The Baby Trap by Ellen Peck

I recently obtained a copy of the book The Baby Trapwritten by Ellen Peck, a childfree author. The book was published in 1971 and is now out of print, so if you see a copy, snatch it up. It’s pretty good, despite being a bit dated (the whole chapter on birth control and abortion is particularly outdated!).

The first seven chapters were especially good. She starts off the book explaining she is not going to be objective or tell both sides of the story on purpose to balance out all the pro-child sentiments society blasts at us.

She discusses how having kids is big business to capitalist society. Having babies keeps you spending money on them and they’ll grow up to be spenders, too. Meanwhile, workerbees can’t afford to risk their jobs because they have a family to support. She discusses how advertisers use children and family to sell everything, from baby cribs to socks. (There was a particular Hanes commercial a few years ago that annoyed the hell out of me. Mom and teen daughter bonded because… they wore the same socks?! I don’t think the socks are that miraculous!)

In another chapter, Ms Peck discusses how the mainstream media sells motherhood, partially by glorifying celebrity mothers and perpetuating the “baby saves marriage” myth. Next, she discusses how our culture has become more obsessed with reproducing itself than with improving itself — something I’m sure we all recognize.

…babies are emphasized and adults are de-emphasized… a woman is regarded as a means to an end (propagating the species)… she is not seen as beautiful, vibrant, valuable in and of herself.

There is so much true about that, even today. How many mommies do you know who claim that their children are their “crowning achievement” – they de-value any personal accomplishments they might have had educationally or professionally or even hobbies they were really good at. No, the children are her only real glory – because she sees herself as just a baby producer. It makes me ill. As far as she’s concerned, the first twenty (or so) years of her life, before having babies, was almost like wasted time where she were nothing but an empty shell, waiting to fulfill her destiny as mother. Really, I think I’m going to throw up here!

Ms Peck goes on to argue that there is no “maternal instinct” but rather a sexual instinct, and babies just happen to be a consequence of that. The maternal instinct is wholly manufactured to keep women busy and at home and spending money on lots and lots of things for baby. What happens if more and more women decide not to have kids? Why, we might get educated and realize there is more to life. We might take valuable jobs away from men. We might not be stuck staying with shitty husbands, and then all those crap guys might not get laid anymore. Oh no, can’t have that! Better to keep women down and their expectations low – it’s better for men, especially the assholes.

I could go on all day, but these are the highlights. While there isn’t anything new in this book – it is almost 40 years old, after all – but it’s an interesting read and puts a lot of ideas we already have into print, validating them. I’m proud that our fore mothers and fathers were working for the childfree movement four decades ago to pave the way for our choices.

I really enjoyed the book, and you likely would, too, if you can find a copy!