Stateside, tales from the mommy vs. non-mommy wars have long since failed to engage my curiosity, but I'm still a sucker for a cross-cultural breeding debate. So British reviews of and riffs on a new book by French economist-psychoanalyst Corinne Maier proved irresistible.
Maier, who already made a pretty penny as a professional contrarian from her first book, "Hello Laziness: Why Hard Work Doesn't Pay," has come out with a new polemic against having children. "No Kid: 40 Reasons Not to Have Children," which takes on everything from the cult of motherhood to the annoyances of actual child rearing, argues that women should opt out of motherhood to keep their freedom.
Her perspective is particularly intriguing for two reasons: She's a citizen of France, the country with the highest fertility rate in all of Europe (an average 2.9 children per woman) and the envy of less fruitful places like Germany, Italy and Spain (which are constantly reformulating their benefits packages to encourage their women folk to go forth and multiply). She's also the mother of two children -- aged 10 and 13 -- whom she admits she sometimes "bitterly regrets" having had.
Of course, like all self-conscious "bad mother" confessionals, this one seems to play its cards both ways. Maier has claimed that her book poses honest questions about the mama mania seizing her country, but that it's also "a dig at the myth that having children is wonderful."
What's remarkable about the book is that it's coming out of France, where the myth has far more raison d'être. In addition to enjoying the best universal medical care in the world, the postpartum mother is awash in other state-funded goodies, including an in-home mother's helper, physical therapists, and a 50 percent tax break on nannies. But, as one British reviewer suggested, Maier may be the augur of things to come rather than the lone voice of dissidence in a pack of happy Madonnas. A recent survey by Le Parisian newspaper suggested that 10 percent of French women plan on not having children, and another anti-child-rearing book has just been published, called "Being a Woman Without Being a Mother."