40 reasons not to have children

by Samara Ginsberg // 21 August 2007, 08:58

French writer Corinne Maier has scandalised the parents of France by writing a book entitled No Kid: 40 Reasons Not to Have Children and has been the subject of an interesting interview in The Times.

On the face of it, this seems like a rather good idea. Maier objects to the pressure on women to have children, seeking to highlight the huge and often detrimental impact that motherhood can have on one's life, in contrast to the popular image of the happy, fulfilled mother often presented in the media.

One of Maier's arguments is the sensible suggestion that the pressure on women to reproduce is asinine in an overpopulated and polluted country. But the controversy surrounding the book stems mainly from her vocal distaste of children:

“Children are there to stop you enjoying yourself. It’s a child’s hidden face. Believe me, he will be very inventive in this area. He will be ill when you (finally) arrange a night out, he will bug you when you celebrate your birthday with your friends, he will hate it if you bring someone he’s never met back for the night, and beyond that you won’t dare tread for fear of traumatising him for life.” She goes on to list the things you will almost certainly have to give up after having children. They include: a full night’s sleep, a lie-in, deciding to go to the cinema on the spur of the moment, staying out later than midnight (babysitters have to be relieved), visiting a museum or exhibition (children start mucking about after five mintues), taking your holiday anywhere other than destinations where there is a beach and a kids’ club, taking a holiday during term-time and smoking in front of your children, now deemed a “crime against humanity”.

Very few people embark upon having children without knowing about all of this. It's not a child's fault that they have needs, and it's a parent's responsibility to meet them. As old-fashioned a view as this may be, I actually feel rather sorry for Maier's children:

When they do really stupid things, I say to them, ‘Voilà! That’s exactly the kind of thing that I have written about in my book'...If I hadn’t had children, I would be touring the world with the money I made with my books. Instead of that I am forced to stay at home, to serve meals, to get up at 7am every day, to go over idiotic lessons, and to put the washing machine on. All that for two children who treat me like their maidservant. Certain days I regret having had them – and I dare to say it.

It is a brave thing to say and I admire her hugely for saying it. But surely this is the sort of work that should be written anonymously under a pseudonym. Much as I loathe the term "bad mother" and its implication of sole responsibility, I would say that it's a bad parent who would publicly promote a book saying that he or she sometimes regrets having had his or her children.

The list of 20 reasons not to have children quoted in The Times is a mixture of the eminently pro-feminist and the truly cringeworthy. Reasons such as, 'You will be expected to be a mother before you are a professional and a woman' and, 'You have to choose between motherhood and professional success' make a lot of sense. Reasons such as, 'When a child appears, the father disappears' do not. This 'all men are bastards' school of thought is an unfair generalisation that just makes it acceptable for men to be bastards. Besides, would you really want a man who was only sticking around because he hadn't yet impregnated you?

It's fantastic that Corinne Maier has written a book deriding the pressure on women to want children. It's something that needs to be said loud and clear, and the fact that she has taken such a personal approach lends it more gravitas. I just can't help feeling bad for the children who, it seems, have unwittingly ruined her life.

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