Monday, March 05, 2012

No Kids

I remember when Corinne Maier's book, No Kid: Quarante Raisons de ne pas Avoir d'Enfant, was published in France a few years ago, there was something of an outcry in the states, even though it was in French and wasn't even available here.  I also remember thinking: I wish my French was a LOT better.  

As someone who does not intend to have children, I found (the English translation of) No Kids: 40 Good Reasons not to have Children absolutely delightful.  Maier is an instigator, and a lot of the time she's just digging for a fight, but, it's true that this world  is made for rewarding people with kids, while families without kids are viewed as bizarre anomalies, something to be either pitied or looked at askance.  If you don't believe me, I would be happy to regale you with hilarious stories of moronic things people have said to me over the years, viv as vis my childlessness.  (I prefer childfree, and was mildly disappointed to see the same term in Maier's book - I thought I had invented the term!  But, see, that's just how rare we, the childfree, are.)

Each short chapter expands on her good reasons not to have kids, like "You keep your friends" and  "Kids are the death knell of the couple" and "Don't revert to childhood" and "Motherhood is a trap for Women."  What's kind of interesting is that Maier actually HAS kids, so she offers a unique perspective on the topic - that rare person that's actually willing to admit that having kids is not as much fun as it's cracked up to be, and that she often actually regrets having kids (I've NEVER heard an American say that!)  Shocking as it may be to hear someone disparage their own children in print, I think it's worth keeping a level head and remembering that while her thesis is meaningful, some of her methods are clearly satirical.

I love cultural tidbits, so one of my favorite parts was about the term "Merdeuf", a mash up of mère de famille, which means mother of the family.  Of course, merdeuf sounds like "shit" and "egg" (merde and oeuf), so its slangily loose translation is "egg shitter"... a bit more bite than Soccer Mom, n'est-ce pas?

It's not entirely clear who Maier is writing this book for.  Partly it seems to stick it to parents ("Having a child is the best possible way to avoid asking what the meaning of life is, as everything revolves around that child, who is a marvelous substitute for the existential quest.")  Partly it's for people like me ("The famous glass ceiling stops women from getting the top jobs, and those jobs do have one great advantage: the higher you rise, the fewer idiots there are above you.  It is not astonishing that biographies of successful women never fail to note the number of children they've had: those are the obstacles they've had to overcome in order to make something interesting out of their lives.") But, for the most part, I think she's really an anti-capitalist.  What she returns to again and again is how children are a strain on resources, and are seemingly preconditioned to desire things.  She writes about how much pressure there is on parents to buy endless cycles of plastic shit for their kids. Like me, she fears a world with increasing population, fewer and fewer natural resources, a fairly horrifying unemployment rate, and an increasingly grim outlook for the next generation.

I wouldn't really recommend this book to any one who already has kids, in my experience most people find it necessary to defend their choice to have children when others merely state their choice not to.  They'd spend the whole book saying, "That's not true, I had fun just the other day!"  If you don't intend to have kids, or are thinking about the subject, like me, you might be gratified to see some of your feelings expressed in print for once, and at the very least have a really good laugh.

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