No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood

Mantel, Henriette, editor

You know how I'm always complaining about the uneven writing in anthologies, especially Seal Press anthologies? Well that's not a problem in No Kidding. As promised in the subtitle, the contributors are all writers, most of them currently writing professionally. If anything, I felt that the stories were too even, too alike. Basically, the childfree/childless contributors love their nieces, nephews, dogs, cats and careers.

And yeah, as a childfree, occasionally childless, woman I feel the same way. I am a big fan of other people's kids, am a little over the top in my love for my sweet tabby Farfel and have always put work first. There's a lot more to say about that, and I'm thinking that at some point, perhaps in time for my zine this year, I'll explore it further, examine the difference for me between childlessness and childfreedom, and consider how much not having children was a choice for me and what the reasons are. I'd like to do all that, because although No Kidding is well written, maybe because most of the writers are in comedy, they seem to favor laughs over depth.

Still I dogeared a lot of pages with favorite passages. Here are a few:

"And yes, there is a little sadness around [not having kids], but there's also a little sadness around the fact that I may never get to go to the moon." (The editor, Hilary Mantel

Yes. Exactly that. Except I would really like to travel in space, and mostly I would like to have had kids, but not to actually have them. Like how Nora Dunn puts it, "The women I know who have children never say that want another person. They always say they want another baby."

"It was after that Single Mothers meeting I realized the only thing that interests me in having a child is picking the name." Same here, Julia Halston!

The essay I enjoyed the most or maybe related to best is "Not's Landing" by Beth Lapides. She writes, "Not having kids is saying one big no. No to the same thing over and over and over. So that you can say yes to everything else. Having kids is saying one big yes so that you can say a million little nos in the hopes that you might end up with a child who is alive and has a good conscience and boundaries and plan for living without being too afraid."

Finally, Jeanette Schwaba Vigne, "...there's this unspoken idea that because I don't have kids, I'm a tad selfish, immature, irresponsible. Well, I admit I am selfish and irresponsible...a tad. But at least I'm a tad responsible and selfless enough to know that perhaps it's better for me not to bring another selfish and irresponsible minemee into the world."

Sing it! One of the reasons I don't want to have kids is I think I'd be a selfish, immature, irresponsible parent, so the best thing for my children is not to have them.

Obligatory criticism: most of the writers are heterosexual, and only two reference being nonwhite. (Thank dog for Margaret Cho, though her very short essay didn't do anything for me.)

Sep 14 2013


#1 laura

"Having kids is saying one big yes so that you can say a million little nos."

Yes. As someone who planned to be childless and didn't end up that way, yes.