Meet Ashleigh from Australia. She recently read my book, The Baby Matrix, and I just have to share her review and experience titled, “Parenting as a Path to Fulfillment or an Assumption?”
“As I continue my quest to find out more about parenthood and my life purpose I have been doing a lot of reading. Some of it is a bit weird. Some of it very good.
I recently finished reading a book titled The Baby Matrix. If you are interested in reading it have a lookey over here.
The Baby Matrix breaks down the assumption that parenthood is the destination of adulthood. Laura Carroll, the author, argues that while this might have been a great assumption years ago, (for the survival of civilization) this is simply not a valid assumption any more. Carroll introduces the concept that in society, women in particular are groomed to believe that becoming an adult is ingrained with motherhood.
We read story books from a young age about parenthood, we see advertising for cars and toasters including photos of huge families. We read glossy magazines with celebrity mothers and are exposed to numerous movies about the single girl who ended up happily married (with babies).
Once we hit our mid 30’s those that have not fallen into the natural path of this idealised version of womanhood (find man – get married – procreate instantly) feel VERY left out. Even my friends who are saying that one child only might be the right path for them feel the guilt. THE GUILT. OHH THE GUILT.
And there is SO MUCH ‘help’ out there for us to prescribe to this normality.
Fertility advertising has even started to appear all over my Facebook news feed.
Facebook assumes that because of my status as thirty-three year old, married and non-pregnant person I must be trying… surely I must!
Just as if you are single, you MUST go online and find a man immediately to solve all your problems. (We know through the twenty odd couples that I know that are my age and divorced this is not the answer.)
Fulfilment comes from you. INSIDE YOU. Not from another person.
I am off track now from the book.
The Baby Matrix argument is that parenthood should be offered to both men and women as a life choice on the path to seeking fulfilment.
Parenting should not be the automatic assumption.
Carroll argues that challenging this assumption will lead the world to a better place. Those not keen on parenthood will be freer to contribute to society in other ways, by following their ‘authentic voice’, leaving those who really want to raise children to the task.
As we continue to subscribe to the idea that it is everyone’s right and role to have children (and often more than one biological child), this has led to devastating impacts on parents and children, the global economy and the depletion of the world’s resources. Carroll states that adoption should be easier, and offered as a first choice for those having difficulty conceiving or considering expanding their family.
I think about all the children I met at the orphanage in Vietnam I volunteered at in 2002. I can’t help but think Carroll is right. I was not exposed to babies much when I was growing up. The first baby I held was this little person I met in the orphanage called Ling Fung. I held her in my arms and I wanted to take her home and care for her forever. I often wonder what happened to her and if she found a loving home (as with all the other children below that we were privileged enough to be a part of their world for just two weeks).
In recent years, I have seen enough of the devastating impacts of poor parenting in my years of practicing as a social worker.
The foundation for a healthy and productive life begins at HOME with PARENTS .
We think that it is only the terrible cases of abuse and extreme neglect that will lead to problems later in life; but evidence is growing on the impact of parents being disinterested, emotionally detached, unavailable and resentful of the time spent raising their children.
Did you know that The Baby Matrix comments that in the USA three to five children are killed each day by their parents and the annual cost of child abuse and neglect is estimated at $103.8 billion?
Perhaps the message from The Baby Matrix I enjoy the most is when Carroll discusses the option that parenting should be taught as a choice on the path to fulfilment for everyone, and it should start in school.
Furthermore she argues that an identity of self and purpose as a couple should be formed before considering becoming a parent.
We should: “allow ourselves to truly follow our interests and directions they take to lead us to finding our personal identity.”
IF being a parent is part of that fulfillment and personal identity then I say GO FOR IT.
For me, I always assumed that motherhood would be part of my path. I did the ‘right’ thing. I paid my private health insurance. I got a job that paid maternity leave. I moved into the direction of motherhood. I asked my friends and my sister to keep their baby clothes for me. But as I get older and older. I start to think more about what is my actual ‘thing’ is that I am here on this earth to do.
I am not sure that I have found it yet, or if parenthood is the answer for either my husband or I.
One thing is clear though.
The world needs children who are raised by parents who really really want to have them.
The Baby Matrix raises a set of questions that people should consider before becoming parents;
Do I have the basics? Healthcare? Maturity? A Home? Money?
Am I actually interested in children?
Or is this decision for a lack of fulfillment in other areas of my life?
What are my expectations of parenthood? How are my partner and I going to share the workload? How is this going to change my social life? My relationship? My career?
Do I have an ability to nurture, teach discipline and be organised and attentive?
For what reasons do I/ we want to enter the process of parenting?
Do I have the traits a parent needs? Patience, generosity and practicality?
When it comes to raising a human being two maybes do not make a yes (in my head anyway).
Yes I know. I have heard the stories of the ambivalent couple who then fell WILDLY in love with their child after birth. This is how our female brain chemistry works so we look after our children (and thank goodness for that)!
I also think of the friend who accidentally fell pregnant and it all worked out and that is both wonderful and lucky for her.
For me? I am not there just yet. Wherever there is.
I can only base my decision on how I feel today.
Anything can happen tomorrow and this life that I live today is all that I have.
I am still figuring out what my thing is and I don’t know if that involves being a parent.
And THAT is okay.”
You bet it is OK! It is more about figuring out what purpose and meaning means to us (and not assuming the answer is parenthood, despite what pronatalism tells us), and whether kids fit into this picture before they even come on the scene – if they do at all.
Thank you, Ashleigh! This is the kind of help I hope my book continues to bring to people.
Find out more about Ashleigh and her blog here.
Thanks for sharing my blog Laura.
Families of Two is next on my reading list!
As an Australian living in Perth, the most isolated city in the world, it was really something to stumble upon a fellow Aussie woman’s review on a book about something that already makes women feel isolated – being childless by choice. Many women put a great deal of thought into this choice (like Ashleigh I’ve previously worked in an industry revealing what happens when people that shouldn’t be parents have kids!) and it’s great to see its now being talked about a little more. Look forward to reading your books Laura!
Thank you, Julissa!