Viewpoint: Changing the world is more important than changing nappies
French author Corinne Maier has two children but cannot wait for the second to become independent. She argues that adults are so obsessed with children - and so exhausted by the effort of looking after them - that they have no energy left for anything else.
It's frightful, how many of us there are! Planet Earth has a human population of 7.5 billion. In the year 2100, there will be 11 billion of us. How will the planet be able to feed all of these people?
Facing this human wave, the media is for the first time showing a hint of worry - even in France, a champion of pro-birth policies, where the media are most definitely pro-baby.
We live in an child-obsessed society. The child is considered a guarantee of happiness, of personal development, and even of social status.
Those who are child-free (there's no equivalent term in French) are described as selfish and suspected of being bad citizens. Many of them feel pressure to justify themselves: "I can't have any, but I love children." To which I hasten to reply, just to spice up the conversation: "I have some, but have reasons to hate children."
Not that I'm in a position to argue for a declining birth rate. Having two children, I cannot tell others: "Don't do as I did." Yet I also find it hypocritical to hide behind the smokescreen of idealism ("There's nothing more beautiful than a child's smile") to justify my questionable life choices. I am a fierce opponent of brainwashing and of pathos. It's time to stop marketing the babies-spell-happiness idea. Enough of this big "baby-illusion"!
These days, it's impossible to express one's experience of motherhood other than to say: "I am a blissful mother (or father), my children are my joy." Taking pleasure in parenthood is compulsory. In my experience, the reality is very different: raising a child is 1% happiness and 99% worry.
Being a parent has become a very time-consuming job. Many parents become overly involved in the education of their children, and turn into hyper-parents present on every front - ensuring a balanced breakfast, extracurricular activities, help with homework...
I myself am perfectly aware of how involved I was - much too involved, in fact - and how I became, like it or not, a stereotypical Jewish mother. That produces children who are hyper-controlled and hyper-watched. I wonder how they'll manage one day to become adults.
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Why all the child-bearing pressure? The answer, of course, is to provide an ever greater number of little consumers who will never tire of a capitalism that needs to sell an ever greater number of products. It's in the name of children that parents buy cars, washing machines, homes and gadgets.
Children cost a fortune. On this particular point, strangely, there is little data available in France, though there is certainly no shortage of statisticians. The Spaniards, who are more pragmatic, believe that from birth to adulthood, children cost a family between 98,000 and 300,000 euros each (between £84,000 and £255,000) - that at least is the figure from one leading consumer organisation.
Raising children not only left me exhausted but it left me bankrupt as well. Soon, my daughter will have finished her studies. I will have a big party that day. Finally, I won't have to support her: what a relief! And what a saving!
Why are we constantly told that "children are our future"? It's precisely because we're not sure of actually having a future. Our passion for children is linked to our increasing concern for the future of humanity. Exhausted assets, increasingly polluted natural resources... in what devastated, ravaged world will we live tomorrow? And to think that we've given up trying to change it!
Children, welcome and good luck to you as you make your way in this rotten world that your parents, who love you very very much, have left you. They spent so much time looking after you that they didn't have time to transform it. They gave up, quit, hung up their hats. "The child is what's most important..." You'll forgive us, won't you?
Translation by nayerietc.com