Published: 2012 by LiveTrue Books
My copy: Bought on Kindle
Memorable quote: “Without expectations, the bond between marriage and parenthood is fully released from pronatalist grips. Couples are free to choose whether they want parenthood to be part of their marital experience. Without expectations, we can also let go of the other pronatalist belief that parenthood should be part of every person’s experience of life.”
Books on the childfree choice tend to fall into two categories. There’s the detached ‘let’s observe and analyse the habits of this strange sub-species’ type publications (which I always imagine being narrated by David Attenborough) and then there are the glorified blog post variety: ‘let’s bitch about how entitled parents act and how much better life is without kids.’ Now there’s a place for both those kinds of books (although both can get tiresome pretty quickly), but how refreshing to find that well-known childfree researcher and blogger, Laura Carroll (of La Vie Childfree) has attempted something a little different here. The Baby Matrix sets out to explore the roots of what Carroll calls “pronatalism”: the assumption that everyone is driven to reproduce and that this is the only path to a satisfying life. Examining history and anthropology as well as political and religious doctrine Carroll argues that the ‘biological clock’ is socially constructed and sets out to demonstrate how society (not to mention the environment) would be improved if humanity could now dispense with this outdated myth.
Carroll phrases this book as a call to arms, riffing on the idea in The Matrix of taking the red pill and seeing the lies you had previously believed to be truths. But despite this dramatic framing, it’s really quite a balanced book. She isn’t down on parents (except really bad parents, which is fair enough isn’t it?) and she doesn’t say that people shouldn’t have children, just that they should recognise doing so is a choice and privilege not a given right. Carroll’s writing style is fairly brisk and businesslike but this is an interesting little book and I found myself nodding along to so many of her proposals, even – dare I say it – the more radical ones. In fact, at times I found myself asking “I’m sorry isn’t that obvious?” But then I guess Carroll is probably preaching to the converted in my case. But I think a lot of parents should read this too and just learn to make little changes, like saying to their own kids “if you have children when you grow up” rather than “when.” That would be a very quiet revolution, but it would be a step in the right direction.