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'I really regret it. I really regret having children' Add to ...

But her book isn't addressed to mothers; it is addressed to those childless women living in the nightmare of French maternalism, a plea for them to avoid her mistakes, to keep using contraceptives.

"I just say that when you are a woman, the fact of having children doesn't provide the meaning of your existence," she says. "So you can have a meaningful existence not having children. And of course you can have a meaningful existence having children."

It is, she says, a means of shattering a national delusion, one that is damaging the lives of women, preventing them from progressing in their careers, keeping them from being creative and intelligent. It is a feminist argument, though one also aimed at the "essentialist" feminists who believe that femininity and motherhood are the essential distinguishing characteristics of women.

Ms. Maier tends to agree with those French feminists who see the country's generous maternity-leave provisions (16 weeks at full-time pay) and its healthy cash payments for additional children (1,000 euros a month for each child after No. 2) as tools of oppression: By rewarding motherhood, the state is preventing the success of women, keeping them out of the work force, trapping them in a prison of domesticity. And allowing women to believe that children are the answer.

"Generally speaking, people who have children have them for the wrong reasons," she says. "They have them because they're afraid of being alone, and they want to grasp a tiny bit of immortality. And anyway, we never get that immortality. You are doing something that is very foolish for society just because you have believed something that is not true."

There is an awkward question that looms over this, though: If she feels so strongly that motherhood is a mistake, is she willing to tell her children that they themselves were mistakes?

It seems obvious that a psychiatrist, who seems to be a successful mother, would instantly deny that. Instead, she thinks about this question for a long time, as if it had never occurred to her before.

"Well, I don't know, in fact," she says. And then brightens: "I think maybe in the future, if at some point, my daughter tells me that she will vote for Sarkozy, I will think very deep inside me that yes, I made a big mistake with her."

40 reasons not to spawn

These are the arguments author Corinne Maier uses in her book to persuade readers to just say no to having children. Each reason gets a chapter.

  1. The desire for children: A false aspiration.
  2. Childbirth is torture.
  3. Don't become a travelling feeding bottle.
  4. Continue to amuse yourself.
  5. Subway-job-kids: No thank you!
  6. Hold onto your friends.
  7. Do not adopt the idiot language we use to address children.
  8. To open the nursery is to close the bedroom.
  9. Child, the killer of desire.
  10. They are the death knell of the couple.
  11. To be or to make: You shouldn't have to choose.
  12. The child is a kind of vicious dwarf, of an innate cruelty.
  13. It is conformist.
  14. Children are too expensive.
  15. You become an ally of capitalism.
  16. They will destroy your time and your freedom.
  17. The worst drudgery for the parents.
  18. Do not be deceived by the notion of the ideal child.
  19. You will inevitably be disappointed by your child.
  20. To become a merdeuf (soccer mom) - what horror!
  21. Parenting above all else - no thanks.
  22. Block your professional path with children.
  23. Families: They are horror and cruelty.
  24. Don't fall into an overgrown childhood.
  25. To persist in saying "me first" is a badge of courage.
  26. A child will kill the fond memories of your childhood.
  27. You will not be able to prevent yourself from wanting your child to be happy.
  28. Child care is a set of impossible dilemmas.
  29. School: a prison camp with which you'll have to make a pact.
  30. To raise a child, but toward what kind of future?
  31. Flee from the benevolent blandness.
  32. Parenting will make you soft.
  33. Motherhood is a trap for women.
  34. To be a mother, or to succeed: You must choose.
  35. When the child appears, the father disappears.
  36. The child of today must be a perfect child: a brave new world.
  37. Your child will be in constant danger from pedophiles and pornographers.
  38. Why contribute to a future of unemployment and social exclusion?
  39. There are too many children in the world.
  40. Turn your back on the ridiculous rules of the "good" parent.

Doug Saunders is a member of The Globe and Mail's European Bureau. This story originally appeared in the Globe and Mail in Sept. 2007

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