Book review: The Baby Matrix

The Baby Matrix: Why Freeing Our Minds from Outmoded Thinking About Parenthood & Reproduction Will Create a BetterWorld by Laura Carroll, Live True Books, 2012.

Laura Carroll, who previously published Families of Two, about couples living happily childfree, has put together an absolute encyclopedia about why the “pronatalist” viewpoint that tells us that everyone should have children is no longer valid. We don’t all need to have children, especially in a world suffering from overpopulation, she says. Although I disagree with some of her points, I have to admire this well-written and deeply researched book that I will keep handy as a reference from now on. Carroll challenges common assumptions such as the idea that people need to have children to be fulfilled, mature, happy, and cared for in their old age. Furthermore, she says that parenting should be a privilege for which people must prove they are qualified. People should be rewarded for not having kids instead of getting tax breaks for having them. Maybe, maybe not, but there is so much information here. Want to know how many childless women there are in Finland? It’s here. Want to know what sociology texts tell college students about marriage and children? It’s here.

Will this book help you if you’re in a childless-by-marriage situation? I don’t know. Carroll does not specifically say anything about couples where one wants children and the other is unable or unwilling to have them. But if it’s looking like you are probably not going to have kids, this book may make you feel a lot better about it.

9 thoughts on “Book review: The Baby Matrix

  1. “Carroll challenges common assumptions such as the idea that people need to have children to be fulfilled, mature, happy, and cared for in their old age.”

    I have a sister and if she were to be the only child of my parents they would certainly NOT be happy or cared for in their old age. She's been a source of pain, embarrassment and concern for many, many years. In fact it's difficult for my family to be whole because of the way my sister is.

    Another example that comes to mind is a woman I spoke to yesterday. We discussed a family vacation I had been invited on. It was to a family park and my husband and I opted to not join all the other siblings that have children. We have limited vacation time and we didn't want to use it on a kid friendly, kid geared trip. This woman nodded knowingly and confided that she struggled with those feelings during the years until she conceived. She said she knows how it feels to be left out. In fact, she shared that she currently experiences jealousy because she doesn't expect her only son to marry or make her a grandchild.

    She's happy that her son is happy but part of her is sad that she won't be a grandmother like her friends.

    At one point in my life I probably would have been encouraging and say something like, “well, you never know.” or “he's only 28 and men marry later these days and he could marry a younger woman.”

    I certainly know that I only know part of her story. Perhaps her son is gay and not likely to have an open partner or attempt to adopt. Perhaps her son is sterile and unable to have children? Maybe he has mental problems that will make marriage very, very, unlikely. If I sat and thought longer I could probably find a handful of other “maybes”.

    Certainly my friend didn't have her son so she could be a grandmother someday. Still that little bit of pain is there and life didn't turn out as she expected.

    Anon S


  2. Anon S, you never really know what's going to happen, so counting on kids to fill your needs is probably a bad idea. I think life rarely turns out the way we expect it to, but that has to be okay.Anon with the potholes link, thank you for sharing this blog. I like it and think other readers will, too.


  3. Helen Mirren confronts the final female tabooThe number of childless women is growing fast all over the world – why does it bother so many people? It is nobody else's business, says Sarah Rainey “The expectation is that they will marry and have children,” explains Sue Fagalde Lick, author of Childless by Marriage. “If they don’t, everyone wants to know what’s wrong with them.” WTG, Sue !


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