Saturday, December 19, 2009

The case against having children

I picked up the latest (January) issue of ‘O’ magazine so I had something to read while I was at Mcdonalds. My little one plays in the play place and I get a moments peace while reading my magazine and sipping my hot coffee.

There was an interview in this issue of ‘O’ with Elizabeth Gilbert author of ‘Eat Love, Pray’. I enjoyed her book and was looking forward to reading what she had to say about her life since ‘Eat Love Pray’ and also about her new book, ‘Commitment’.

Elizabeth talks ‘frankly’ about not wanting children and how she reached that decision. She says she wasn’t made out for ‘momming’. She would’ve made a great dad – a good provider . . . funny . . . go on trips with them . .  etc. . . “I have a really good mom; I know what she put into it. I didn’t think I had the support to both have that and continue on this path that was really important to me . .”

EAt love pray

I can relate to the sentiment. A family takes a lot of work and to be a good parent one needs a lot of support. A realistic take on why she doesn’t want children. I’m all over it. No whining, no looking back. No “what ifs”. Choose an option and do not waiver, wonder and whine. She’s my kind of woman. But. I should’ve stopped reading. She should’ve stopped talking.

Gilbert also talks about a story that was pivotal for her. The story is about her grandmothers’ “Huge” sacrifice for her seven children ‘ . . a life of constant  struggle and deprivation . . . and that beautiful mind, that beautiful intellect, that exquisite sense of curiosity and exploration was gone . . “

Nothing left but a shell of a woman because one has given birth.

As Gilbert was travelling for ‘Eat, Pray Love’ Gilbert says she could feel the weight of her Swedish farmwife ancestors from beyond the grave that were like: . . “Go! Go to Naples! Eat more pizza! . . .Do it! Swim in the Indian Ocean . . . Go beat the drum.”

Reading that raised my mama hackles. Really? Beat the drum? The intellect that just goes? How lovely. She compares modern motherhood with the Swedish farmwives of yesteryear where birth control didn’t exist and slaving from dawn to dusk was not just the norm for women but for men also.


I should’ve put that magazine down right then and there but I soldiered on. I am a mother after all and I’m used to sacrifice, hard work and mind numbing, childish gibberish . . . so I continued to read and here is the best part: Liz has a charming anecdote of her trip to Mexico when she was 20. While she was in Mexico, she met an American couple in their 60’s who said to her: “Oh, it’s so great that you’re travelling now,before you have kids,because you won’t be able to then.” . . . Gilbert continues to say: . . .  “I know this is a thing that people do; they go traveling for a year and then they hitch their leash to the wall and put their face into a feed bag and that’s the end of it . . .”

Motherhood: A leash to the wall, head in the feed bag . . . never to read another book again . . . never to see another foreign sunset . . .

Thank you Elizabeth Gilbert. Nice to know the stereotype of the sacrificing, drab housedress wearing mother is alive and well. It amazes me that feminism has brought women so far, but according to Elizabeth Gilbert, the mother is left somewhere in the back room washing laundry in an old wooden bucket with a baby hanging off her boob and her husband lounging in the kitchen, demanding: “what’s for dinner?”


(still) Such a long way,(to go) baby . . . .


  1. Great post, Anita. It's all what you say, isn't it? Motherhood is the greatest or the worst, choose one!

    I live in Vancouver and I know I'm really meant to live in Paris---life would be wonderful there. So, I walk down Granville St. and I pretend that everyone I pass speaks French and washes their private bits in a bidet, I pretend I'm walking towards the Eiffel Tower instead of Chapters Books. We have the power within us to create paradise right now. Happiness is a kid that's not in the hospital, ask any parent of a kid in the hosp. Have a Merry Christmas, beautiful one, I love you. Gloria

  2. Wow. That was some interview. I can appreciate that not all women want to be mothers. It should be a path a person chooses because they want to add that experience to their lives. SOme women decide not to choose that path because they acknowledge the selflessness involved in parenting or they recognize the enormous responsibility of teaching a child how to be a good adult.

    I think that people who choose not to become parents and are honest about it should be applauded for their bravery. It is not a popular or well-understood choice in our baby-centric society.

    However, I agree with you that Liz manages to perpetuate every stereotype of motherhood witout realizing how much has changed. The couple in their 60's were representing their generation. Today I know families that do the things she says are impossible. They travel, they pursue higher education, they raise chidren who experience the world and diversity of culture and thought.

    I think the point of feminism was that women should be able to choose their own path. Choosing motherhood is just one of the options and does not exclude other pursuits.

    Thank you for your post in this and thanks for letting me rant my agreement.


  3. Just found your blog and I like it! I do not agree with whatshername ( I don't need to say it), I was/am a Mother/Grandmother of two daughters that turned my hair white way to early. :) Did they wear me out? Sure. Was I glad I had them, Oh god yes. What would I be without my wonderful girls? I have been married, single, married etc, made it on my own and made it with my husbands. But I have never stopped dreaming and doing, and I never shall. Shame that people talk about what they don't know, and its a good thing she didn't have children. I think if you want them and can take good care of them that is great, if you don't do both of you a favor and don't have them. But realize for all of us that "signed on" for the job that we are kind, caring, intelligent women that did not let anything stop us. Phooey on her and Merry Christmas to you.

  4. I find that women who make the loudest cries of why they weren't parents generally have the most remorse. It is much easier to go on about the life they have had without children because they can't go back and do it over. Of course they travel and have adventures,what else would they do with their time? It is a choice not always made out of pure feeling but perhaps circumstance (conceivability or even a partner to try) It is much better to one's ego to soapbox about it being a choice of freedom than confront the realities. I know everyone has to make their own choices but to degrade Motherhood as a whole to make yourself feel better is a little cry for help.
    Poor thing ..I think she DOES know what she is missing

  5. Nice to see some more of your great writing on your blog!!
    Not having kids I agree with Anonymous!

  6. Good post Anita. You are so funny! I ejoy your style very much!

  7. Elizabeth Gilbert's statements are sorry ones, indeed, because they are based on such a narrow view. It is her perception that interesting life as she knows it would end with childbirth, so let's just leave her to that. I have a childless friend who, at 65, voices some small regret for not having had children, saying to me 'I think it would be kind of nice to have a daughter, but as far as I can tell, sons are a waste of time.' Before I could pick my jaw up from the floor she added, 'although you don't seem to mind yours.'
    The distance between many childless-by-choice women and those who chose to be mothers is pretty big, and that's ok. Liz may not get what it's really like to have kids, but despite her POV and her celebrity, she's not likely to have much of an effect on the decisions made by women to have or not have.
    I think it's a bit like the dialogue that often goes on between believers and non-believers. There's no convincing to be done - people simply think exactly what they want.

  8. Being critical about something that one knows nothing about, especially in that lovely passive-aggressive way of "Oh, I think that's great for other people but I am not strong enough to make such sacrifices," just makes one look foolish and a little pathetic. I liked parts of her book and her TED talk very much, but this has made me lose some respect for her.