Kids: Baby Oppressors Or Better Than Prozac?

One French feminist has a recipe for women's happiness: ignore the kids.

Elisabeth Badinter (whom we wrote about last month) is riding the French bestseller lists with her new book Le Conflit, La Femme et La Mère (The Conflict, The Woman and The Mother). It does give one a little stab of Francophilia to hear that a title like that can actually move books over there, while here the bestseller list was so recently sullied with Marry Him. And Adam Sage of the Times of London makes Badinter herself sound kind of fun: "66 years old, three children, loads of grandchildren and up for a fight. Her blue eyes flashed, her voice was gravelly and the cigarettes glowed between her lips as she defended her belief that a woman who gives birth to a child is a woman first and a mother second." On whether that cigarette still glowed when she was pregnant, she says,

Of course, we all did then. You don't enter a religious order when you have children. Today, we're told we're not allowed to smoke, to eat unpasteurised cheese or seafood or even to a drink a glass of wine when we are pregnant. It's time to stop all that.

And when the kid is born, screw breast-feeding, organic diapers, and attachment parenting. Says Badinter, "It may seem derisory but powdered milk, jars of baby food and disposable nappies were all stages in the liberation of women." She argues that "the baby has become a tyrant despite himself," and that encouraging women to invest themselves completely and totally in motherhood has hampered their happiness. She argues, "We live 80 to 85 years in our industrialised countries, and children take up 20 to 25 years of that. Staking your whole life on 20 years is a bad bet."

Badinter's send-'em-to-boarding-school (she actually kind of says this) ethos is somewhat refreshing in this era of maternal judgment, but one recent study contradicts her view of babies as "tyrants." Researchers in Taiwan found that having children reduced women's risk of suicide — two kids lowered it by 39%, three or more by a full 60%. Says the study press release, "Having children may protect against suicide because children may increase a mother's feelings of self-worth. Children may also provide emotional and material support to a mother and provide her with a positive social role." Or, y'know, it could just be guilt — as Phoebe Cates's character says in The Anniversary Party, "You can't do yourself in! Kids just rob you of that option!" Whatever the case, if you're thinking about committing suicide, you should probably just pop out some kids instead. They'll totally thank you later.

Is Motherhood A Form Of Oppression? [Times Online]
Motherhood Appears To Protect Against Suicide [EurekAlert]

Earlier: The Maman Wars: French Feminists Concerned About "The Ideal Mother"