CHILDLESS BY CHOICE: Choosing Childlessness in the Eighties by Marian Faux

CHILDLESS BY CHOICE: Choosing Childlessness in the Eighties

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Not a tract--rather, a serious attempt to explore women's current maternal ambivalence and to legitimize childlessness as a minority option. To a considerable extent, Faux merely sharpens the horns of the dilemma. The research is scanty, as she recognizes, and her own interviews with 43 voluntarily childless or highly ambivalent young women yield only a very few, incidental insights. No researcher, somewhat oddly, has been able to locate older, pre-lib women who would admit to choosing childlessness--as against those who say, and perhaps believe, that they just didn't conceive. Though Faux notes the ""special vitality and closeness"" of many such marriages, she cannot, finally, answer the crucial question: will women ""experience a sense of loss as a result of not having children""? Also, she has no better argument against pronatalism, ultimately, than the home-truth that some women are not well suited to motherhood. It is certainly true, however, that the Pill (supplemented, as Faux doesn't say, by abortion) has given women a greater degree of choice; meanwhile, the opening of more career opportunities has greatly increased the outlets for their energies and talents. The residual problem may be perceived, at least arguably, as one of ""image""--exacerbated by the manifest difficulty of combining a career and motherhood. (Evident as well: the special strains parenting puts on an ""egalitarian marriage."") On the image-front, Faux is at her best: feminism's historical and continuing ""overemphasis on motherhood""; women's supposedly ""innate"" predisposition toward nurturing; Freudian and post-Freudian theories of the ""maternal instinct""--which together have presented women with a ""cultural mandate"" to have children. Faux also thinks, plausibly, that today's relative tolerance for childlessness has a political component, recent depopulation pressures, that might at any moment alter; hence her desire to solidify the option. She advocates resolving one's ambivalence early on, without necessarily waiting for marriage--not because older women aren't satisfactorily having children, but because of that inexorable ""biological clock"" (and, secondarily, because maternal ambivalence interferes with other pursuits). The existing evidence suggests, however, that ""letting events take their course"" may still be the best bet for many of the ambivalent: the shield against a sense of loss. And one aspect of the problem she doesn't consider is the strong paternal drive of today's more nurturing young males. Nonetheless the book is a far cry from the hip polemics of Ellen Peck's The Ba by Trap (1971), and a more searching analysis than Merle Bombardieri's The Baby Decision (1981).

Pub Date: Jan. 6th, 1983
Publisher: Anchor/Doubleday