Selfish, Shallow, and Self-absorbed

Selfish, Shallow, and Self-absorbed

Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids

Book - 2015
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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 (see Anne-Marie Slaughter) or, perhaps more controversial, whether children are really a requirement for a fulfilling life. The ideathat 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, thirteen acclaimed female writers explain why they have chosen to eschew motherhood. Contributors include Lionel Shriver, Sigrid Nunez, Kate Christensen, Elliott Holt, Geoff Dyer, and Tim Kreider, among others, who will give a unique perspective on the overwhelming cultural pressure of parenthood.

This collection makes a smart and passionate case for why parenthood is not the only path to a happy, productive life, and takes our parent-centric, kid-fixated, baby-bump-patrolling culture to task in the process. In this book, that shadowy faction known as the childless-by-choice comes out into the light.

For readers of Brigid Schulte and Debora Spar

Publisher: New York, N.Y. : Picador, 2015.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9781250052933
Characteristics: vi, 282 pages ; 22 cm
Additional Contributors: Daum, Meghan 1970-- Editor


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Jan 18, 2017

This is an important book in that it reassures people (primarily women) that it is completely normal to decide to live child-free; and one can still have a fulfilling life. It is acceptable to choose this for any reason, since there are many different explanations as to why someone would decide not to have children. The essays are not groundbreaking, but it is an interesting read, and a great way to begin a conversation - albeit controversial - as to why people make such varied decisions regarding procreation and its meaning in one's life.

I would recommend this book for people who have reservations about having children. Since this tends to be a taboo topic and/or highly private choice, I expect it would not come up in a casual conversation.

ArapahoeLesley Nov 09, 2016

16 interesting and well written essays on why the author does not, has not, does not want... children. All valid and all written from each author's own mind I can't complain like some others that they aren't militant enough or they aren't really legit if they might have felt the call to have children and some point. They were honest portrayals which I appreciated.

Aug 29, 2016

Like sitting in a cafe with sixteen friends with very little else in common but this one decision.

Sep 21, 2015

This would make an excellent book club selection.

Jun 15, 2015

I have one lovely child and will not be having another - for financial, emotional, and environmental reasons - but I am often asked what my reproductive plans are (!), and feel a bit uncomfortable about my decision to go against the reproductive grain.
I sought this book out for some insight, and perhaps reassurance, and company, from people who have made what may be an even less "popular" and well-understood reproductive decision....and I found it. (As I suspected, there is a certain amount of overlap between the reasons a person might have one child and the reasons they might decide to have none, at least in my case.)
I greatly appreciated the honesty and depth of thought in these essays, and while they did blend together somewhat, I found them collectively interesting to read. If you skim this book, make sure not to miss the final essay - "The End of the Line," by Tim Kreider.

ksoles Apr 09, 2015

“You don’t have kids?” “Why not?” In this collection of 16 essays, editor Meghan Daum compiles answers to this pervasive, often irritating question. With candour and detail, writers tell their personal stories of choosing childlessness and overthrow the image of non-parents as narcissists. Certainly, Daum includes high-quailty prose from gifted writers such as Geoff Dyer and Lionel Shriver but, when read cover to cover, the essays become repetitive and blur into two or three uniform opinions.

Themes include the oppressive "wisdom" that holds parenting as life’s most worthy calling; the artistic sacrifices necessary for conscientious parenting; frustration over prescriptive gender roles and the self-annihilation associated with domestic responsibilities. In "Maternal Instincts," for example, Laura Kipnis debunks our current romantization of the mother-child bond, arguing that culture has generated the notion of motherhood as a "fuzzy" experience. In "Amateurs," Michelle Uneven laments the fragmented nature of her relationships with mom friends who harbour their own presumptions. And in "The Trouble With Having It All," Pam Houston reminds us that those who don't have children don't hate children; they may even appreciate children more than parents do. Worries about money, alcoholism and mental health also emerge as in Elliott Holt's “Just an Aunt,” about the author's history of anxiety and depression.

Just as motherhood lasts forever, so does non-motherhood and the authors here largely claim satisfaction about the choices they have made. Their courageous defence of life without children warrants consideration, though perhaps not 16 times in a row.

LPL_KateG Apr 08, 2015

I was excited to read this collection of essays on choosing not to have children. The essays are all different - ranging from funny to heartbreaking - and work together nicely. By no means does this book (or any of the authors therein) claim that not eschewing reproduction is the "right" thing for everyone - it simply gives glimpses into the lives of some people who have made that choice.


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Aug 29, 2016

Sixteen opinions by men and women who chose not to have children for a variety of reasons. The title is clearly a play on irony, because all sixteen voices convey how self-awareness and knowledge is the exact opposite of selfishness.


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