Sally Rooney writes:

On a recent episode of an Irish talk show, a guest celebrated her 90th birthday accompanied by her 19 children. The children, now mostly in their fifties and sixties, occupied the whole front row of the audience. Other (male) guests on the show came forward to shake her hand; the Irish Mirror described her as ‘inspirational’. She seemed like a nice woman and a loving mother, but strangers don’t spring from their seats to congratulate loving mothers of one or two children. And it’s not as if having 19 babies constitutes a public good; on the contrary, if everyone did it we’d be in trouble. From a certain perspective, having a child is an extremely ordinary thing to do, in the sense that most women eventually do it. This person had just done something ordinary an extraordinary number of times.

(LRB 30 August 2018)

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