No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood
Edited by Henriette Mantel
16 April 2013
I knew in high school that I didn’t want kids. Like, I never want them. Ever. I don’t like kids; I don’t like babies; I don’t like diapers and other baby things. I don’t like kids’ toys, and I don’t like stepping on Legos in bare feet in the middle of the night. I don’t even like holding babies, and I could tell you stories about the times I’ve declined to hold someone else’s child (seriously, though—who wants that kind of responsibility?) and then have had that person look at me like I have two heads. Usually, I have to give some excuse that the mother (or, at times, the father) will accept, like, “Oh, no, I couldn’t. I’m getting over a cold, and I don’t want your darling to catch anything from me!” Secretly, though, I don’t want to catch anything from it. Babies fucking terrify me. And kids aren’t much better; they’re just creepy small adults that hang out in elevators and harass adults who are already going off the deep end by saying things like, “Come plaaaaaay with us.” Yeah, no thanks; I’ll take the stairs.
Of course, being a woman and all, I’ve gotten every response from “Oh, you’re too young to really know if you want kids yet; you’ll change your mind when you’re older” to “You’re biological clock will start ticking and then you’ll start nesting” to “But… you’re a woman!” You know, as if that’s some kind of argument for ever having children. I was super excited when the publisher of No Kidding kindly sent me an ebook copy of the book so that I could relate (and commiserate) for myself.
Each essay is—by turns—funny, poignant, and inspirational. Many of the writers knew from the get-go that they would never have children; some of them kept expecting it would happen at “the right time” and “the right time” never came. Some of the women wanted children and then, they decided, they wanted other life-goals more. Sometimes, it turns out, having kids just isn’t on a woman’s bucket list. One essay suggested that “the generative impulse could be expressed in other ways, such as passing ideas on to the younger generation through teaching, writing, or inspiring by example… Some days I feel like the harder choice is not to have a kid” (italics in the original).
Another women wrote in her essay, “I’d finally learned the secret to get people to stop insisting, ‘You’ll eventually want kids.’ I just had to lie about it.” Instead, she began to tearfully admit that she wasn’t able to have children, the other person (or people) would say something like, “Oh, I’m so sorry!” and that would thankfully be the end of it. She was surprised to learn that many of the men she date just couldn’t (or wouldn’t) believe she didn’t want kids. They’d even argue with her about it. (Really? What happened to bodily autonomy, right?)
I really enjoyed reading No Kidding, and I recommend it to any woman who doesn’t want children. And, I recommend it as a gift for anyone else who thinks that you just have to want children and that you really haven’t made up your mind yet. No Kidding doesn’t tell you not to have kids if you want them, but it will help you feel less alone in the wide world of procreation if you don’t.
DISCLAIMER: I received an ebook copy of No Kidding free from Seal Press. The opinions I have expressed are my own.