GoodReads Book Review

July 31, 2013

Amy Cranford

No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood covers a lot of ground in a remarkably humorous and touching way in this collection of essays primarily by comedians and television writers who have remained childless for a variety of reasons. The choice of whether or not to be a parent is a loaded one. Given the ongoing debates surrounding birth control and abortion, it’s often hard to say if some women even have the right to choose a child-free life.

Contributers to No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood include Henriette Mantel, Margaret Cho, Wendy Liebman and Laurie Graff (author of You Have to Kiss a Lot of Frogs), among others. All of these women surprised me with their candor as well as the compassion and humor they brought to hot button issue.

Several themes resonated with me as a professional woman who has chosen to remain childless. The biggest issue: if you’re a woman, almost everyone assumes you either are going to have kids or you’ve had kids. If not, there must be something wrong with you. Maybe you’re barren or really immature. Another theme that emerged: most of the contributors to this collection noted that their parents were not paradigms of mature adulthood; they just spawned. Some contributors half-joked about not having children because they wanted to stop the madness from seeping into another generation. Several women noted that they have choices that their mothers didn’t have and it was tough growing up seeing the potential in the women who raised them, but no time to develop it. Other women hit 40 and realized that it was just too late to have kids. They were so busy building careers, children just never happened. Also, there’s the whole mate choice issue.
It will be interesting to see what the next generation of professional women chooses to do and the reasons behind their choices. Will they feel guilt or the need to justify decisions to not have children? What barriers will they perceive in having children and raising them if they choose to do so?

The only thing that I believe No Kidding is missing is an exploration of blended families–beyond step-parenting. Also, I’m surprised that so many entertainers were involved in this project and yet not one of them is someone who has chosen to adopt. The LGBTQ family is also neglected here.

All that said, I believe that No Kidding may be entertaining and mainstream enough to finally engage people on both sides of women’s choice issues in more productive discussions about roles and expectations. Let’s hope this is just a starting point for other things to come.


GoodReads Book Review

July 2, 2013

Donna Brown

As a childless female, this was an intriguing read to me. I knew, as I read it, that to some these essays would seem cynical, acerbic, even overly nonchalant, as if the only way a woman could be “happy” without a child would be to live in a state of self-denial. I, however, understood. Though I used to joke that I didn’t have a maternal bone in my body, I know that was a lie. In truth, I think I may well have been a good mother, perhaps even a great one (perhaps not … it doesn’t pay to get too carried away). But I never, not once, wanted it. I imagined it – I felt it was my duty to do that at the very least – but I couldn’t feel anything other than a vague sense of it being a chore that would need to be addressed. Yet, unlike washing clothes or ironing, it would require decades.

I would think of those who wanted children and couldn’t have them and feel hideously selfish, but I knew that this – like societal expectation – was no reason to go against my resolve. Of all the roles I imagined I would play in life, mother was one that would occur only under duress. That seemed to me more selfish (to the potential child) than failing to bear one at all.

It was oddly refreshing to see some of my feelings echoed in this anthology. It can feel a little lonely being a 33-year-old woman facing down the “Your turn next” and “Everyone changes their mind” comments. You can be duped into feeling a little lacking, even if you know you’re truly not. Yet at the same time, I could see how those with children, or wanting children, could perceive these musings as selfish. We don’t mean to be, truly. But perhaps we have maternal bones enough to know that an unwanted child actually deserves so much more. We may endeavour to be good mothers if we find ourselves in that situation, but isn’t it better that we refrain? Just in case …


GoodReads Book Review

June 18, 2013

In No Kidding, comedy writer Henriette Mantel tackles the topic of actually not having kids. This fascinating collection features a star-studded group of contributors—including Margaret Cho, Wendy Liebman, Laurie Graff, and other accomplished, funny women—writing about why they opted out of motherhood. Whether their reasons have to do with courage, apathy, monetary considerations, health issues, or something else entirely, the essays featured in the pages of No Kidding honestly (and humorously) delve into the minds of women who have chosen what they would call a more sane path.

Hilarious, compelling, and inspiring, No Kidding reveals a perspective that has too long been hidden, shamed, and silenced—and celebrates an entire population of women who have decided that kids are just not right for them.


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