9. Kids are the death of desire
Not every child kills love, but most kill lust. The aesthetic assault on the woman’s body transforms her for months into something resembling an overstuffed beast, which forces her to dress in sacklike clothing. You can go on for as long as you want about how a pregnant woman looks gorgeous and fulfilled — I don’t buy it. When I was pregnant, I saw myself as ugly, with a huge growth pushing out from under my breasts. A number of comments from friends between the fruit and the cheese convinced me of one thing they don’t talk about a whole lot in Today’s Parent
or Parents Magazine
: maybe a lot of men find their pregnant wives or girlfriends to be lovely enough, but they don’t seem to want to make love to them.
And so with pregnancy comes a long sexual winter. And that’s not a case of “I have good news and bad news”: this bad news will not be followed by good. No, the deprivation won’t be over when the child arrives. You just don’t feel much like making love after you’ve had an episiotomy. And even if you do, it’s going to hurt — for weeks. You don’t know about episiotomies? The dictionary tells us that an episiotomy is “an incision of the perineum, starting at the vulva, used during childbirth.” In other words, the butchering of the most intimate part of your anatomy, ladies — one of the parts that allow you to come. According to the medical profession, the episiotomy is a benign procedure; it’s also widespread, at least for those who escape the ravages of a Caesarean section, which is a real piece of surgery. Maybe the episiotomy is a lesser evil, so we should rejoice in this?
And you’re not going to feel much like having sex between diaper changes and the midnight bottle when you’ve already slogged through three hours of housework after getting home from the office. Surrounded by fighting and bawling brats, you won’t feel much like making love. Even less so if you’re in a cramped apartment, with the kids all squeezed in one room right next to the two of you. Can you imagine yourself in a steamy movie, like Kim Basinger in 9½ Weeks,
with a bunch of kids in the next room? The temperature drops immediately by nine and a half degrees, even with the world’s sexiest actors. Bye-bye, eroticism.19. Your kid will always disappoint you
The child is such sweet revenge. We procreate in order to exact revenge on a disappointing life. We are convinced we can save our child from the mistakes that we believe victimized us. Even worse mistakes can happen, of course, and to avoid them, mothers are driven to produce the ideal baby: it’s a genuine mission. And it means work.
Countless families, convinced that their child is brighter than average, get her IQ measured at the age of four and start hunting down the perfect school that will let their future Einstein’s brilliance emerge. How do you recognize the “gifted” child? Simple, his progenitors will tell you: “He (or she) is bored at school.” Given the number of students who sit and watch flies zooming around the classroom, anyone would think every kid in school is a genius. Some parents may fret about the long commute for the very gifted from home to the special school and back, but in the end nothing is too good for them, n’est-ce pas
? We’ll do anything to succeed by proxy.
And yet the pediatrician D.W. Winnicott warns that what a child needs is a mother who is just “sufficiently good”: anything more would be too much. The Good Mother mustn’t take things too seriously, and this is where it gets difficult. If you can have a sense of humour about it all, you’ll be able to tolerate the idea that your kid is not perfect. No
kid is perfect, and you can be sure that the more parents dream of perfection, the more their child is going to let them down. Disappointing marks at school? So now we are among those slightly disillusioned parents who have to revise their idea of little darling’s giftedness. The funniest thing is seeing those parents who at one time were amazed by their kid’s capacity and are now having to confess (or at least pay lip service to) the fact that this one at the age of twenty, well, he didn’t quite succeed at getting his high school diploma, and her, well, she’s doing some kind of lower-level studies at the local college, or trade school… Oh, the shame of it all, for a child who had the mark of a genius!
And then later, if the little darlings, instead of becoming self-reliant, adaptable, and responsible, turn out to be hopelessly immature, well, it’s simply disgraceful. If they don’t have a job and are condemned to perpetual free time (the curse of the poor), then nobody will ever ask for news of them. Now take it a step further and suppose that a child, however well raised in the most virtuous, the most stimulating, the most pluralist and charitable modernity, becomes antidemocratic, anti-European, anti-progressive! But of course that’s not really possible in France, at least, since the polling stations are set up in schoolyards, and so by definition will contribute to the country’s radiant future.
But worse still, supposing he or she becomes a terrorist. Heaven forbid! Such a well-integrated person? In such a successful model society? They could never dream of giving that up!
Excerpted from No Kids by Corinne Maier. Copyright © 2009 by Corinne Maier. Excerpted by permission of Emblem Editions, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.