freedoms that are taken away once you have children, such as:
"Sleeping through the night (very rare during the first few months)."
"Going to a museum or an art show: the kid starts bawling after just five minutes."
"Travelling anywhere except to stupid destinations featuring beaches, the sea, or daycare."
"Going away any time other than school holidays..." (pg 25)
#14 "KIDS ARE A TREASURE, AND WILL COST YOU ONE"
Simply put, "Children cost a fortune" (pg 49). Maier does a great service by pointing out that the idealized celebrity mother is not one to look up to, since these women like Angelina Jolie, Sharon Stone, Madonna, Nicole Kidman etc. can "escape the constant servitude" that accompanies motherhood because they have the funds to spend money on cooks, assistants, nannies, and a even special tutors to ensure their child does their homework and at the top of their class. But you? "You have to do all this stuff yourself" (pg 51).
#30 "'RAISE' A CHILD....BUT TOWARD WHAT?"
"#30 is a great one. Here, Maier explains that to "raise" a child is a vauge and ambiguous thing to do, but school is deifnitely part of it, and school is what society deems as a path to "raising" the child, but it is also hard work, work that you too, as a parent, will have to endure one way or another (helping with homework, parent-teacher conference, PTA meetings, applying for schools, trying to get your child into the best school etc.).
"Kids start bringing work home from school at the age of six -- work they have absolutely no interest in doing, and understandably so. ....On top of that, everything that the kids has not understood at school now has to be explained at home. And the homework? Guess who gets stuck with it. ..." (pg 95).
I hadn't consciously realized this reason was so important to me until reading through Maier's dreadful description, and also reminding myself of what my job as a child therapist mostly consist of--trying to understand why the child doesn't want to do the homework! Of course, being a child therapist is more than that, even when you're serving a child with ADHD, but incomplete homework is a definitely a complaint that many parents hope therapist can help them with.
#38 "WHY WEAR YOURSELF OUT FOR A FUTURE THAT DOESN'T INCLUDE YOU?"
Pretty self-explanatory. Hopefully, and usually, parents die first than their children, and they obviously do not get to see or live in the future where their child/ren will reside. Yes, you may teach your child somethings, or they might be a great humanitarian and help thousands, but one does not need to have a child to have such a legacy, if that is indeed what one wants to do.
I recommend this book because she creates a safe space for parents to live in the ambivalence of sometimes, maybe at moments, regretting their choice to have children. It's okay! It's normal and doesn't mean you love and don't want your children less.
By Jasmine Celeste