No Kidding is long overdue

May 23, 2013

Terri Schlichenmeyer

Another invitation arrived today. That makes six this year.

Everybody but you, it seems, is having a baby, therefore, a baby shower. Consequently, you’ve bought enough receiving blankets to cover your city and wrapped enough tiny outfits to outfit an infantry of infants.

You’re good with babies. Everybody says so, but for whatever reason, you’ve decided you’ll never have one of your own. And in the new book No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood, edited by Henriette Mantel, you’ll see why others are making the same choice.

It’s one of those private issues that many people — including total strangers — think it’s OK to ask about: “When are you going to start having kids?”

For the writers in this book, the answer is never. It was an easy decision to make … or not. It came after years of soul-searching, or it seemed to be in their genes. Perhaps it dawned on them when they realized they have no desire to be anyone’s mom. They’ve heard all the arguments, they’ve made their choices, and no, they’re not going to change their minds.

Many of these women have had good experiences with kids — nieces, nephews, children of friends — but they never wanted to give birth. They’re honorary aunties all over the place — but some were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Some of the writers were ambivalent (or downright against the idea) all along. They hated dolls, never felt particularly nurturing, were “never mommy material.” One came to realize that the only thing interesting about having a child “is picking the name.” Some thought pregnancy repellent, or parenthood as the end of a dream. One was relieved at a few “close calls”; another suddenly realized that if you have kids, “You have to keep them.”

And then there were the writers for whom the decision was made, not chosen, and their words are filled with regret. But however it happened, there are two things these women know: Being able to procreate doesn’t “necessarily mean you should.” And most of them are “too busy living” to dwell on the subject for long.

Does it sometimes seem as though everybody around you is pregnant? Are you a wee bit tired of talk about wee ones? Then you absolutely need to read No Kidding.

You will never feel alone in the oh-baby-no-baby department when you’re reading this book because editor Mantel has gathered the thoughts of more than three dozen child-free (and childless) women writers who are more than happy to weigh in on the subject.

Some of the stories are funny. Some fairly drip with droll. Others are militant or a little on the sad side. Together these essays show readers that choices can be made, and it’s OK that not having kids is one of them.

I really liked this book for its reflective nature and because it attempts to show all sides of the non-parenthood issue. If your mind’s made up, I think you’ll like it, too, because what’s inside No Kidding is long overdue.

Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was 3 years old. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 12,000 books.

No Kidding Is Long Overdue – Terri Schlichenmeyer,

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