I finished the 1974 book Pronatalism: The Myth of Mom & Apple Pie by Ellen Peck and Judith Senderowitz this week and was struck by how much of the same terrain it covers as this blog. I should have read it before I started writing! It makes me aggravated that we have to continually reinvent the wheel in this culture because so many subversive ideas become buried amongst the popular, commercial din.
Some excerpts (I feel that some things have changed- at least, for some people– and many have remained the same):
p. 156 In case she’s escaped all of those pressures (that is, if she was brought up in a cave), a young married woman often wants a baby just so that she’ll 1) have something to do (motherhood is better than clerk/typist, which is often the only kind of job she can get, since little more has been expected of her and, besides, her boss also expects her to leave and be a mother); 2) have something to hug and possess, to be needed by and have power over; and 3) have something to be— e.g., a baby’s mother.– Betty Rollin, Motherhood: Need or Myth?
p. 172 Perhaps as the United States has changed in recent decades, there is somewhat less emphasis on, and opportunity for, upward social mobility and hard work as a way of “getting ahead.” Perhaps many suburbanites are somewhat satisfied with their lot and have no great expectations of advancing. Promotion in many large organizations is based more on tenure and less on over-time, ulcer-producing work than was true in earlier America. There is an increase of leisure time. Perhaps ours is a society that is relatively rich and bored. The frontiers of the West and even of upward social mobility and financial advancement are possibly less promising. Meanwhile the impersonality of many interactions between people in a complex urban life remains. Perhaps such factors combine to help make family life, including the three-or-four-child family, popular. Children provide a do-it-yourself, build-your-own-source of meaning at home instead of on the job; they have endless capacities to absorb time; they provide at least small challenges and upsets and crises in a culture that may be bored with its pleasant sameness; and they provide exceedingly personal interaction in contrast to the impersonality of many other contacts.– Edward Pohlman, Motivations in Wanting Conceptions
p. 252 Both papers describe pronatalist prejudice as experienced by the writers- perhaps the clearest manifestation of this prejudice is found in the simple fact that childfree women like them are required to explain themselves. (Mothers need not write tentative, half-apologetic articles on “Why I Want Children.”) The existence of such prejudice raises a vital question about nonparenthood as an option in our society: to whom is the option available? Some women, such as Greene, are strong enough to make the childfree decision and easily resist subsequent challenge. For other women, such as Michels, susceptibility to social pressure makes “childbirth by coercion” a serious possibility. One must ask: is nonparenthood to be limited to the strongly independent?
p. 274 But it seems to me that what most of us are striving for in life is not immortality– that may just be a convenient excuse for doing what is socially expected. It seems to me that what nearly every human being desires is a feeling of being accepted, respected, and admired by others. Here is where many fall into parenthood as an automatic, unthinking matter– since it seems an easy ticket to social approval. Therefore, society ought to question its habit of congratulating new parents so effusively for their status. I have observed that new fathers automatically become the center of attention in any situation (even in political strategy meetings wherein decisions are made which could hold implications for decades to come). Columnist Nicholas von Hoffman has commented that new parents are greeted with only slightly less fervor and hysteria than are returning astronauts, and perhaps that’s so. Parental status has been made to fit nicely in with commercialism as well, given the money which is spent on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.– Stewart R. Mott, Reflections of a Non-Parent
p. 311 While parenthood may in fact be rewarding in many cases, it cannot automatically be assumed that having children necessarily maximizes the life chances of all individuals. If information were available concerning the circumstances under which voluntarily childless couples can achieve satisfactory social and psychological adjustment, perhaps psychologists and marriage counselors could offer more realistic guidelines regarding the kinds of individuals most likely to enjoy children and the kinds of situations most conducive to rewarding parent-child relationships.– J.E. Veevers, Voluntary Childlessness, A Neglected Area of Family Study
p. 312 Growing concern with the problem of population has stimulated the search for a solution which will reduce the rate of population growth without seriously interfering with precious individual rights and freedoms. Meier argues very convincingly that: “The most feasible procedure for halting population growth and thereafter maintaining equilibrium (coincident with a policy of increasing the apparent freedom of choice in the society) would be to increase the social position of the infertile segment of the population.” (1958, 175) Most approaches to the population crisis have involved persuading women to have fewer children and have not been spectacularly successful. The efficacy of such campaigns might be improved by a complimentary approach involving persuading some women to give up having children altogether, and rewarding rather than punishing them for that decision.– J.E. Veevers, Voluntary Childlessness, A Neglected Area of Family Studay
Yes, but they didn’t pay attention in 1974.
Do it all again.