Can Women Really Have A "Baby Addiction"?

Illustration for article titled Can Women Really Have A "Baby Addiction"?

Though gossip magazines have been claiming for months that Angelina Jolie suffers from a "baby addiction," now that her look-alike, Nadya Suleman, has given birth to octuplets, some say it's a real psychiatric disorder.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has no entry on baby addiction, but according to MSNBC, some mental health professionals say when women desperately want more babies even though they have other children and aren't managing their family situation well, it raises a red flag. Gayle Peterson, a San Francisco family therapist, is quoting as saying, "If you're just having babies to complete something in yourself that never got completed, you really are talking about an addiction." But don't people often have children at least partially for that reason? While Suleman and the women mentioned in this article may have legitimate psychological issues, pathologizing the desire to have children may not be the best way to address their problems. [MSNBC]

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I don't think pathologizing it is good...but addressing the obsessive women-as-baby-machines attitude in our culture is relevant. There's absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to have children, or even a "large" family. But there's a difference between "wanting" children and knowing what's actually healthy and sustainable and practical.

That's really when I think you start crossing over into a problem area. When you're having more kids than any one (or two) people can reasonably care for in an equal manner. As in not having to rely on your older children to be de facto parents. Siblings will often have relationships that are somewhat nurturing...but it can't substitute for actual parenting.

I mean, I can't advocate the idea of telling people how many children they can have as I'm Pro-Choice and if I truly support that then I have to respect each woman's right to make her own reproductive choices. But I do think that something starts to be off when you hear some of the reasoning behind stuff like this. The only "missing hole" a child can fill in your life is the desire to be a parent. That's it. It won't solve all your problems or fix anything.

And we really need to get away from the idea that women who don't have children are "missing" something or don't like kids (they may not, but it's often not the case) or are career/party/self obsessed. There is absolutely nothing wrong with knowing yourself well enough to know that parenting isn't for you. I think too many people think child rearing is all about cute babies. Babies grow up. It's a lifetime committment.