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Laura Carroll is the author of The Baby Matrix: Why Freeing Our Minds From Outmoded Thinking About Parenthood & Reproduction will Create a Better World, Families of Two: Interviews With Happily Married Couples Without Children by Choice, and Finding Fulfillment From the Inside Out.
In addition to writing nonfiction books, she has worked over the last 15 years as a business and litigation psychology consultant and used her expertise in behavioral sciences, psychology, and communications to advise business, legal, and nonprofit professionals on their communications strategies and goals.
Laura is a seasoned leader of personal and professional development seminars, and has appeared on a variety of television shows, including Good Morning America and The Early Show. She has been a guest on many radio talk shows to discuss social science topics.
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My previous book, Families of Two: Interviews With Happily Married Couples Without Children by Choice, received international attention and paved the way for me to become an expert on having no children by choice. After its publication, I wanted to delve deeper and get to the core of why society finds no having children by choice hard to fully accept. My research led me to a set of beliefs and social force called “pronatalism,” At its root is the idea that parenthood and raising children should be the central focus of every adult’s life. The fact that many people are unaware that this is what has driven what we believe about parenthood and reproduction for generations made me realize I had to write about it. The deeper I got into it, the more I saw that there needed to be a book that went beyond others on the parenthood decision, one that answered the question society does not ask: “What is really behind why we want children?” I realized that people needed to know more about why they believe what they believe about parenthood, why it is that we haven’t questioned those beliefs, and why we should in order to make the best, most informed parenthood decisions.
What was the experience like writing The Baby Matrix?
I really was like going down a rabbit hole of sorts. The more I found out about pronatalism, the more I learned about its power and pervasiveness, and how it affects us all, and not in a positive way, no matter what our parental status. It became so clear to me that people needed to be made more aware of beliefs that are so embedded we think they are “true,” but really, they need to be challenged because they are not.
Does pronatalism have to do with why people think we are all destined to have children?
Yes, this is a great example of pronatalism in action. To answer this question, we need to go back in time. Throughout history valuing fertility was necessary to ensure survival. Leaders encouraged, even mandated population growth to offset population losses due to infant mortality, war and disease. The larger a society’s population, the more it could expand and gain power. However, women’s valued reproductive role did not come without its downsides and risks. According to sociologist E.E. LeMasters, when a social role of motherhood and fatherhood is difficult, a romantic myth needs to surround it to keep it in its most positive light. And this is exactly what happened. Lots of myths were created to persuade people to have many babies, including the idea that parenthood is what “normal” men and women do. Early feminist Leta Hollingsworth called these myths “social devices,” as their purpose was to influence behavior. The origins of the pronatalist “destiny assumption” were designed to influence our emotions, thinking and social values for the goal of growing society. To this day, the truth is there is no real evidence that wanting children is hard-wired into our biological destiny.
What are the problems with continuing to believe pronatalist beliefs?
Here are just a few prices we are paying when we continue to live by outmoded thinking about parenthood. Pronatalist assumptions put unwarranted pressure on us to have biological children (and the “right” number of them), fail to foster a society in which those best suited to become parents are the ones who have children, and do a disservice to children who are already here in need of loving homes. They also work against leaving future generations a better world. In addition, the problem simply is that we are choosing to hold beliefs that don’t reflect reality, and in doing so, ultimately don’t foster the best parenthood decisions.
Can you give us an excerpt?
From the Introduction:
“For some people, perhaps you, there may be nothing more fulfilling than raising a child. But I think you’d agree that parenthood is not automatically the right choice for everyone. You don’t have to look very far to find parents who never should have had children. The problem with pronatalism is that it leads everyone to believe they should have children—even people who shouldn’t have children. And pronatalism leads people to believe they have the right to have as many children as they want—even people who shouldn’t have children. This creates problems that extend beyond families and the children who may be suffering from the effects of poor parenting. At a time when we humans are consuming resources over 50 percent faster than the planet is producing them, every choice to bear a child has implications for the larger community. That’s why this conversation about pronatalism is one that involves all of us, parents or not.”
Now that The Baby Matrix has been published, what’s your next project?
I am definitely percolating on my next book, but am primarily focusing on getting The Baby Matrix message out there right now. I will say the next book will be nonfiction as always, be about my quest for the answer to a question I am passionate about, and include something I love to do in developing my books-interview lots of people!
Thanks, Laura, for this wonderful interview. Do you have anything else you’d like to add?
This book is for readers who revere the truth, want the best for themselves and their families, and especially for those who are planning to have children and don’t have them yet; those who are undecided about whether they want to have children; and those who already have children and are thinking of having more. In a word, it is a must-read for those who are approaching or in the midst of making what is arguably the biggest decision of their lives.