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Sixteen Literary Luminaries On The Controversial Subject Of Being Childless By Choice, Collected In One Fascinating Anthology One of the main topics of cultural conversation during the last decade was the supposed "fertility crisis," and whether modern women could figure out a way to way to have it all--a successful, demanding career and the required 2.3 children--before th Sixteen Literary Luminaries On The Controversial Subject Of Being Childless By Choice, Collected In One Fascinating Anthology One of the main topics of cultural conversation during the last decade was the supposed "fertility crisis," and whether modern women could figure out a way to way to have it all--a successful, demanding career and the required 2.3 children--before their biological clock stopped ticking. Now, however, conversation has turned to whether it's necessary to have it all or, perhaps more controversial, whether children are really a requirement for a fulfilling life. The idea that some women and men prefer not to have children is often met with sharp criticism and incredulity by the public and mainstream media. In this provocative and controversial collection of essays, curated by writer Meghan Daum, sixteen acclaimed writers explain why they have chosen to eschew parenthood. Contributors Lionel Shriver, Sigrid Nunez, Kate Christiensen, Elliott Holt, Geoff Dyer, and Tim Kreider, among others, offer a unique perspective on the overwhelming cultural pressure of parenthood. Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed makes a thoughtful and passionate case for why parenthood is not the only path in life, taking our parent-centric, kid-fixated, baby-bump-patrolling culture to task in the process. What emerges is a more nuanced, diverse view of what it means to live a full, satisfying life.


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Sixteen Literary Luminaries On The Controversial Subject Of Being Childless By Choice, Collected In One Fascinating Anthology One of the main topics of cultural conversation during the last decade was the supposed "fertility crisis," and whether modern women could figure out a way to way to have it all--a successful, demanding career and the required 2.3 children--before th Sixteen Literary Luminaries On The Controversial Subject Of Being Childless By Choice, Collected In One Fascinating Anthology One of the main topics of cultural conversation during the last decade was the supposed "fertility crisis," and whether modern women could figure out a way to way to have it all--a successful, demanding career and the required 2.3 children--before their biological clock stopped ticking. Now, however, conversation has turned to whether it's necessary to have it all or, perhaps more controversial, whether children are really a requirement for a fulfilling life. The idea that some women and men prefer not to have children is often met with sharp criticism and incredulity by the public and mainstream media. In this provocative and controversial collection of essays, curated by writer Meghan Daum, sixteen acclaimed writers explain why they have chosen to eschew parenthood. Contributors Lionel Shriver, Sigrid Nunez, Kate Christiensen, Elliott Holt, Geoff Dyer, and Tim Kreider, among others, offer a unique perspective on the overwhelming cultural pressure of parenthood. Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed makes a thoughtful and passionate case for why parenthood is not the only path in life, taking our parent-centric, kid-fixated, baby-bump-patrolling culture to task in the process. What emerges is a more nuanced, diverse view of what it means to live a full, satisfying life.

30 review for Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on The Decision Not To Have Kids

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jaclyn Hogan

    I received a digital ARC of this title from Netgalley. I will never have children. I made up my mind on this years ago, and now, as I near 30, I have no inclination to change my mind. If I have a 'biological clock,' it's assuredly broken. What else could explain the crawling horror I feel at the prospect of pregnancy? Nope, no babies for this girl. My niece is expecting a baby in a few months, and I'm excited. But, and this is key, I'm excited because I'm not the one having it. I'm looking forwar I received a digital ARC of this title from Netgalley. I will never have children. I made up my mind on this years ago, and now, as I near 30, I have no inclination to change my mind. If I have a 'biological clock,' it's assuredly broken. What else could explain the crawling horror I feel at the prospect of pregnancy? Nope, no babies for this girl. My niece is expecting a baby in a few months, and I'm excited. But, and this is key, I'm excited because I'm not the one having it. I'm looking forward to playing Aunty, reading books and going to museums and imparting subversive feminist wisdom to my niece's daughter. But I'll get to send her back to mommy when she won't quit crying or I need a nap. Call me immature; I suppose I am. I love my family breathlessly, but I also love sleep and time to read books. I don't want to test my lack of self sacrifice on a child. That would be unfair. So, all of this is to say, this book was written for me. I completely understand where these writers are coming from, even if some of them phrase it in terms I find objectionable. What I do find fascinating/frustrating is how this conversation always falls on women. Women are just assumed to want babies. If we don't, we must have had terrible childhoods or be otherwise defective. (For the record, my childhood was aggressively normal and very loving. I was never abused. I am clinically depressed, and while that does figure into the calculus not to breed, it's not the only reason.) This all goes back to the insidious notion that women are *for* babies. We are supposed to subsume ourselves into our children, and if we don't we're selfish hags. Well, then I'll be a selfish hag. I belong to me, not some future hypothetical creature that I have to create out of my own flesh. So that this doesn't become a polemic, I'll stop here. I recommend this book if anyone has ever made you feel bad for not wanting to have children. Know your own mind, people. Be who you want to be, not who you think you should be.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rana

    So, here's the deal. I read the first four? five? essays and just had to call it quits. Turns out that I'm just not interested in why people don't want to have kids. I know, totally surprising because I also don't care why people do have kids. You do you and I'll do me. But for those who are perhaps more interested in the premise behind the book, I'm not sure that this book is the best way to find answers or explanations. Just like in real life, sometimes people don't have kids because they are So, here's the deal. I read the first four? five? essays and just had to call it quits. Turns out that I'm just not interested in why people don't want to have kids. I know, totally surprising because I also don't care why people do have kids. You do you and I'll do me. But for those who are perhaps more interested in the premise behind the book, I'm not sure that this book is the best way to find answers or explanations. Just like in real life, sometimes people don't have kids because they are selfish bitches (me) and sometimes they don't have kids because the timing and relationship was never right and sometimes they don't have kids for a thousand other reasons. However, these essays all just seemed to be variations on what privilege (education, class, money, time...) allows you to make choices about. But ya know, I only read the first couple of essays. Maybe life-changing things happened after I gave up. ETA: I thought more about this and I remembered the exact point at which I stopped reading. Lionel Shriver's essay; it was horrifyingly racist in that she laments that her choice not to have kids means she won't be passing along her intelligent and literary European genes. If I feel, oh, a little wistful about the fact that the country of my birth, the United States, will probably within my lifetime no longer be peopled in majority by those of European extraction like me, that passing dismay has never been considerable enough for me to inconvenience myself by giving lifts to football practice. Her whole essay was about how it was so sad that her white and educated friends weren't having babies but that developing countries and immigrants were. Yep, that was when I stopped reading.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Summer Smith

    I was slightly disappointed that most of the women in the book had actually courted or coveted motherhood for a time - and more missed the window than made an active choice. ironically, I most identified with a male writer's essay because he has always firmly known he didn't want children -- one of only a couple in the book. But still, I found the essays interesting, and I love that the topic is now open for intelligent dialogue. I was slightly disappointed that most of the women in the book had actually courted or coveted motherhood for a time - and more missed the window than made an active choice. ironically, I most identified with a male writer's essay because he has always firmly known he didn't want children -- one of only a couple in the book. But still, I found the essays interesting, and I love that the topic is now open for intelligent dialogue.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Jeffers

    I've known since I was a kid that I didn't want to be a mother. I have a distinct memory of being 7 or 8 and joining my own mom and her aunts and cousins on a Memorial Day trip to decorate family graves. In the cemetery, I remember coming across a string of Depression-era headstones for a set of siblings who all died as children and declaring I never wanted to have kids. I don't know why that was the moment it clicked for me, but it was. The women who were there with me all enjoyed a good laugh I've known since I was a kid that I didn't want to be a mother. I have a distinct memory of being 7 or 8 and joining my own mom and her aunts and cousins on a Memorial Day trip to decorate family graves. In the cemetery, I remember coming across a string of Depression-era headstones for a set of siblings who all died as children and declaring I never wanted to have kids. I don't know why that was the moment it clicked for me, but it was. The women who were there with me all enjoyed a good laugh and told me that I would change my mind one day when I grew up. You know what? It's been more than 20 years and I still haven't changed my mind. But, just as recently as last week, people are still telling me that I'll change my mind. Turns out, people ask a lot of questions about your plans for parenthood when you are a newlywed. I want to tell all these people, "I'm 31 goddamn years old. I think I've had enough time to think this through." I've had moments of doubt along the way, where I wonder if maybe I'll regret it when I get old. I've even picked out names for children I know I don't want (Chelsea Evan and Ryan Cage). But 99.9% of the time, I think about the idea of doing it and I know that it is not an experience I want for myself. There's a whole slew of reasons why I feel this way. I'm an incredibly anxious person and sometimes just having a cat to provide for is stressful enough--a dog seems like too much work for me. I don't trust that I would ever feel confident in what I was doing to the point where I wouldn't permanently fuck up a child. My own mother passed away when I was a teen and I can't imagine coming home from the hospital with a newborn and not having her there to tell me what to do with my nipples. It's only been within the last couple years that I've gotten to a place where I feel financially stable and the cost of raising a child would almost certainly destroy that. I would have to forgo most of the things that I've always wanted to do that I couldn't afford when I was in my twenties, and I wouldn't have the kind of mobility I want in my life, to be able to move to a new city uninhibited. I think of how busy I am now, and how hard it already is to find time to relax between work and general household kind of stuff. Throwing a kid into the mix would be overwhelming. Then there's the fact that I simply don't enjoy being around kids. I'm not "I hate kids," or anything, but I really don't have the patience to deal with temper tantrums, and even when it's time to play, it's exhausting to put myself on the same level as a small kid for more than anything considered "brief." It's just not for me. Not even a little bit. Call me selfish, call me self-absorbed, whatever. I know it's not something I want and I know it's not something I would ever feel like I was doing well. I come across so few like-minded females and as more and more of my friends begin to procreate, I feel like they're drifting away from me (whether because we now have less in common or because they just have less time, I don't know, but it still makes me sad) So, I was really excited to read this book and feel like I could relate. There were a few essays that made me wrinkle my nose, but overall this book is fantastic. Reading it was a powerful experience for me.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Leah Hortin

    I'm quite disappointed. I had such high hopes. The summary called to me, the intro was stellar and had me nodding in agreement with the editor, and then I started reading the essays. I think that there were only 3 or 4 that spoke to me, the rest were either uninteresting or thoroughly depressing. I'm sorry but I don't think that finding yourself in middle age, unmarried, without children, and coming to terms with that is the same as "deciding" to not have children. I cannot relate to women that I'm quite disappointed. I had such high hopes. The summary called to me, the intro was stellar and had me nodding in agreement with the editor, and then I started reading the essays. I think that there were only 3 or 4 that spoke to me, the rest were either uninteresting or thoroughly depressing. I'm sorry but I don't think that finding yourself in middle age, unmarried, without children, and coming to terms with that is the same as "deciding" to not have children. I cannot relate to women that are "relieved" to have miscarriages and feel as though they "dodged a bullet". Yes, I suppose that perhaps does make them "selfish, shallow, and self-absorbed writers though" but an active decision it does not make. My heart breaks for the writers with the gut-wrenching childhoods, and I understand their "choice". But where are the essays from the young, happily coupled up (or not), successful women that decide to not reproduce and have to deal with being regarded as a heretic or *gasp* a "career-woman"? And apparently there are only so many "excuses" to be childless, since these 16 essays seemed to spout off about the same 5 issues surrounding child-rearing.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Olive Fellows (abookolive)

    I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I don't want children. At my age, however, this statement is usually met with the response of, "Oh, but you're so young. You'll change your mind." This is not only condescending, but inaccurate (which honestly bothers me more). Not every woman is built to be a mother. Children can be great, sure. But I've never been one to "ooh" and "ahh" over baby pictures, find myself unable to resist pinching baby cheeks, or feel the desire to I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I don't want children. At my age, however, this statement is usually met with the response of, "Oh, but you're so young. You'll change your mind." This is not only condescending, but inaccurate (which honestly bothers me more). Not every woman is built to be a mother. Children can be great, sure. But I've never been one to "ooh" and "ahh" over baby pictures, find myself unable to resist pinching baby cheeks, or feel the desire to babysit just to spend an afternoon enjoying a child's company. In many ways, I wish that was me. We're told that it's natural to desire family life, to want to hold a baby in your arms and experience the torrential downpour of hormonal affection. Like one essayist in this collection explicitly states, I want to want to be a mother. But beyond the fact that the magic of children has always eluded me, there have always been a thousand reasons why I've thought I shouldn't have them. Most of those reasons are skillfully articulated in this collection (it is, after all, a compilation of essays by professional writers). The essay that reached me the most was the one by Jeanne Safer. She criticizes the notion of "having it all"; it is simply not possible to have it all. We all give up certain possibilities in exchange for a different set of experiences and there is no life without regret. As an extreme realist, this was refreshingly honest to me. To have children means giving up a life without them, or, giving up the freedom that a childfree existence allows. More and more people (in the Western world, at least) are choosing not to have children, and I think this work gives a good sample of the reasons why one reaches that decision. I found each and every essay fascinating and identified with at least one idea in each of them. Parenthood is never attacked. Thus, this is a book that would not only appeal to those (like myself) who know they never want children, but also to those who cannot understand why being childfree would be a choice someone would want to make.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Traci

    Much has been written about women "having it all," and the difficulties for women with balancing work and child-rearing. Literature also abounds on the topic of infertility, detailing stories of women who long to have children, but are unable for various reasons. However, very little has been written about making a conscious, well-thought out decision NOT to have children, and even less so from a male perspective. Social groups are plentiful for women who are mothers, from informal playgroups to Much has been written about women "having it all," and the difficulties for women with balancing work and child-rearing. Literature also abounds on the topic of infertility, detailing stories of women who long to have children, but are unable for various reasons. However, very little has been written about making a conscious, well-thought out decision NOT to have children, and even less so from a male perspective. Social groups are plentiful for women who are mothers, from informal playgroups to organized activities such as mom & baby yoga. Parents tend to be drawn together through their kids’ sports and other extra-curricular activities. Parents often frequently congregate in yards, enjoying conversation while watching their children play. For individuals without children, it can be difficult to form friendships and join in such social circles due to having little in common. While not necessarily intentional, the topic of conversation practically always revolves around child-related issues. Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on Their Decision Not To Have Kids edited by Meghan Daum, details the decisions of sixteen writers not to have kids. Most (thirteen) of the essays are by women, however, three are by men. All of the essays resonated with me on some level due to the fact that I also made the decision not to have children very early on in my adult life. Even though more and more women seem to be making the decision not to have children, it is still not the choice of the majority. While I'm not overly concerned with validation from society for my choices, it is nice to hear stories of people who have made similar decisions, even if for very different reasons. While I was initially drawn to reading the essays by authors already known to me, such as Lionel Shriver, some of my favorites turned out to be from authors previously unknown to me. I particularly enjoyed the essays from the three men, as they were refreshingly honest and completely unapologetic regarding the decision not to have kids. Whereas most of the women seemed to feel the need to qualify their decision with statements about liking kids, but determining kids just weren’t for them, or ensuring that people realize that they don’t hate kids, and love their nieces/nephews/friends’ kids, etc., the men did no such thing. Geoff Dyer even stated that he’s only had two ambitions in life, one of which was “never to have children.” He goes on to say: In a park, looking at smiling mothers and fathers strolling along with their adorable toddlers, I react like the pope confronted with a couple of gay men walking hand in hand: Where does it come from, this unnatural desire (to have children)? [“Over and Out” by Geoff Dyer] Since one of my favorite novels of all time is We Need to Talk About Kevin, I was really looking forward to reading Lionel Shriver's essay. Rather than detail her decision not to have kids, she instead wrote more about demographics in general in both America and Europe, as well as declining fertility rates, and a “birth dearth” in Western societies. She then gave examples of three women she knows personally (and considers friends) who are at different stages of life and who do not want children. Finally, she briefly mentions her own situation, but never really delves very far into her thought process. I did admire Shriver’s frank statement of “I could have afforded children, financially. I just didn’t want them.” Other essays were of a more somber nature, and recounted stories of childhood abuse or neglect which influenced their decisions regarding having (or not having in this case) children. Sigrid Nunez began her essay with “There was a time during my childhood when I believed that all children were unwanted.” Along with the stories of abuse and neglect, a few women actually chose to have abortions, rather than bring a child that they weren’t sure they wanted or could adequately care for, into the world. I found Michelle Huneven's essay especially moving: My experience of living in my family had deeply instilled a sense that behind the closed doors of a family’s home, all respect disappeared; disapproval, anger, and other emotions ran unchecked, and a domestic form of war prevailed, with war’s oscillations between overt violence and tense calm. Even as I learned that not all families were like this, I didn’t trust myself not to recreate what I had known. [“Amateurs” by Michelle Huneven] I am very glad that Meghan Daum decided to take this subject on, and am thankful to the sixteen writers who agreed to share their stories. I would highly recommend the book not just to people who have decided not to have kids, but even more so to all those who do have kids. I think it’s important for those who are parents to realize that their lifestyle is not the only valid choice, nor are all those who make the choice not to have kids selfish, shallow, or self-absorbed! It is simply one of many life choices, typically involving a large amount of deliberation and self-reflection. *Note: Thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan-Picador for a complimentary advance reader's copy of .

  8. 4 out of 5

    Les

    This hit the spot. Almost. I wanted to read the perspectives of writers who not only didn't have children but were thrilled with the decision to the point of being relieved that they trusted their intuition, who like me are edified by their decision each passing year rather than being unnerved by it or the social judgment that accompanies it. I found several of my own reasons for being persona non mama scattered throughout, but the BEST and most identifiable for me was the final essay written by This hit the spot. Almost. I wanted to read the perspectives of writers who not only didn't have children but were thrilled with the decision to the point of being relieved that they trusted their intuition, who like me are edified by their decision each passing year rather than being unnerved by it or the social judgment that accompanies it. I found several of my own reasons for being persona non mama scattered throughout, but the BEST and most identifiable for me was the final essay written by a man (Tim Kreider's "The End of the Line"). Yet despite claims of "diversity" by Daum, it lacked that big time; I'm always guarded by a mainstreamer's view of "diversity" which tends to translate into "less than ALL being the same" or five kinds of ethnicity from the same region of one continent. Of the 16 essays, one was offensively privileged ("Be Here Now Means Be Gone Later" by Lionel Shriver) and one was just...narrow-minded to the point of being disgusting ("You'd be Such a Good Mother, If Only You Weren't You" by M.G. Lord). I mean, this broad talked about which people "deserved" her attention; get the fuck outta here. Others were a study in the conventional. Most went out of their way to explain that they loved children or were involved with them in some other capacity. Why? There was still an underlying air of defensiveness that was disappointing but I suppose just speaks to the larger need for more collections of this kind. In any event, it was pretty vanilla in terms of presented SES of the authors and I beg the question of what's the point of diversity if there's an effort to deny how that impacts the decision to have a child. Still, it's a start and overall well-written while also being refreshingly honest on everything from abortions to relationships to being able to love a friend's child while having ZERO envy for the life they live in raising said child. I was also buoyed by folks admitting how many people have kids just to avoid regretting not doing it, only to realize that no life is regret-free. I'd re-read most of these and they did inspire me to write my own essay on the topic - purely for self-edification and seeing how many of the authors' ideas intersect in my own life, while knowing that certain concerns were never voiced by this group (I mean - it is only 16 essays and what it means to be an *insert blank* woman within more segregated communities who opts not to have children and the reaction from a particular culture that is insulated and isolated from the larger mainstream world of most of these authors is another matter. But I'm free to write that journey; Daum doesn't need to find someone to do it for me, though that would be more diverse). So, three stars for several reasons, but I enjoyed each one of those stars. And I so love a Kreider quote of what much of opting to honor feeling complete without reproducing means to me that I'll end with it. "Admittedly, calling not having children the ultimate act of free will may be a little grandiose. People on both sides of the reproductive divide tend to be self-congratulatory about choices that are, let's be honest, completely beyond their conscious control, like people who've inherited wealth thinking they deserve it. Parents need to somehow justify the lives of sputum, tuition, and sarcastic abuse to which they've condemned themselves, and so make their own grandiose claims about parenthood's ineffable fulfillments and beneficent effects -that one cannot possibly know what real love is unless you've had children, that it is life's ultimate purpose, et cetera. Reproduction as raison d'etre has always seemed to me to beg the whole question of existence. If the ultimate purpose of your life is your children, what's the purpose of your children's lives? To have your grandchildren? Isn't anyone's life ultimately meaningful in itself? If not, what's the point of propagating it ad infinitum?" For me and many in this volume, there is no point.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Erica Zimmermann

    Until about a year ago, I always thought I would eventually have kids. As I made my way through my twenties watching my friends have babies, I would feel the occasional twinge of a biological urge and assumed one day that would be me with the swollen belly and piles of tiny jumpers to organize. I’m not entirely sure what changed, but lately I’ve been pretty convinced that motherhood is not for me. My boyfriend/roommate has always said he doesn’t want children and I believed him, but always kind Until about a year ago, I always thought I would eventually have kids. As I made my way through my twenties watching my friends have babies, I would feel the occasional twinge of a biological urge and assumed one day that would be me with the swollen belly and piles of tiny jumpers to organize. I’m not entirely sure what changed, but lately I’ve been pretty convinced that motherhood is not for me. My boyfriend/roommate has always said he doesn’t want children and I believed him, but always kind of secretly thought he would change his mind. Now looking at our relationship and why this was never a deal breaker for me, I can see the truth is my love for him has always outweighed my desire for a baby. If a baby had really been that important to me, I would’ve done everything in my power to pursue that goal. I love my freedom, love the thought that we can leave for a vacation on a whim, or as the essay by Tim Kreider said, “There’s really nothing stopping me, on any given Tuesday morning, from taking up heroin.” An extreme example to be sure, but the man has a point–there is no end to the free will of the childless. Reflecting on my life as the oldest sibling of four, I can remember how nervously I would watch my sisters and brother when we were out in public, how much I would worry about them, especially when we went swimming in the murky lake–I’d hold my breath every time as I waited for the bubbles that mean a head was about to pop through the surface. I constantly feared something would happen to them. And though some might say that this is an obvious mothering instinct, the truth is that it was not fun in the slightest. I don’t like being anxious, and the thought of being in that state for years does not appeal to me. Not to say that you should actively avoid what you’re afraid of, but to me the risks are greater than the rewards. As you can see, I have my reasons for resisting motherhood and found myself curious about how other people’s reasons compared. One of my favorite bloggers mentioned this book and I immediately knew I had to read it, partially in order to discover if this could be the lifestyle for me. Contained within are 16 brilliant, touching, and funny essays by (mostly) older writers–13 women and 3 men–who ultimately decided not to have a child. Some of them always lacked the instinct, some let their lives decide for them, others wavered over time. One woman went so far as to pay for sperm from a donor, get pregnant, and miscarry before realizing it wasn’t what she actually wanted. Although most of the essays held my interest, my two favorites were “A Thousand Other Things” by Kate Christensen and “The Trouble with Having It All” by Pam Houston. The first spoke of how, if she had gotten what she wanted when she wanted it (a baby) she would not be living the wonderful life she has now. She also emphasizes how it’s pretty much impossible to miss something you’ve never had. She writes, “I picture my life without children as a hole dug in sand and then filled with water. Into every void rushes something. Nature abhors a vacuum.” I found this to be a beautiful image and true–for those who don’t have children, we will fill our lives with other joys. Along these lines, the latter essay delves into the idea of “having it all” and tries to debunk the myth that there even is such a thing. Because the truth is by having a child, you have no choice but to give up something that you would have otherwise enjoyed. Time does not bend to our wills. Another common theme within is the social stigma against people who are “child-free by choice.” Such people are considered selfish or immature, when the truth is that the decision NOT to have kids is often something people put more thought into than the decision TO have kids. Obviously, the choice to have a child can be just as selfish as the choice not to. Let’s count the ways: 1. “Aren’t you afraid you’ll be alone when you’re old?” This thought has never bothered me much as there is no guarantee I will even get old. There’s also no way to know if your kids will have a significant amount of free time to spend with you as adults. I’ve always enjoyed alone time and independence and if I do end up in a nursing home I’m sure by that time there will be plenty of robots dressed as candy stripers to keep me company. 2. “Don’t you want to see your genes passed on?” This is our biological imperative, and yet, are my genetic traits really that important? I’m fairly positive I’d make a beautiful and creative, unique weirdo. It would also be trippy to see what my boyfriend and I would look like combined. But there are lots of websites for that if I’m really curious. And honestly, I was just too lazy to upload a photo of myself so how am I supposed to overcome this ridiculous laziness to raise a child? Thankfully I have three siblings who plan on having kids so in a sense my genes will live on. And I plan on being a delightfully demented auntie. 3. “You should do it because it’s what normals do.” I’ve never wanted to be regular and I don’t plan on starting now. 4. “You’ll regret it if you don’t.” It’s possible… but everyone in life has regrets. And I promise that plenty of people have regretted having children, leaving them with grandparents or in foster care or doing the unspeakably-worse. The great thing about this book is it is not trying to change anyone’s mind. I expect more childless people will read it than parents, but hopefully some of the latter will because it can be illuminating to read about an alternate lifestyle. In the cases of many of these writers, they feel it has helped their careers to have the free time to sit at a desk for 12 hours and pump out novels. The art is the baby. Obviously there are plenty of working writers who have kids, but it takes a special kind of person to be able to do both. I’m very happy I stumbled across this collection. I truly believe if you’re questioning like me, it will provide invaluable insight. https://yeshallbejudged.wordpress.com...

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jess the Shelf-Declared Bibliophile

    Overall, I think this book's importance in our society cannot be expressed enough. I'm so grateful to the author for giving this viewpoint a much-needed voice. I can't count how many times older women have said to me, "Oh, you'll change your mind about having kids when you're older." As if I'm wrong. As if I'm so young and blindly misguided that I will soon come to my senses. These responses are offensive to me. I'm 29 years old, and have very closely considered what route in life I would like t Overall, I think this book's importance in our society cannot be expressed enough. I'm so grateful to the author for giving this viewpoint a much-needed voice. I can't count how many times older women have said to me, "Oh, you'll change your mind about having kids when you're older." As if I'm wrong. As if I'm so young and blindly misguided that I will soon come to my senses. These responses are offensive to me. I'm 29 years old, and have very closely considered what route in life I would like to take. I have no regrets nor doubts that I have made the right choices. I LOVE my life. I love the independence, the freedom, and YES, the selfishness. In a recent conversation with my (male, therefore of no understanding of the female mind) gynecologist about the consistent, severe pain I go through constantly from endometriosis, yet fear of having multiple surgeries, I asked if I allowed him to operate and he was able to confirm the severity of the endometriosis, could he go ahead and do a hysterectomy to avoid future surgeries and more scarring. His response? "Well, see if I were your father, I would want you to have the opportunity for children if you changed your mind." I was blown away. I smiled and nodded to end the conversation like the polite Southern belle I was raised to be, but inside I was seething. I wanted to scream at him that if my father were a doctor, he would respect my wishes and perform the surgery with no question. I was so infuriated that a strange man and my insurance company have far more control over what happens to my body than I do. Rant over, I'll now go on to review some of the individual essays that stuck out the most to me. Babes in the Woods and Just an Aunt: These perfectly explain how I feel about my 4 nieces and nephews. I adore my visits with them, can provide my sister with adult conversation and venting when she needs it, and if I ever came into millions of dollars, I have no doubt that I would bequeath my fortune to them when I pass away. It's somewhat the appeal of "loving from afar" while not being 100% indebted to a little being that brings me the best of both worlds. Maternal Instinct: I did not connect with this essay at all. The author takes feminism to a terrible level with her casual comments about having several abortions for the inconvenience of it. One specific example was that having a baby would ruin her commute and she could not imagine carrying both a baby and her computer on a train. While I personally could never have an abortion, I have never been loudly outspoken about other womens' choices as I cannot predict their circumstances as far as abuse or force. However, I do feel it is very wrong to kill SEVERAL babies for the sole reason of inconvenience. As an adult, she should have been more careful not to get pregnant instead of treating abortion as a contraceptive. A Thousand Other Things: I really understand the viewpoint of this author. The freedom and independence of doing what you want, when you want, how you want is my primary reason for not wanting children. I don't share this with many people, but I too have had an early miscarriage, and while I felt heartbreak and guilt, as if it was my fault, I also secretly felt relief. I was terrified of being forced into that role, and was also in an unhappy relationship. I sometimes think about the person that that small spark of life could have become, but it does not make me want to purposely try again.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Erica Clou

    The idea that people who choose not have children are selfish has always been completely preposterous to me. I have two children I completely love and adore, but the reasons I chose to have them were (in my opinion) "selfish, shallow, and self-absorbed" even if the actual raising of them sometimes requires saint-like patience and sacrifice. That is, I desperately wanted my own kids, my own family, little me's to shower with affection. In contrast, I think people who adopt or even those who don't The idea that people who choose not have children are selfish has always been completely preposterous to me. I have two children I completely love and adore, but the reasons I chose to have them were (in my opinion) "selfish, shallow, and self-absorbed" even if the actual raising of them sometimes requires saint-like patience and sacrifice. That is, I desperately wanted my own kids, my own family, little me's to shower with affection. In contrast, I think people who adopt or even those who don't have children, are way less selfish and shallow. Especially since our overpopulated planet is basically on fire now. (Sorry fellow moms, it's not a judgment on you, it's a judgment on myself.) And furthermore, I desperately want my own children to give me grandchildren one day- even at the potential cost to some of their own happiness- how's that for selfish? Additionally, my own mother seemed - quite the opposite of me- a somewhat reluctant mother. So I was very receptive to this collection, and it went beyond the ideas that I already held, enriching my overall view of other people's decisions of whether to have kids or not. I especially enjoyed "Maternal Instinct" by Laura Kipnis which is a really interesting feminist take on the decision not to have children; "Be Here Now," by Lionel Shriver which highlights some of the racist and cultural motivations in the perpetuating the idea of reproduction in particular countries; "The Most Important Thing" by Sigrid Nunez which explored the time when having children was often a misfortune; "Over and Out" by Geoff Dyer, and “The End” by Tim Kreider. I also noticed a thread of a number of writers who felt unsatisfied with their own childhoods. Though I noticed that for such highly intellectual and often atheistic arguments, the women in these essays never doubted the importance of the "work they wanted to do." Geoff Dyer touched on this issue a little and Tom Kreisler addressed it more directly: in a nihilistic universe, what value does your work have? Hypothetically, if we are a bunch of bacteria on a rock hurtling through space, then the value of our work probably isn't in any discernible way more significant than any other particular experience including the experience of being a parent. On the other hand, if there's a God (and maybe even if there's not) and an understanding of deep sacrificial love is the greatest earthly value or experience then maybe they're missing the mark? The authors of the essays are all professional writers so they all have work to do which is imbued with spirit in a way that many other people's jobs are not. So maybe the sacred nature of their work particularly skews their view of this issue. But for example, what particular value is Randall L. Stephenson or Michel Combes providing to the world as the CEOs of ATT and Sprint respectively? None that I can think of. But I get it, if it's your heart's passion is to be a CEO, rather than to be a parent, and as a woman, you think that being a parent will get in the way of your CEO dreams, you should do you.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Cher

    3.5 stars - It was really good. Like most essay collections, some were better than others but I found something interesting or thought provoking in each one. The authors come from very diverse backgrounds, with essays from both men and women, rich and poor, old and young, straight and gay. ------------------------------------------- Favorite Quotes: The lack of desire to have a child is innate. It exists outside of my control. It is simply who I am and I can take neither credit nor blame for all th 3.5 stars - It was really good. Like most essay collections, some were better than others but I found something interesting or thought provoking in each one. The authors come from very diverse backgrounds, with essays from both men and women, rich and poor, old and young, straight and gay. ------------------------------------------- Favorite Quotes: The lack of desire to have a child is innate. It exists outside of my control. It is simply who I am and I can take neither credit nor blame for all that it may or may not signify. But the decision to honor that desire, to find a way to be whole on my own terms even if it means facing the judgment, scorn, and even pity of mainstream society, is a victory. It’s a victory I celebrate every day. ~Courtney Hodell Not having children is seen as supremely selfish, as though the people having children were selflessly sacrificing themselves in a valiant attempt to ensure the survival of our endangered species and fill up this vast and underpopulated island of ours. ~Geoff Dyer My womb has always been empty, but my life is full. ~Jeanne Safer First Sentence: While working on this book, I sometimes found myself contemplating a variation of Leo Tolstoy’s famous “happy families” line from the opening of Anna Karenina: "People who want children are all alike. People who don’t want children don’t want them in their own ways."

  13. 4 out of 5

    April

    I received an ARC of this from NetGalley in exchange for a review. I don't know what it says about me that the essay that resonated most was written by a man (Geoff Dyer's was GREAT). I found the women's accounts a little to emotionally wrought and apologetic ("I LOVE kids, just don't want my own") and repetitive (got pregnant, didn't work out, it's fine I guess). Not a bunch of new ground covered here for those of us already committed to not having kids, but I guess it's a good thing that the i I received an ARC of this from NetGalley in exchange for a review. I don't know what it says about me that the essay that resonated most was written by a man (Geoff Dyer's was GREAT). I found the women's accounts a little to emotionally wrought and apologetic ("I LOVE kids, just don't want my own") and repetitive (got pregnant, didn't work out, it's fine I guess). Not a bunch of new ground covered here for those of us already committed to not having kids, but I guess it's a good thing that the issue is becoming more mainstream, with less stigma attached.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lindsey

    Ach, I was so excited to read this one but just felt like it didn't really deliver for me. Like a lot of the other reviewers, I identified a lot more with the male authors' essays (I especially liked the last one)- for a book that I assumed was supposed to represent many different authors' reasons/experiences with childlessness, the women's stories felt so similar to me: difficult childhoods, mental/emotional difficulties, just didn't meet the right guy at the right time. I wonder if this is som Ach, I was so excited to read this one but just felt like it didn't really deliver for me. Like a lot of the other reviewers, I identified a lot more with the male authors' essays (I especially liked the last one)- for a book that I assumed was supposed to represent many different authors' reasons/experiences with childlessness, the women's stories felt so similar to me: difficult childhoods, mental/emotional difficulties, just didn't meet the right guy at the right time. I wonder if this is somewhat generational? I feel like I know at least a handful of women my age (early 30s) who are happily living in stable marriages, financially doing well, no particular traumas in their childhood- but are just kind of ambivalent about the whole childrearing thing and are thinking they probably won't do it. Plus I felt like each of the female writers went out of her way to make the point that she's still doing some sort of nurturing/role-modeling, like she's an aunt or a mentor or in some other way is BENEFITING SOCIETY rather than just being a grown-up who has decided to enjoy grownup life without children (the male writers didn't seem to have this same compunction); this annoyed me. So, while each of the essays was well-written and interesting enough on its own, as a collection I guess I just found them kind of repetitive and not really something I could connect with.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Amy Thibodeau

    "I wish that we had more conversations about childlessness that didn’t force us to approach them from such a defensive place." I found this book mostly refreshing, save for the essay by Lionel Shriver, which struck me as bonkers with its focus on what seemed to me about the pressure to pass on good, European genes. I'm a woman, in my 30s and I never want to have children. Though I personally haven't experienced a lot of the pressure some of the authors in this book have, I wish the default assump "I wish that we had more conversations about childlessness that didn’t force us to approach them from such a defensive place." I found this book mostly refreshing, save for the essay by Lionel Shriver, which struck me as bonkers with its focus on what seemed to me about the pressure to pass on good, European genes. I'm a woman, in my 30s and I never want to have children. Though I personally haven't experienced a lot of the pressure some of the authors in this book have, I wish the default assumption wasn't that people should have kids. As a professional woman, I feel like much of the writing about "having it all" presupposes children. A lot of the work/life balance conversations are about balancing children. I'm concerned with having it all and work/life balance, but there isn't a lot of acknowledgment or support for someone like me. What I'd love to see happen, and what this book begins to do, is change the base assumption about having children. It's an option, and a great one for many people. But it is only one of myriad life choices. Instead of being seen as the default position, I wish we could all just make the life choices that are right for each of us with less assumptions. To end, here's a quote from Beyond Beyond Motherhood by Jeanne Safer: "Real self-acceptance, real liberation, involves acknowledging limitations, not grandiosely denying them. It is true, and should be recognized, that women can be fulfilled with or without children, that you can most definitely have enough without having everything. How fortunate we are to live in an era when we can make deeply considered choices about which life suits us, and that now the world looks slightly less askance if we go against the flow." More of my favorite bits here: http://www.amythibodeau.com/blog/2015...

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    I have read just about every “childfree” book ever published. Some are better than others, but they all dwell on the same theme: “we have wisely chosen to live our lives without the burden of children and those who do have children are sheep who have let themselves be brainwashed into the mommy-daddy track.” This book is different. These authors do not offer pat answers or smug assurances that childfree is the only way to go. Each has struggled with the question of why they don’t have children a I have read just about every “childfree” book ever published. Some are better than others, but they all dwell on the same theme: “we have wisely chosen to live our lives without the burden of children and those who do have children are sheep who have let themselves be brainwashed into the mommy-daddy track.” This book is different. These authors do not offer pat answers or smug assurances that childfree is the only way to go. Each has struggled with the question of why they don’t have children and how their lives would have been different if they had. The writing is superb. Daum has done a masterful job of putting this anthology together. Its authors include Sigrid Nunez, Paul Lisicky, Michelle Huneven, Pam Houston, and others just as talented and accomplished. They wrestle with issues such as childhood abuse, mental illness, the AIDs epidemic among gay men, abortion rights, infertility, and the different ways childless men and women are treated. I borrowed this book from the library, but I need to buy a copy; it’s too good not to own.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Carlos

    Personally I have to recognize that after reading this book I realized I don’t like the essays in a book format , nonetheless this book was brilliant for what it is , a compendium of people stating their reasons of why they don’t want have kids (a personal stance as well), in them you will find reasons that range from the philosophical aspects to what could be call selfish attitudes (there is a reason for the title of the book) , you might not agree with some of them and one in particular might Personally I have to recognize that after reading this book I realized I don’t like the essays in a book format , nonetheless this book was brilliant for what it is , a compendium of people stating their reasons of why they don’t want have kids (a personal stance as well), in them you will find reasons that range from the philosophical aspects to what could be call selfish attitudes (there is a reason for the title of the book) , you might not agree with some of them and one in particular might even sound racist , but the point of the book is that there is no one reason for people not to have kids , there are multiple reasons as there multiple personalities that decide not to , there is no right or wrong reason not to have a kid , a choice that should be as scrutinized as much as it on our society (I have experienced) . All in all This book felt like a cathartic experience for those of us who are tired to come up with excuse of why we are childless.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    4.5 stars

  19. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    “At times, I felt like a pioneer, a woman who has had access to countless new opportunities, including the chance to craft a life best suited to her own skills and temperament.” I have been saying for over 20 years now that I don’t want kids. What’s interesting about this book is that it’s most likely going to be read by people who made the same decision long ago—and it won’t be read by those who probably should read it, the ones who ask “Why?” the ones who repeatedly state, “You’ll change your m “At times, I felt like a pioneer, a woman who has had access to countless new opportunities, including the chance to craft a life best suited to her own skills and temperament.” I have been saying for over 20 years now that I don’t want kids. What’s interesting about this book is that it’s most likely going to be read by people who made the same decision long ago—and it won’t be read by those who probably should read it, the ones who ask “Why?” the ones who repeatedly state, “You’ll change your mind” or (presumptuously), “You’ll regret it.” While I have my own laundry list of reasons, it was a rewarding experience to read the perspectives of various men and women at different stages in their life. Oddly, many of the women writers did not actually “choose” to remain childless so much as time and circumstance ultimately caused the option to disappear for them. Although I guess not “prioritizing” having children is a choice in itself. I loved one of the early remarks which explored how motherhood became romanticized during the Industrial Revolution. As machines replaced people, the importance of paid labor increased, ultimately giving rise to the male breadwinner/female homemaker ideology. Women are told that being a wife and mother are the pinnacle of achievement. To willfully abandon having children is to be a failure as a woman, but for men it just means they’re a perpetual bachelor, maybe even a bit of a rogue. These essays give me hope that the decision to not have children will one day be met with understanding rather than aggression. See more of my reviews: Blog // Instagram

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kristina

    Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids is a collection of essays explaining just that. Even though Meghan Daum, the editor of this collection, intends this title to be taken facetiously, I still dislike it. It seems less like a sly joke and more like an admission, that we, the childfree, are indeed all those things. We are not. The women and (three) men writers in this collection explain their various reasons for not having children. Their reasons v Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids is a collection of essays explaining just that. Even though Meghan Daum, the editor of this collection, intends this title to be taken facetiously, I still dislike it. It seems less like a sly joke and more like an admission, that we, the childfree, are indeed all those things. We are not. The women and (three) men writers in this collection explain their various reasons for not having children. Their reasons vary a great deal, some stemming from a traumatic childhood and others just saying their professional lives were more important. Some writers expressed a certain wistfulness about their decisions (although with some of them—the women—it was more of a nondecision decision) but all concluded that they were, in the end, happier and more satisfied without children. What I found very interesting about this collection of essays is how these writers’ reasons varied so widely. Some had political reasons, some were terrified that they’d be awful mothers, some weren’t up for the challenges of being a parent. Many of them were irritated by the idea that they are shallow or selfish or self-absorbed, noting quite correctly that many women (and men) decide to become parents for their own selfish reasons. The idea of regret is explored too, that childfree adults will regret missing the unique experiences of raising children. Well, sure, the writers say. But every life is full of regrets. It’s a matter of not letting your regrets control your life. They most definitely don’t regret experiencing the incessant demand for attention, the screaming fits, the messiness, and the lifelong worry of being a parent. What I also find fascinating is how every woman in this collection complains about the social pressure to conceive and the negativity she encountered when she said (often in response to impertinent questioning by a stranger), “No, I don’t have children. I decided it wasn’t the right choice for me.” How they were scorned, pitied and abused for saying such a thing! God forbid a woman make choices for herself. God forbid a woman assert that she knows her own mind and knows what’s best for her. As often is the case (and still is), women are patted on the head and told, no, dear, you’re wrong. I know what’s best for you: get pregnant. There is an undercurrent of anger in some of these essays based on that perception: that women don’t know their own minds and aren’t really women, aren’t feminine unless they do what god created them to do: give birth. That makes these writers angry and it makes me angry. A woman is not solely defined by her uterus. It is the twenty-first century, yet we still have to have this fight. Men and women can be loving and nurturing people without having any desire to procreate. Women (since it is acceptable for men to remain childless bachelors their whole lives) should not have to prove anything about themselves by having a child. It’s ridiculous. I think this societal pressure to have children was felt by women twenty or so years older than myself, the age of many of the women who wrote the essays. I am childfree by choice and no one has ever shamed me for it. I was once told I was brave for making that choice while I am still young enough to bear children and I thought that was odd. Why is it brave? It’s a matter of knowing yourself. While I enjoy interactions with my friends’ children, I prefer those interactions to be of short duration. While I am obliging, I do not know how to play with kids and I cannot enter their imaginary universe. As these children grow older and are capable of interesting conversations, I find myself genuinely interested in them as individuals, rather than strange little creatures that my friends occasionally want to escape from. I am not a nurturer (unless you mean cats, dogs, horses, pigs, cows, just about anything incapable of mouthing off) and I never want to hold the baby. Offer me a baby and I’ll run. Offer me a kitten and I’m on the floor rolling around with yarn and cooing stupidly, “Oh, aren’t you a cute little kitty?” I see nothing wrong with this. Even before my friends gave birth, I was well aware of the challenges of raising children. Not just the whole idea of pregnancy and childbirth (yuck), or even the day-to-day duties (cleaning, feeding, clothing), but the idea of raising offspring to become intelligent, caring, conscientious adults. The struggle to educate a child in today’s fucked-up school systems sends me into a panic attack. I’d have to read everything they read and correct the textbooks (if I lived in Texas, I’d have to explain to my child that it was called “slavery” and not the “Atlantic triangular trade”) and try to take my child to museums and create activities that enriched his schooling. I’d also want to protect him from internet pervs, online bullying, in-person bullying, and try to understand his modern tastes in music and television shows. I’d worry he’d be suicidal, use drugs, run with the wrong crowd and, most prosaically, just be an all-around asshole I couldn’t like. If I managed all that and had a decent kid who left home a reasonably intelligent and informed adult, the worry still wouldn’t end till the day I died. I could be capable of all that. I like the idea of reading a child the books I read as a child, shaping his mind (to share my outlook on the world, of course) but unfortunately children aren’t empty vessels waiting to be filled. They already have personalities and strong likes and dislikes and so while you can influence them, more than likely (unless you are a tyrant and/or your child is very impressionable and willing) these small humans already are themselves—you must work with the material you have. I know this. I also know having a child would more than likely kill me intellectually and emotionally, if not physically. So, it is not shallow or selfish to make the decision to not have children. It is an intelligent and informed decision by an adult who is self-aware and knows her limits. What is selfish is deluding yourself that you want a child, then you become a neglectful or abusive parent because you find that, after all, it’s a lot of work. This is a mixed bag of essays. Some are better written and have more insight than others, but all are worth a read. They get a bit tedious after a while (at least, I thought so), so it’s a positive that the average essay is only ten or so pages long and the book is rather short. There are only so many ways a person can say, hey, it was my decision, not yours and I’m okay with it. So bite me.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Chris Hartley

    I received this book as part of the First Reads giveaway program. What made “Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed” appealing to me from the get-go is being able to get insight from writers who have made the same life decision I have that is the choice to not have children. Over the years, it is a choice that has garnered me odd looks, inane questioning, and such proclamations as “You don’t know what you’re missing!” and “How do you know it’s not for you?” – My answers: a) Judging from those around I received this book as part of the First Reads giveaway program. What made “Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed” appealing to me from the get-go is being able to get insight from writers who have made the same life decision I have that is the choice to not have children. Over the years, it is a choice that has garnered me odd looks, inane questioning, and such proclamations as “You don’t know what you’re missing!” and “How do you know it’s not for you?” – My answers: a) Judging from those around me with children, I’m not missing much; and b) I’ve known it wasn’t for me since I was a teenager, so don’t judge me for going against the apparent “societal norm”. This is why, being able to get opinion from those in the same boat, made me interested instantly. Edited and introduced by Meghan Daum, this collection of sixteen essays does offer up some interesting points but I found my enjoyment of it coming in bits and pieces rather than a whole. Things just felt too dry and philosophical for my liking. It’s a subject I feel should be approached with more humour and while I did learn some intriguing facts (Lionel Shriver, who wrote one of the all-time best evil kid novels with “We Need to Talk About Kevin”, made me aware of the decline of childbirth rates across various countries), I don’t feel I got quite enough internal monologues from most of the essays. I’ m curious as to why someone made that choice and felt there was a bit too much skirting the issues and there were too many entries that tried to justify things by proclaiming a love for children (yes, you are a good person by doing so, even if you don’t want your own – yadda yadda). I also found it skewed to the female side with only three of the sixteen contributors male but, seeing as females are the child-bearers, I suppose it makes sense. That being said, I don’t think there are enough books out there that tackle the topic and I did get enough insight to keep me reading but I just wish it was less analytical and had more of a witty streak.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Babbs

    Why Don't You Have Kids? This book provided prospective on the many ways childless adults deal with the questions related to, "how many kids do you have," or other variations to the same point. I am in my early thirties and work in a primarily male, highly demanding, scientific field, and have been in a relationship with my now husband (also a scientist) for a little over nine years. It never fails that this is one of the first five questions I'm asked by new acquaintances (but rarely comes up f Why Don't You Have Kids? This book provided prospective on the many ways childless adults deal with the questions related to, "how many kids do you have," or other variations to the same point. I am in my early thirties and work in a primarily male, highly demanding, scientific field, and have been in a relationship with my now husband (also a scientist) for a little over nine years. It never fails that this is one of the first five questions I'm asked by new acquaintances (but rarely comes up for my husband), most likely because so many people my age have children, it's considered "safe" for people, specifically women, you barely know. The problem, as mentioned in many of these stories, is that once you answer negatively, that becomes the whole focus of conversation on a very personal topic. You're Being Selfish Growing up in rural Arkansas, I didn't want children for the majority of my youth, but I was determined not to have a child before I was financially secure, in a career I was passionate about. To me the idea of indulging this desire before you can financially shoulder the burden of pregnancy and everything that comes after, is the same as my deciding to go to graduate school. I have been outright called selfish, to my face, for the decision of not having children (multiple times) and/or deciding my education/ betterment and relationship with my spouse was more important. Several of the short stories do a good job outlining that this is an argument that you're as likely to "win" as why having a dog is better than having a cat. You're Biased I started this book with an obvious bias in that I have made the same decision as all of the feature authors and sought a form of validation. One of the stories in particular struck a chord, in that there is no right answer. Everyone has their reasons, and some are on the fence, but it is still THEIR decision. I judge them just as much as they do me, and neither position is correct in doing so. Men vs Women The discrepancy between males who have made this decision and women who've done the same is outlined somewhat in many of the female author's chapters, but only feature in short segments of a few of the narratives. None of the male perspectives mention outside pressure to have children, or the questions, even in idle chatter, as to why they haven't. They do mention pressure from partners, but that was as far as it goes. I was a little surprised there wasn't more questions from their parents, or hints dropped at wanting grandchildren. Limited Perspective This book has some points of view I didn't agree with or care for, and others have already mentioned, the pool from which you read is limited and similar. I would like to see the same question posed to many of the people from the Ozark mountains of Arkansas, where I grew up and graduated high school, and I'm certain their opinions would be highly different. The same for low income urban areas. Some of the authors grew up in these conditions, but are mostly solid middle class now or when the decision to have children was pressing. Someone currently in those situations might have a more insightful perspective. Limitations The idea of step children is only briefly touched upon. I would have liked to see a man faced with the decision to put their career on hold, and that be why they decided not to have kids. Many of the male perspectives were simply, "I've never wanted kids." Which goes back to the Men vs Women idea that no one tells they they are wrong and will change their mind, or they should be a Dad first, and everything else is secondary. One of the stories outlined this but I would have liked to see the same thing from a male and the pressure they received from peers.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jenn "JR"

    When I first read the title, I thought "Hey! That's me!" I'm almost 50 and still get the "tsk" and "it's not too late!" and grandiose exclamations from exhausted late-in-life-parents that "having children is the most fulfilling thing you can do as a human/woman/educated liberal/etc." I mostly think they are trying to convince themselves - and so do many of the contributors to this volume. The first essay is probably my favorite - it's a sweet love letter from the writer to her sibling, both thoug When I first read the title, I thought "Hey! That's me!" I'm almost 50 and still get the "tsk" and "it's not too late!" and grandiose exclamations from exhausted late-in-life-parents that "having children is the most fulfilling thing you can do as a human/woman/educated liberal/etc." I mostly think they are trying to convince themselves - and so do many of the contributors to this volume. The first essay is probably my favorite - it's a sweet love letter from the writer to her sibling, both thought they'd never have kids until one day her brother adopted. That radically changed their relationship. Other writers provide brutally honest, unflinching portrayals of their experiences as children and their struggles with depression or other issues. They talk about the culture that swirls around us -- insisting that we fulfill our biological imperative and if you don't hear your biological clock beating away, you're just not listening or you're straight up lying. Like many of the contributors to this volume - I have lied a lot about children. I don't "hate" children as a class and would view with suspicion anyone who says they "love" or "hate" people because of their age. Do you ever hear people say "I love adults" or "I love teenagers" or "I love ____ " pick one - it just sounds creepy and inappropriate. Like one of the authors - I went through a very brief (a couple of months) period where I wanted to want to have a child because someone I was dating so desperately wanted to be a parent. I came to my senses and he had to travel to a third world country to find someone willing. My first "big lie" as a child was about having children. I remember even before kindergarten people giving me dolls to play with and talking about that "one day" when I would also be a mommy, and asking questions about my theoretical future family. Someone we knew had adopted so I latched onto that and said that I wasn't sure about having kids but might adopt one day. I repeated that over and over until it became part of who people thought I was (except for my parternal grandmother who accused me of running around and being a whore in our last private phone call in my late 20s). I didn't exactly lie - I have adopted - lots of cats! However, it's backfired because it put me in a class that isn't quite "maternal" - and I love being around my friends' kids but have missed out on being an aunt (not even my brother would list me as an emergency contact and has never permitted me to be alone with his children unsupervised). I've been informed "but you HATE children" (which I don't - I just don't want to have any of my own). It's pretty amazing that even in 2017 with looming world overpopulation issues that are well documented -- a person who chooses to NOT have a child still has to be on the defensive and provide valid reasons for her choice. Let's face it - most people who have kids are trying to give them the childhood they wish they'd had. They want to do better than their parents and I'm just not that competitive. My parents, bless them, did their best and I have no need to compensate for things that I didn't appreciate about their efforts. I love that there are books like this - but honestly - I'd just rather people not make an issue of choosing to NOT have kids.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Leslie

    Although I am very interested in childlessness as a cultural phenomenon, this book wasn't really for me. People's explanations of why they've chosen not to do something and the repercussions of that choice are, it turns out, fundamentally kind of uninteresting. Basically, people who share a culture make decisions for reasons that make sense within that culture, and thus tend to look, at the macro-level, pretty much alike. However, the book was useful in terms of my thinking about voluntary child Although I am very interested in childlessness as a cultural phenomenon, this book wasn't really for me. People's explanations of why they've chosen not to do something and the repercussions of that choice are, it turns out, fundamentally kind of uninteresting. Basically, people who share a culture make decisions for reasons that make sense within that culture, and thus tend to look, at the macro-level, pretty much alike. However, the book was useful in terms of my thinking about voluntary childlessness, in that it confirmed a few things: - that childlessness, like the decision to have children, even when felt deeply as the right choice, often ends up being a decision taken on a short-term basis (that is, even women who have made a macro-level decision not to have children, and especially women who are ambivalent about it, are often then faced with micro-level conjunctures, such as an accidental pregnancy or a relationship with a partner who wants children, that require either recommitment to the decision or abandoning of it). This is important to me because often the assumptions underlying demographic research on childbearing assume long-term, stable "targets" on the number of children a woman or a couple wants, but narratives like this show that that's only part of how people live and make fertility choices; - that much of the rhetoric around childlessness is based on a very bourgeois, late-capitalist, and American idea of what children entail for the lifecourse, under which they require explicitly lifelong sacrifice and self abnegation. This seems to go hand-in-hand with a rhetorical focus on the parental role in infancy and early childhood; - that lifecourse and lifestyle justifications for childlessness are often given prime importance, even for those who also give other reasons (childhood abuse and environmental concerns are common ones). Anyway, like I said, I'm interested in this topic, but sixteen essays on it was a bit much, especially as they're all essays by writers and mostly by straight, white American women of the second-wave feminist generation, so they strike a lot of similar chords over and over. Others might enjoy it more, but in any case, I recommend skipping Lionel Shriver's bizarre contribution, which flirts with alt-right ideas about "white genocide" and white women's ethnic duty to perpetuate, and I quote, "gene lines that in their various ways played a part in the establishment of Western civilization." Good LORD.

  25. 4 out of 5

    kris

    I have been pretty transparent about my inclinations to remain childless on this platform, and when I saw this book come up on my recommendations list I thought it would be a way to find additional words to shield myself with. People like to judge people, after all, especially those people who dare live lives that differ from their own. This book, however, wasn't exactly fulfilling. The collection, in brief, is this: 13 essays by female authors; 3 by male authors all meandering through their men I have been pretty transparent about my inclinations to remain childless on this platform, and when I saw this book come up on my recommendations list I thought it would be a way to find additional words to shield myself with. People like to judge people, after all, especially those people who dare live lives that differ from their own. This book, however, wasn't exactly fulfilling. The collection, in brief, is this: 13 essays by female authors; 3 by male authors all meandering through their mental minefields of life without children. For some, it's the lingering fallout from unhappy childhoods; for others, it's a matter of missed opportunities. Many imply it—eventually— was a choice, one they do not regret. But so many linger on the "would ifs", wondering about 'right' partners or 'right' times or 'right' places, as if childlessness was simply a subway stop they got distracted from. Nearly every single essay makes certain to point out that they, the author, does not hate children! In fact, they adore children! They adore spending wads of time on the children in their lives! SEE?? And having 16 writers talk about writing without children also gets a bit redundant. In addition to these minor complaints, there was also a disgustingly classist, racist disaster stuck in the middle of the collection just waiting to drop on you like a horde of spiders. I'd avoid Shriver's essay entirely if possible. Overall, a mostly repetitive, overly blustering collection of thoughts on being childless: I'll stick to my own words, for now.

  26. 5 out of 5

    BookOfCinz

    I have been saying for a long while now that I don’t want to have kids and I am always met with shock, rolling eyes or pity. I am told, “you’re young, this will change” or “ so what will happen when you get old?” and the most annoying, “won’t you be lonely?” It was so refreshing to read these 16 essays as they captured everything I want to say and how I feel about this topic. I cannot tell the last time I read a book and really related to the authors. This book not only helped in cementing my de I have been saying for a long while now that I don’t want to have kids and I am always met with shock, rolling eyes or pity. I am told, “you’re young, this will change” or “ so what will happen when you get old?” and the most annoying, “won’t you be lonely?” It was so refreshing to read these 16 essays as they captured everything I want to say and how I feel about this topic. I cannot tell the last time I read a book and really related to the authors. This book not only helped in cementing my decision to not have kids but it also gave me an idea of what life without kids will be like. While reading this book I found myself vigorously shaking my head and making notes. I’ve always felt like I have to defend my decision to people around me, after reading this book I know I am not alone and I really do not have to have from a defensive place when answering the heavily loaded question, “do you want kids?” Those three points below really stood out to me. I wish that we had more conversations about childlessness that didn’t force us to approach them from such a defensive place. “I will never regret not having children. What I regret is that I live in a world where in spite of everything, that decision is still not quite okay.” It seems unreasonable, not to mention sexist, to suggest that because all women have the biological capacity to have children, they all should; and that those who don’t are either in denial or psychologically damaged.”

  27. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed is a compilation of essays from a variety of writers who bring a very wide variety of experiences, perspectives, and insights to the book and to the burgeoning societal conversation about those who choose not to have children. I didn't agree with all the authors or even all the topics/focal points (Islam, for example, does not hate the West for 'decadence' exemplified by trends of willing childlessness and it is a distraction from actual issues to seriously su Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed is a compilation of essays from a variety of writers who bring a very wide variety of experiences, perspectives, and insights to the book and to the burgeoning societal conversation about those who choose not to have children. I didn't agree with all the authors or even all the topics/focal points (Islam, for example, does not hate the West for 'decadence' exemplified by trends of willing childlessness and it is a distraction from actual issues to seriously suggest as much), but I did finish this book with a lot to think about.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Marasco

    I rarely write reviews, but I will for this one because I think it's valuable reading for the childless and those with children alike. There is much to love, and to hate, in these essays no matter your viewpoint on having children. Because the collection is from writers, there is a specific viewpoint on flexible lifestyle that is overrepresented, as is the choice to not have children from people with deeply damaging childhoods themselves. What was missing for me was the decision to not have child I rarely write reviews, but I will for this one because I think it's valuable reading for the childless and those with children alike. There is much to love, and to hate, in these essays no matter your viewpoint on having children. Because the collection is from writers, there is a specific viewpoint on flexible lifestyle that is overrepresented, as is the choice to not have children from people with deeply damaging childhoods themselves. What was missing for me was the decision to not have children from successful, 9-5 job-holding women, and the struggle with not producing grandchildren for perfectly competent parents. I also quibble with the editing choice on ending the book with an essay from a dude who dislikes children instead of one of many thoughtful, nuanced essays with women who wrestled with the choice. Still: worth reading for everyone if only for the Laura Kipnis essay that will challenge everything you believe about biology and maternal instincts.

  29. 5 out of 5

    e.

    This book. It feels so wonderful to have some form of validation, to know that outside the not-so-small-town-but-everyone-acts-just-like-it-is-one Midwestern city I currently live in other women (and men) are being harangued about choosing not to have children, about running out of time (I'm 29 at the time of this review.), about not being at least married and on the way to having children. Children, children, children. On some level, I understood all of the reasons each person had. I understand This book. It feels so wonderful to have some form of validation, to know that outside the not-so-small-town-but-everyone-acts-just-like-it-is-one Midwestern city I currently live in other women (and men) are being harangued about choosing not to have children, about running out of time (I'm 29 at the time of this review.), about not being at least married and on the way to having children. Children, children, children. On some level, I understood all of the reasons each person had. I understand considering having children, and I can understand just sort of not bothering about it until Oh, guess I'm too old now anyway. While I'll never have my own biological child, I can't say I'll definitively rule out adopting a kid maybe one day. Maybe. Or I'll just get a dog. The essay "The Trouble With Having It All" really struck a chord, because all I can think every time I hear someone (male or female) say they want to "have it all" I consider them delusional. There are only so many hours in a day, only so many things you can split your time between before you start only doing a mediocre job at all of the things you're trying to do at once. Oh, so you want to become a well-regarded photographer, travel the world, write the next great novel, have a family, and have a fulfilling job in the tech industry? Enjoy your life of disappointment, because that's what you're setting yourself up for, and that's what you'll get by declaring that you want to "have it all." It's like the lesson was never learned as a kid that you can't always have all the candy in the candy store. It's just not feasible and you'll make yourself really sick trying. This book is explicitly about the American experience, though. Is the cultural pressure to have children limited to America? Heck no! If I had a dollar for every Korean who side-eyed me when finding out I was single and childless at my age ("At your age!" like I'm somehow completely deficient at being a human being.) I would be pretty freakin' rich. However, I think there was a reason for chosing to be childfree that wasn't expounded upon as much as I would have liked in these essays: that of really crap genetics. My genetics are really crap from both sides of the family and, for me, having a biological child just seems like a cruel and unusual punishment for the child. There was a lot of talk about how a child wouldn't fit into a person's life, and that's a legitimate reason and one I also adhere to (for the present, but we all change over time so I can't say that's my forever reason), but for all the self-reflective naysaying about how being childfree is a symptom of the culture shift that started in the '60s, I feel like not a lot of credence was given to the idea that a person can choose not to have a child because it's the kinder thing to do to that prospective child. Regardless, I think it's important that we can start to have real, intelligent conversations about this topic. Not all women, not all men, not all people want a child or are even capable of handling having a child. And that's okay.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not To Have Kids collects meditations and explorations by writers who chose or ended up choosing not to procreate. More than one of these writers acknowledges feeling judged by others for their decision not to have kids. This subject remains taboo in much of North America. Random notes: I'm not sure that even one of these essays approaches the topic of not having children from what I'd consider a conservative, right wing, or Repu Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not To Have Kids collects meditations and explorations by writers who chose or ended up choosing not to procreate. More than one of these writers acknowledges feeling judged by others for their decision not to have kids. This subject remains taboo in much of North America. Random notes: I'm not sure that even one of these essays approaches the topic of not having children from what I'd consider a conservative, right wing, or Republican foundation. Every one of these writers is American, though I may be wrong. I would have liked to know how other cultures view the question. There's not a lot of sociology and statistics here; these are mostly personal essays. Readers looking for trends should either draw them from an observation of the collection (which is still probably a small sample size) or go elsewhere. Depression and a need for control (or an absence of fear) appears in many of these essays. Existentialism and feminism appear in several essays. Several writers describe the illusion that one can "have it all" as opposed to prioritizing, say, one's career. Overpopulation, nuclear weapons, and climate change are often mentioned but then discarded in favor of "real" reasons -- usually psychological. (One of the final essays offers an interesting social theory about the decision not to have kids.) Is it possible that this phenomenon is new? Or is it more likely that the mandate to have a family and children was a historical blip starting during the Industrial Revolution? Both ideas are suggested. I am often drawn to narratives about exploration. In fact, I just finished In the Kingdom of Ice, about a doomed polar expedition, before reading Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed. Sometimes I think it's sad that we have explored so much of the globe since there are no more grand expeditions into the "unknown." However, this collection made me wonder if today's explorers might be those people who strive to seek out alternate paths for how they live their lives. Regardless, I often was intrigued by the journeys these writers shared. All in all, each of the essays is interesting, and the collection as a whole is better. I expect Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed to become one of those books I recommend and reference. Recommended.

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