On the Book No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood
Friday, May 24th, 2013
Since attending the book event [see below] last week on this book, I finished No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood edited by writer/actress/director/producer Henriette Mantel. It’s an engaging collection of essays by her and 36 women writer friends who don’t have children. The honest and forthright stories by baby boomer women take readers through the twists and turns in their lives that landed them with no children, whether they knew they wanted them, didn’t want them, or weren’t sure – and tried to have them anyway.
If you are in the baby boomer generation and have no children, some or many of the essays will likely resonate, and may very well inspire you to touch in with yourself about where you are at with having no children right now in your life.
If you are a 20-30 something, you’ll learn from women who are farther down the road and able to look back at their choices about motherhood. Their stories may help you sort through your own parenthood decision.
These women’s stories reflect a truth about how women end up bypassing motherhood – that it’s often not just a straight path to it happening or not. Like so many things that evolve and unfold in life, their stories show us that often it happens as a result of many different factors, decisions, priorities, and things that happen to us in life.
Keep in mind that it represents a unique slice of the childless/childfree population – Mantel’s childless/childfree friends who went against the motherhood tide. It’s not an overall representation of the baby boomer generation of women with no children, nor is this Mantel’s intent.
The intent that stands out is to relate personal stories, inspire discussion, and impart some pearls of wisdom. And that Mantel and her friends definitely do. Here are just a few of those pearls:
“Socrates said, ‘Know thyself.’ I may not understand a lot of things … but one thing was certain to me—I was not meant to be a mother. It is the greatest thing I never did.” ~Julie Halston
“…I’ve never actually wanted children, but I don’t usually think about what I don’t have, nor do I describe myself by others’ terms.” ~Andrea Carla Michaels
“..To thine own self be true….those words have served me well. Although we may try, we cannot deny who we are. And we are our best when we are self-defined.” Judy Morgan
“…it looks like I am going to be using my life-giving skills elsewhere. I’m a natural teacher, healer, nurturer; and I’m hysterical on stage. I’ll give life, all right. I’ll create culture.” ~Vanda Mikoloski
“Occasionally, some over-extended, stressed-out friend-parent of mine utters, ‘You’re so smart you didn’t have kids.’ And you know something? They’re right. For me, it was smart. Because it’s not just accurate — or interesting — to assume everybody’s life plan looks the same.” ~ Cheryl Bricker
Like the collection of essays in Pride & Joy by Terri Casey, another lovely book of voices from women with no children, the women in No Kidding help us to better understand the choice to have no children, and the women who make it.
Read this book? Share your thoughts!
Childfree Talk by Women Writers
Wednesday, May 15th, 2013
Add this new book to the growing number of books out there about the childfree choice: No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood. It is a collection of essays edited by Henriette Mantel, a New York comedy writer.
I am reading the book right now, enjoying it, and went to a book event this week in San Francisco where four of the contributors read, and then opened it up for discussion. Some high points:
Maureen Langan, award-winning comic and broadcast journalist, talked about how at 41, she underwent IVF four times, surprisingly got pregnant “easily” but miscarried. She remarked about how the idea of having a child felt like her life would be “constricted.” I wondered why if she felt this why she tried IVF not just once, but four times….I hope her essay goes into this.
Vanda Mikoloski, is a comic and a budding entrepreneur — she [has] a line of men’s underwear called MyPakage (their motto is “carpe scrotum”) – that alone got the audience roaring. Some things she mentioned that contributed to her not wanting kids: she experienced death in her life, and as a result “closed her heart,” put on emotional armor, and dated “jerks”…
The line I loved most related to the childfree decision from Andrea Carla Michaels, former LA stand-up comic and game show writer, was, “I don’t describe myself in other’s terms.” Take that to heart, childfree!
And Bernadette Luckett, who has worked as a stand-up comic and is now working on a documentary about teaching vets the art of stand-up comedy, talked about how her mother’s attitudes about childrearing and parenthood influenced her, as well as a “lingering fear of pregnancy.”
Some good discussion ensued, including Maureen making the point that the question that really needs to be answered is, “What is the nurturing part of your life?” Motherhood is certainly not the only way for women to answer this question for themselves.
I also loved a comment by a 23 year old who said it is now a “political statement to have kids.” Some younger people have concerns about bringing children into the world right now.
She also commented that having children is seen as just a “different way to go about life.” That made me smile. This view coming from a Millennial is a good sign toward the social acceptance of the childfree choice in that generation.
Another young woman asked whether there were essays by younger women in the book – the panel said not really, as Mantel sought out friends more her age who don’t have kids.
It made think – maybe that is the next essay collection that needs to come out. In 2007, a similar book came out called Pride and Joy – it’s a collection of essays by women from all walks of life. But is not from younger women either…
I am in the midst of a decade long longitudinal study of childfree women. I am tracking forty women who were in their twenties when the study started over two years ago.
These women will have their stories, but until this study completes, childfree women and men out there in your 20s — even 30s, any takers to begin collecting your stories?
Anyone else read No Kidding yet? Please share your thoughts!