essays / nonfiction

Selfish, shallow, and self-absorbed : sixteen writers on the decision not to have kids edited by Meghan Daum

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Some of the essays in Selfish were really good. Geoff Dryer’s essay was hilarious. Others were sort of sad. Lots of divorces and bad childhoods.  I can’t say I related to a lot of them but it was interesting to read the reasons people had for making the same decision I made not to have kids. I thought it was weird that so many of them felt the need to justify the decision by pointing out that they are an awesome aunt or that they work with kids or just loooove children!! I mean, who cares? It made me feel like a lot of the authors really weren’t 100% comfortable with their choice which was disappointing. To mean, it meant they weren’t the best people to write the essays especially since the whole point of the book was that it is a totally valid choice (a point made in Meghan Daum’s introduction) and that it, of course, doesn’t mean that they are selfish, shallow and self-absorbed. A few essays didn’t mention their love of children which was great. I also appreciated the one essay that pointed out that a writer’s life (especially that of very successful people like the essayists all were) is by nature one that needs a lot of quiet time to write and think and that children don’t often fit into that. It might be an unpopular option but I think it is hard for any artist, actor or writer to really be focused on their work and raise healthy, happy, successful children without a ton of help.

I was also disappointed that quite a few of the writers were much older women (which, I guess it makes sense because they can’t go back now) who simply seemed to have had bad relationships and ran out of time vs. making a choice. I would have liked to have read some more essays by younger women and men who were firm in their childlessness despite still being in their reproductive years. I will admit it must be hard to track down so many childless authors so that might have something to do with it. It also would have been nice to have more people who had relatively happy childhoods and adult relationships; there were so many abuse survivors and divorced people it seemed more like they were reacting to their childhood/didn’t get a chance to have kids than making a choice.

Also, a lot of these writers need some new friends and to cut off some family members. Who actually tells a friend that they are not whole unless they reproduce? No one I’d like to know.

I’m disappointed that no one used my line. When asked if I have children. I always say “Not that I know of.” The people who think it is funny are my kind of people, the people who are confused, aren’t. Easy peasy.

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